On Getting The Hell Out, Also Known as Relocating, When There is Less Ire

So how hard is it, really, to drop everything, get in the car, and start a new life elsewhere? This ain’t The Grapes of Wrath, so it’s not as bad as all that, but it does take preparation. I figured I’d fill you guys in on the steps I took to get outta town while the rain hammers on the roof of my New Orleans hotel room. All the points below are important, so I didn’t bother numbering them.

Travel Buddy:

This is really important. Before you head out on a major adventure, it’s important to know that you are doing this with a person you can rely on not to bore you to death, leave you in an ugly situation, or get on your goddamned nerves. Many a friendship has been tried and found wanting by a road trip, where you are basically stuck in a small metal cabin hurtling through space, for hours, either fighting about the crappy musical tastes you just found out your friend has, or realizing that now that you’re sober there isn’t much left to talk about. This could be a friend who is relocating with you, or just helping out. Another important thing to consider is if you trust this person to drive, and drive your car in particular.

I am one of those people who has very few friends, but the friends I have are real friends, ones I can usually trust with things like my bank account and dead body disposal. Beelzy was basically a shoe-in for this, so here we are.

Finances:

OK, this one sort of goes hand in hand with having a loose plan of where the hell you’re going. More on that later. Once you work out how many hours a day you plan to drive how often you are going to stop and how many days you’re going to be out there before you get to some semblance of a normal life, you need to do some math. It’s pretty important to do this math at least 8 or 9 months in advance, though it depends on your financial situation. A year might be a better bet. Here’s the basic math to keep in mind: shelter, food, gas, entertainment, emergencies, startup cash. Have about $500 set aside in case something goes wrong with the car, expect to spend about 100 a night on hotels, $80 a day on food, work out what gas would be considering your vehicle and the number of miles you plan to cover, set aside about $50 per day on entertainment, and I decided to hope and pray that $4,000 will be enough to get us going once we get there. The estimate there is for two people. It’s more or less been correct so far.

Food and shelter tend to take the most money, so consider lugging along a cooler with drinks and cold cuts in it, get some fruit and bread along the way, lunch and breakfast could be much cheaper. Look into couch surfing (a think we ended up not trying because our itinerary was too loose and we couldn’t give/get enough advance notice). If you gotta tent, camp grounds are cheaper than hostels. I would say look into staying in hostels, but you might not be comfortable leaving everything you care about in the world in plain view of dozens of strangers, and that’s how hostels approach storage of luggage. And of course see if any friends or family are willing to take you in along the way. I posted a note on Facebook with my itinerary and then just tagged everyone I could think of. I loved staying with friends so far. Even folks I haven’t seen in a decade. It was a fun and wonderful experience and I can’t wait to return the favor once we get our own place in Portland.

Geography and Timing:

So where the hell ARE you going? My advice, somewhere you already have at least one friends as trustworthy as the one in your car. If not, then maybe some relatives. Because things are

hard today and it might be a while before you get on your feet. If there is no support network awaiting your arrival, then consider youth hostels, hotels with weekly rates you can negotiate, that sort of thing. ‘Cuz rent is a bitch. Oh yes it is. And even when food grows on trees, there are usually dogs guarding it. The other option is of course relocating because you gotta job offer. That’s awesome too. But it’s more awesome if you are heading for a place that fits your needs and your temperament. For example, although I had a perfectly good job in NYC, I got tired of the smell of piss during my morning train commute. Got sick of having to dress shabby to go to work to avoid negative attention. But I still want to be able to go to live music events, to be around people my age, to be able to get up and walk somewhere I can buy milk at say 2am, and cookies too maybe. I still want a place where most people and behaviors are accepted.

A stitched panorama of downtown Portland, OR a...

So, New York City is out, Portland, Oregon is in. We’ll see how it goes. So do your research. Get in touch with people who live there if you can’t visit and see for yourself. Go to PadMapper and check what rent is looking like. Check some cost of living calculators, like this one.

