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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Tan family

From top, Winston Tan and his family: Madison, 10; Julie; Michael, 12; and the family dog, Mollie. The family moved to Spokane from Atlanta. 
 (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
From top, Winston Tan and his family: Madison, 10; Julie; Michael, 12; and the family dog, Mollie. The family moved to Spokane from Atlanta. (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Atlanta, Georgia’s, oppressive heat and six-lane, bumper-to-bumper traffic had begun to wear on Julie and Winston Tan.

Each summer for the past several years, they found themselves fleeing the Southern city, heading to cooler temperatures and family members in Canada and northern California.

“We realized we were going anywhere to keep from staying in Atlanta,” says Julie Tan.

On a summer vacation two years ago, after visiting Julie’s family in Calgary, the couple and their two children took a detour through the Inland Northwest. They loved what they saw and decided right then they’d found the ideal spot.

The region put them closer to their families and afforded them “functional summers,” says Julie, adding she could not fathom spending her retirement years in Atlanta. “The idea of having to retire there by default was daunting to say the least – the weather, the humidity, the storms.”

It took a year to sell their Atlanta home. The family finally arrived here in December, Julie says. “We sailed into Spokane literally two days before Christmas.”

Why Spokane?

“We love the small-town feel,” says Julie, noting that she finds Spokane’s downtown charming, particularly when compared to the hour it often took she and her children to reach downtown Atlanta.

The Tans traveled to the region three times before choosing the Spokane area over Coeur d’Alene. A business colleague turned friend of Winston’s who lives in Colbert convinced them to settle in Washington.

“I told him, ‘You ought to work for the Chamber,’ ” Winston says. “It was on his word completely that we shifted from Idaho.”

As a management consultant who works out of his home, Winston also loves the ease of airline travel.

“It’s really about getting to the airport. It’s perfect here, 10 minutes,” he says. “In Atlanta, it’s 45 minutes on a great day.”

Real estate

The family is renting a home in the Qualchan Hills area while looking for a permanent home. While they love the ease of the South Hill, they also have grown fond of Liberty Lake, especially after discovering a church home in Coeur d’Alene, Julie says.

“We’ve gone through all these options,” Winston says. “We’re looking for some happy medium. Finding something by the water would be nice. To see it, great. To feel it, even better.”

Building community

Julie Tan home-schools her two children. She says she’s pleased by the support groups and enrichment courses open to home-school families. “Oh my gosh, the support level has been amazing,” she says.

The Tans also have made friends through Spokane’s Healing Rooms Ministries and Coeur d’Alene’s Gateway Christian Fellowship. Her daughter has made friends through a local ballet studio. Her son has gotten involved in youth activities through the Life Center.

Wintson says he advertised for movers on Spokane’s craigslist, the online classified site, and hired two aspiring musicians. “They were our first friends in Spokane,” he says. “When you don’t have a network, you make one.”

Settling in

Since their arrival, the family has gone on early Sunday morning hikes through Turnbull Wildlife Refuge and around Fish Lake. Julie and the kids tagged along with Wintson on a business trip to Las Vegas, detouring through Utah’s Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.

The family finds they only miss their Atlanta friends, Julie says. “It was a huge, huge decision, and a huge, huge move.

“We haven’t regretted a day.”

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