Last summer, I asked for advice on switching a living room with a dining room in a house I was renting in Chicago. I got some great responses, and I hope the people who now live in that house have taken that advice to heart, because just a few months after that post, my husband and I did something that shocked us (and quite a few of our friends, family members, and coworkers) but also made complete sense: I left my job, we packed everything up, and for the second time in six months, we moved cross-country. This time, we reversed the trip, moving back into the Seattle home we’d been unable to sell, and in the process finding home for good. It was a long, painful, and quite expensive (sigh) lesson. And here’s what we learned:
1) Listen to your gut. After we moved to Seattle from Ohio in late 2006, my husband and I had our issues with not being near family and longtime friends, not to mention the fact that it literally rained every single day the first month we were in town. But thanks to easy access to both fresh and salt water, mountains, and incredible forests (even within city limits), we said over and over, “I feel like we were meant to live here.” That’s something I should have carefully considered before I took a job in the Midwest again.
2) Don’t be afraid to change course. We are very, very lucky, and I know this. When we decided to leave Chicago, not only were my bosses incredibly understanding (One told me, “You have to be where it feeds your soul”), my husband was able to get his old job back in Seattle. But it was still a leap of faith. I didn’t have a job anymore (my department had been phased out in Seattle while I was away). We risked being viewed as incredible flakes for leaving in six months. But we ultimately decided that our mental health was worth whatever uncertainties we might face.
3) Know your costs of living — really, really know them. My move to Chicago came with a promotion, but even so, we ended up spending far more money than we were bringing in. It turned out to be very difficult to find a place to rent that would take two large dogs and include a yard, so we ended up spending $800 more a month than originally planned. Our Seattle house wasn’t feasible to rent out (we did our research) but it also wasn’t selling. Of course, that eventually turned out to be a good thing, but it meant we spent six months paying both hefty rent and a hefty mortgage. On top of it all, my husband works in a very specialized field, so months of job searching turned up nothing. It added up to a financial and emotional drain for which we hadn’t adequately prepared.
4) Distance is relative. We love and miss our families dearly (the bulk of whom live within about six hours of Chicago). However, it turned out that distance was, in fact, very relative. Weekends home ended up being exhausting, hours-long slogs across Indiana. We were living just far enough away that we were unable to convince anyone to make the drive to visit us — that may have happened eventually, but the point is, we were living closer to family, but we still weren’t really living near family.
5) Be realistic about what you want out of life. The Pacific Northwest isn’t for everyone. Summers are brilliantly sunny, but the gray season can last from November through May. But for us, proximity to incredible spots for hiking, whale-watching, and camping tips the balance, and we really can’t imagine being happier living anywhere else.
Chicago is a fantastic city — the downtown is just stunningly gorgeous. There is an endless supply of clubs, restaurants, incredible stores. A vibrant lakefront teems with people on summer weekends. All of which I adored during the many weekends I spent in Chicago in my 20s. These days, though, my husband and I like nothing better than to call it a night at 9 p.m., and we much prefer a solitary walk along a rocky shore on Vashon Island than living it up with a crowd covered in sunscreen. All of which to say: I am not knocking the city of Chicago; lots of folks just absolutely love it. But the truth was, we’d already found what was for us the perfect home. Seattle. It just took us two cross-country moves in six months to figure that out.