So you worked out where you’re going. Now figure out when you’re heading there and what route you plan to take. If you work in school districts, like me, then summer is obviously the time since you’re going to hopefully start a new job in September. Then again, if you’re going along the deep deep south route and don’t want to spend most of your time hiding in air-conditioned hotel rooms (like we are right now), maybe early June or late May is better, or fall, or even winter break.

I’ve helped a friend move during the winter. Gas was cheaper, but her car was a bit scratched by all the crap from the road, a lot of the cities we visited along the way were dead. Because of ice and sudden snow in places like Arizona, it was sometimes terrifying to drive, but definitely cheaper since it’s of-season basically everywhere.

Beelzy and I are driving during now, so the months of July and August. Gas is a bit more expensive, there is probably a little more traffic on the road though during the past two weeks we’ve been in congestion once and in completely stopped traffic once for about 20 min. I call that paradise. Weather, however, especially temperature, has to be taken into account. For it is HOT, sweltering, muggy, crazy HOT. In some areas. And I wish I checked what the weather would be like ahead of time, so then maybe we wouldn’t have bothered camping in Tennessee.

It’s better to have a solid destination and a pretty solid itinerary of cities you want to check out on the way, but be flexible about where you’re going to stay and for how long. If it turns out that you absolutely can not drive for 15 hours straight, it would suck to have to keep going anyway because you prepaid for a hotel. I would suggest not driving anymore than 4-5 hours a day, occasionally up to 7-8 hours, and switching out every 2-3 hours with days built-in where you don’t drive at all. That’s been working well for us, keeping us content, and not engaging in horrifying car crashes.

What About All My Stuff?

I almost forgot to write about this part, because I think my mind just tried to block out the painful experience. After a lot of contemplation, and after calling moving companies who uniformly refused to give quotes for anything we might want to ship anytime not next week, we decided to sell as much as we could via Yard Sales and Craigslist, which really didn’t help very much at all if we weren’t looking to sell a $700 bed for $50. So we left a bunch of stuff with parents (where it stayed forever), donated or threw away more things, and then boxed up and shipped everything that wasn’t going in the car. So basically, got rid of most of our belongings. Shipped our bikes too… it’s expensive to ship bikes. Unless you have a really awesome bike, fucking sell it.

I started packing a month in advance and… IT WAS NOT ENOUGH TIME. Apparently the recommended time is 3 months. Make a list of crap you think you’ll want right away, things you’ll want, but can wait on, and things you can absolutely do without. If you don’t have a friend you’ll be staying with, and even if you do, just find a storage facility that will accept shipments from you and get to packing. Have a packing party. Sort of like a moving party except you have your friends shove shit in boxes and carry them to your car as you crazily rush to the post office or Fedex or whatever. The more stuff you can’t do without, the more expensive this is gonna get. Overall, the only things we ended up shipping were clothes, some electronics (the largest being my desktop, which I KNOW I should have just left behind and used that money towards a new laptop), some kitchen stuff ‘cuz that mess tends to be expensive, video games, movies, and books. By the way, USPS is excellent for shipping media. Just tell em your bookes/movies/games are going Media Mail and you will pay about $13 to ship about 50lbs.

Packing and shipping of stuff will be one of the most painful part of the entire relocation experience (next to leaving everyone you love behind for the unknown). Truly, you are better off getting rid of all your crap and starting fresh, reminding yourself that you need to stop being a compulsive pack rat. Here is a fun article to read if you considered using PODS as your moving medium.

In Conclusion:

So what I’m saying is basically…. start saving up for it! If you want to have a good experience, you need to think ahead, plan ahead, and play with google maps. We live in a huge country and so far it’s been kind of a blast getting to know it. Have fun!

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    • Rob
    • July 24th, 2011

    This is the kind of trip I enjoy. You two are going to get so much out of this. So far my longest relocation was from Alaska to Alabama. Good memories. Enjoy this and be safe.

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