In 2017 I made the move from coast to coast–Rhode Island to Oregon. Nothing can entirely prepare you for this experience. We packed up our super tiny apartment and drove our car straight through the center of the country. In short, it was stressful. I didn’t know where we would live, where we would work (because yes, I’m the kind of person who moves somewhere before I’ve found a job), or what would happen once we got there. I scoured the internet for tips for moving across the country, and some articles really helped me out.
I’m proud to say I survived this experience and lived to tell the tale. There are a few tips for moving across the country I wish I would have known then. Upside, now I can share them with you!
These are the 6 tips for moving across the country that I feel are the most helpful and that will hopefully make this process easier for you!
1) Leave on good terms
You did it! You finally decided to make a big move. So f**k everyone in your hometown, right? WRONG! Whether you’re leaving the place you grew up or a short-term residence, you should try your best to leave on good terms. It would have felt great to go out with a bang from the restaurant I was working at in Rhode Island. Those customers used to make me crazy. But the people I worked with, even the ones that got on my nerves, became like family after a while.
And because I left on a positive note, my reference from that restaurant got me a job pretty quickly when I got to Oregon. It’s easy to feel on top of the world when you’re moving far away or like the people you leave behind will disappear, but the support of those people will make the move a lot easier. And knowing you can go back there with no bad ties gives you a great foundation to fall back on should you need it.
2) Pack lightly
This is important. When we moved across the country, we only had the stuff that could fit into our Volkswagen Jetta, and with good reason. It would have cost us so much more money to bring all of our stuff with us. And because we didn’t exactly know where we were staying, our time with our stuff in the car was elongated. If we had rented a vehicle, it would have been even more expensive to haul it over.
Taking a U-Haul or shipping a ton of items can cost you upwards of $1,000. You can do so much with that money and even add to it when you don’t bring everything along. You can find a couch anywhere, and I’ve found that when you move really far or very often, it’s best not to become too attached to any piece of furniture. But that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from not bringing it along. Which brings me to my next point…
3) Buy and sell used furniture
This is one of my favorite things I’ve learned from moving 4 times in the past 3 years. The first time we moved from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island, I bought stuff. A lot of stuff. A lot of new stuff. Ask me where it is today. Nice, new items are for people ready to settle down. For people who know they’ll be in the same place for a while or people who have a lot of money. I am not any of those things.
And so, when we decide to move across the country I decided to sell all of our furniture instead of trying to bring it with me just because I spent a lot for it. I made nearly half the money back from doing that. And I used that money to purchase used furniture when we got to an apartment across the country. That money covered the cost of every piece of used furniture we got. We got a used convertible couch , some great cube storage shelves, a bed, and more! It was 100% worth it, and it gave our new apartment that vintage feel I’m always after.
The nice thing about moving is that people are doing it all the time. They’re looking to get rid of their furniture just like you were before, and that means there are varieties and large quantities to choose from with used furniture. If you don’t know where to start in your used furniture journey, apps like Offer Up, Facebook Marketplace, and good old fashioned Craigslist are great ways to sell and buy used furniture.
4) Sign a short lease
This one is important. No matter how much research you do online or how many times you check the Walkscore rating, you won’t really know a neighborhood until you live there. A spot could look so good on the map or from the one time you went to visit, but when you get there it might not be all that you imagined. The crime rate might be lower in that neighborhood compared to the rest of the city, but it could also be the area where the most cars are stolen. Or your apartment might look really nice inside but have a weird bug problem, or even worse, no natural light. I kid, but seriously, there are a ton of things that could come up once you decide where to live.
So sign a short lease. When I first moved to Oregon, I was convinced I was supposed to be in one neighborhood, but after a few months, I realized I liked it better on the other side of the river. And because I only signed a 9-month lease in the first place, I was able to leave pretty soon after I realized that. It’s nice not be married to a place and to give yourself the option to leave, just in case. You can always choose to renew, but the cost to cut a lease short midway through is a pain in the old wazoo.
5) Join groups ASAP
Chances are you won’t know many people when you move across the country. We only knew one person, and that person also just moved there. It’s easy to feel lonely and like you made a huge mistake if you don’t have a support system like you did at home. So get one as soon as you can! You need people and chances are, people need you!
When I moved, I joined an acting class . It was a great way to get rid of my shyness, but also do a really vulnerable thing with a group of people who were also willing to do a really vulnerable thing. We became fast friends and I would even run into some of them in the city.
I went on to take several random classes while I was there. Taking a class is a great way to meet new people because you’re all trying something new. Find something you’re interested in and then search for clubs, groups, leagues that are gathering people who do the same thing. Also look at uncredited classes at community colleges. They’re way cheaper than standard college courses and are usually adult friendly.
6) Everything works itself out
Prepare yourself mentally for something to go wrong, because it will. Your car might break down, your landlords might have to change your move-in date, you might not be able to find a job for weeks! With little to no help, these tiny setbacks will feel like deal breakers. Moving across the country is stressful to say the least, and though good times will come, the beginning might be enough to make you turn back around and give-up.
DON’T. Through that struggle will come amazing times and a year from now you’ll be stronger, smarter, and hopefully able to laugh at all the things you didn’t know during the move. I can laugh now (I couldn’t always), but I can say from experience that everything works itself out. I wish you so much luck!
I hope you enjoyed these 6 tips for moving across the country! For more travel articles check out the rest of my site, Earth to Jay.