Moving Cross-Country: A few tips to help you along the way

John and I, apple picking.

John and I, apple picking.

On November 1, 2011, I bought my first ever one-way plane ticket. This ticket also happened to be the furthest I had traveled while still staying within the United States. I was departing from San Diego, California, headed towards Portland, Maine (approximately 3,300 miles for those who are counting).

Why did I leave sunny San Diego for the bitter cold weather in Maine, you ask? His name is John.

John and I met as neighbors living in Pacific Beach, California. We shared a wall with one another in a small complex by the beach for more than a year. During that time we grew to be very close friends, and it wasn’t until I received a very unexpected invite for a going away party on Facebook that I realized my feelings for John were a little deeper than him being my “neighbor-friend.” John’s shocking announcement that he would be moving cross-country to his hometown in Maine made my heart stop, and I suddenly found myself distraught at the thought of him not being around. Worst part was, he was leaving in a mere two weeks.

That next weekend was the Karl Strauss Beach to Brew, and I realized it might be one of the last blow-outs we would experience together. By midnight, we were wrapped in one another’s arms on the dance floor at a local nightclub. It was to the loving tunes of Party Rock that John and I locked lips for the first time (so romantic, I know). But with that kiss, John and I sealed our “meant-to-be” moment, and from that day on, we spent every last minute he had in San Diego together.

John departed San Diego less than two weeks later. For the next five months, we would visit one another in three different states: first we met in Chicago, then he invited me out to Maine to see his stomping grounds (which is when he asked me to move to Portland), and finally, in St. Louis. The next time I would see John, we would be moving in together – in Maine.

Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Maine

Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Maine

As I prepared to depart San Diego, I realized that a move cross-country wasn’t the easiest thing I’d ever done. In order to make the move less stressful, I decided to ditch every piece of furniture I owned (and probably about ¾ of my belongings). If you’ve never gotten rid of almost everything you own, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Tip: If you’re looking to sell furniture or any type of household goods, check out Craigslist in your city. You can list things without being charged and turn your ad on and off whenever you want to.

I also ended up donating some stuff to Goodwill (a great tax write-off for those of you who didn’t already know that), and I also gifted stuff to friends, put it in the alley out back – you name it. Then, I packed up my clothes, books, shoes and pictures in about eight boxes and was on my way.

Tip: USPS Parcel Post (or Standard Post) is probably the cheapest way to ship stuff, although you should be aware that it also takes the longest. I also shipped my car out to Maine – not via Parcel Post, obviously. I typed in my Google search bar “shipping car cross-country,” talked with several brokers, tried to find the best deal, got way too many unsolicited phone calls and emails… but I landed a great company in the end: Adkins Transport. Ronnie and his wife Elaine are great people if you’re looking to ship your car!

See, I was lucky when I was heading East because John was all set up already. He purchased a condo, had it fully furnished – he even went out and bought a dresser for me before I got there! This clearly won’t always be the case for people moving that far a distance – or any distance for that matter.

There was also some other baggage I was carrying as I packed up my life: emotional baggage. I was leaving behind everything I knew: my family, friends, neighborhood – my home. It wasn’t easy – at all. So, how did I know it was the right thing to do? Cliché or not, I just knew.

Old Port

Old Port

So I arrived in Portland, Maine (the Old Port) unscathed and high on life (and love). For anyone who has never been before, Portland is amazing. It’s a small city packed with tons of killer restaurants (Flatbread and Corner Room are both awesome), super cute cafés (Mornings in Paris is my favorite), bars (Ri Ra, The Armory, SPREAD, … I could go on for a long time) and last but not least, wicked cool people (yep, I learned that lingo during my time on the east coast). And the Old Port, which is where John and I had the pleasure of living, is one of the most walkable places I think I’ve ever been. So walkable that I ditched my 2011 Camry lease a mere four months after I got there – somewhat frustrating after what I went through to get it out there!

Tip: If you’re looking to get rid of a lease, check out swapalease.com. You can post your own lease, or check out other leases that fit your budget and timeline.

I enjoyed every day I spent in Maine. I can remember one of my first “Are you serious?” moments after arriving. It was Thanksgiving, and John had told me it’s a family tradition to spend the holiday at his family’s camp. Well, for me, “camp” means tents and bonfires out in the desert or in the mountains. For him, it means a super nice cabin next to a lake. As we were driving to his family’s camp, I was asking him questions about the day. How many people would be there? Would we stay the night? (Side-note: The incredible amount of driving you have to do in a state like Maine just to visit people is kind of crazy – well, it was at first anyway.) While John was answering my questions, he mentioned that there would be no electricity or running water. I laughed, and thought “Yeah right, you can’t be serious!” He was serious.

Thanksgiving was a blast, and if you’ve never cooked a turkey in an upside down trashcan before, it’s actually really tasty. Don’t underestimate things you’ve never tried – they’ll oftentimes exceed your expectations.

Mornings in Paris, Portland, Maine

Mornings in Paris, Portland, Maine

Some other things I love about Maine: There are some amazing places to go hiking (Moosehead Lake, Saddleback, and the entire Maine Huts and Trails network to name a few); they have great ski resorts (Sugarloaf, Sunday River); the entire state offers an amazing coastline (Ogunquit and Portsmouth – albeit in New Hampshire – are both extra unique and beautiful); and there are tons of activities to enjoy throughout the entire year (apple picking, cutting down our own Christmas tree, and strawberry picking were a few of my favorites). As you can imagine, a lot of these things were initially quite foreign to me. Skiing every single weekend for six months straight? Going to a farm and actually being able to pick my own apples? These are the types of things I wasn’t too familiar with coming from San Diego, but I definitely grew to love them.

It wasn’t long before I found myself referring to Maine as home, and by the time I went home for Christmas over a year later, I actually found myself missing Portland some. It may sound strange, but things like traffic and tons of people everywhere isn’t something you see in Maine. But, needless to say, missing my family and the predictable weather that spoiled me rotten for the first 28 years of my life was calling my name.

Almost exactly 18 months later, I found myself buying the other half of that plane ticket I talked about earlier, and on May 4, 2013, John and I departed Portland together, headed towards San Diego. As you can imagine, a lot of things I didn’t mention happened in those 18 months. I started a new life; I had a new home, new friends, new job, new surroundings, new weather, and new activities.

But that’s the beauty of traveling and experiencing different places. It allows you to embrace a new life regardless of where you find yourself. I’ve grown as an individual, and I’m very lucky to say that John and I have fallen more in love than I thought possible.

My move east in 2011 wasn’t easy, but what I found in Portland will be with me for the rest of my life.

Kate Erickson

About Kate Erickson

Kate is our expert on North American and Caribbean travel. She currently lives in Portland, ME, but is originally from San Diego, CA. She is an adventure-traveler extraordinaire, who finds herself in the great outdoors more often than not. With a strong passion for both traveling and writing, She pens interesting, useful and entertaining material.