Next Stop Reloville. Life inside America’s New Rootless Professional Class
I had never heard the word Relo until a visit to Alpharetta, Georgia. Then I heard it on every lawn. I came upon a Memorial Day fair in Medlock Bridge, a subdivision of 636 homes with an Alpharetta mailing address in the unincorporated northeastern corner of Atlanta's Fulton County. I met Jim Link, a banker who was manning the beer cooler. In the past ten years he and his wife Kathy Link and their kids had moved from Houston to Baltimore to Rochester, New York, and to Alpharetta.
Through twenty-five years of the global economy's booms and busts, Relos like the Links pushed Alpharetta's population from three thousand dispersed over pastures and cotton fields to a checkerboard of fresh asphalt and tidy subdivisions with forty thousand. Alpharetta became America's top Reloville, a young and affluent suburb with a culture defined by Fortune 500 corporate nomads and schools, builders, developers, stores and even playing fields catering primarily to them.
Relos are the storm troops of a global economy -- well-paid managers, engineers, accountants, sales teams, and factory managers of international behemoths like Exxon-Mobil, Microsoft, Nokia, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, UPS, IBM, Siemens, Microsoft, Intel -- who stalk and collect the markets that transform their employers into national and multinational corporations.
This book examines the Relo phenomenon and chronicles the lives of families like the Links, who from Alpharetta have gone on moving, to Charlotte and then Philadelphia. These serial movers make up a hard-striving strain of the middle class that at its core believes in open horizons. It abandons attachments to roots and home towns and puts the American dream on wheels.
Those dispatched to fun and exotic places, from Seattle and San Francisco to Singapore and Paris, often relish moving. But many "trailing spouses," often mothers and wives must grapple with shedding intimate friends and family ties. They don't belong anywhere. Their children become "third-culture kids:" They don't know where they're from. For the hardiest, "home" becomes their digital highway of Facebook and BlackBerries.