Four Things I Learned When Moving Across the Country

I moved across the country recently. 

Not the entire country. I moved from Denver to the Bay area, a distance of approximately 1250 miles. In a previous post, I mentioned accepting a new job offer. This job offer was in California, so I needed to figure out a cheap and easy way to move my one bedroom apartment (and partner) to the Golden State. 

Here are four things I’ve learned from moving across the country (and, in previous moves, the world):

1. Get rid of as much stuff as possible before you move. This one is pretty obvious–the less stuff you have, the easier it is to get it from point A to point B. In the last ten years, I’ve lived in North Carolina, South Korea, New York City, Denver, and now California. For three of those moves (NC to SK, SK to NYC, and NYC to CO) I gave away as many things as possible and only moved with two suitcases worth of things. When my partner and I moved to Denver, we were very lucky to have a friend already living there, and he allowed us to mail a couple boxes to his apartment. This made the move incredibly cheap–just a couple of plane tickets with checked baggage fees, about $150 in postage, and we were there! This also made logistics super simple–however, all our furniture was hand-me-downs or things that we took from the curb, so it wasn’t terrible to say goodbye to those pieces.

2. Research different options. As mentioned before, I was looking to move cheap. I moved to the Bay area for a job that isn’t in tech (a bad move on my part? I GUESS WE’LL SEEEEE), so getting moving expenses down to as low as possible was ideal. I looked into several options–renting a truck ourselves, getting a moving cube, or paying professional movers to drive the truck. Professional movers were out of the question because they are so expensive (rightfully so), and we really didn’t have too much furniture; renting a truck ourselves would necessitate one of us driving while the other followed in the car, which didn’t seem like it would be a very fun two to three days (nor did either one of us really want to drive a U-Haul over the Rocky Mountains). Additionally, we bought furniture when we moved to Denver two and a half years ago, and my partner didn’t want to start all over again from scratch (although I am very much a BURN IT ALL AND DRIVE AWAY sort of person, I respect his feelings). In the end, we went with a moving cube from ReloCube as the most affordable option and best for our needs. However, even the price on this was flexible–instead of having the Cube delivered, we opted to rent small U-Hauls to bring our furniture to the loading and unloading facilities. Doing this instead of having it delivered cut the price nearly in half. 

3. Have a back-up plan for when you arrive. I was lucky enough to get placed in housing that is owned by my employer, so I am paying slightly below market rate for my studio apartment (basically a necessity in the Bay area for someone who will be trying to pay rent alone on a non-tech salary [my partner is leaving soon to finish his MA overseas]). We pulled into town on a Friday afternoon to pick up a key from the security office. We arrived at the office, asked for our key–and the security office had no idea what we were talking about. The individuals handling the property for this organization had not dropped off our keys. Several calls and misunderstandings later, a representative of the property office finally came and gave us keys to a temporary unit (THANKFULLY). We were lucky (although it took over a MONTH after my lease started to get into my unit–but that’s a story for another day) that someone was there; had we shown up after normal office hours, we would have been without a plan for the weekend. If you do not have keys-in-hand, I suggest you look around at the best places to stay at least overnight and have options for storing your furniture in case things go awry. 

4. Take in some sights along the way. The main benefit of using a moving Cube was not having to drive anything ourselves. Additionally, the Cube was quoted as taking three to five business days to move, and our move spanned a weekend and included the fourth of July–essentially giving us three extra days before having to worry about retrieving our stuff. We packed the Cube on a Thursday, “Day 1” started on a Friday, and we had the entire weekend before Day 2 even started. Zion National Park, a place my partner and I had always wanted to visit, is almost exactly half-way between Denver and our new home. We spent three wonderful days hiking and backpacking in Zion before making our way to visit friends for the fourth of July in LA. This made the long drive days not as bad, because we had something to look forward to, and also let us check off some life goals without having to take vacation time or plan an extra trip. Hooray!

While moving is undoubtedly a pain in the ass, there are definitely ways to make it better. Check out your options, decide what works for you, and try to add some fun side-trips so your move does double duty–travel for work and pleasure. 

(Also, RIP to one nightstand that was smashed in the Cube during the move. However, please note that it was from Ikea, and I didn’t do a great job of putting it together in the first place, so take that for what you will.)

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