Long distance moving

The day dawned bright and sunny, a perfect California moving day. We were bound for Oregon, with the promise of closeness to family and a new, better-paying job. We had found a house under construction and were committed to purchasing it. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

I picked up my friend and we drove to the local UHaul dealership. I requested the truck I had reserved over a month prior.
“Well,” said the cashier, “it looks like we don’t have any trucks available for out-of-state one-way moves today.”
“What? I made the reservation over a month ago, and confirmed it last week!”
“I’m sorry, sir, we don’t have any trucks available to go to Oregon.”
We went back and forth like this for a few minutes, and I realized that I was going to either lose my temper and possibly regret my actions, or we were going to have to go elsewhere.

I felt cheated. How could a company do business like this? We made some calls and finally ended up with a great big, yellow Penske truck that drove like a Cadillac. The only problem was that it had to come back to California. So many people were moving away from the Bay Area in 2001; the truck rental companies had insufficient inventory to supply one-way movers.

My wife had gone on ahead with the kids in the minivan, and I still had a car to bring. My father agreed that he would bring the car and meet me halfway, when the time came to return the truck. Our great friends loaded the truck and wished me well. I rolled the door closed over all our belongings and set off. As I wished San Jose well, I adjusted my 34-year-old buns in the seat, and hunkered down for a 17-hour drive into the night.

I-5 is a trucker’s paradise. These loud and long behemoths dominate the night, often trailing two or three boxcars in their wake. My majestic Penske, so bold in the daylight, became a doddering nuisance among the rightful rulers of the roadway. As they rumbled by, often at speeds over 90 miles per hour, I wondered at the lack of police presence on the open road.

Being graced with a relatively small bladder, I was forced to stop every 100 miles or so to relieve myself. I sensed an uneasy camaraderie with the truckers, once we were out of our vehicles and exposed like so many turtles without shells. They walked upright and urinated like men, although I knew they were human avatars of metal gods, released to earth for only a moment before being chained back into their thundering cages.

I drove through the night. When I felt drowsy, I pulled off the road and slept for 20 minutes at a time, grateful to be moving along without a real schedule. The next day, I pulled into Portland with bloodshot eyes and a fresh perspective.

My impression of long-distance moving does not mean the same as that of someone moving, say, across the country or around the world. But for me the move to Oregon rises among the memories of my life for a number of important reasons.

First, it was at a time that I had lived half my life in California and half elsewhere. I romanticized my early life in Oregon, hoping I could one day move back to my childhood home at the base of Mount Hood. But California represented freedom, and sunshine, and it was there that I sobered up for the last time to date. So it wasn’t easy.

Second, this was the first real opportunity we had as a family to make a big move that would change our whole lives. Sure, we had enjoyed some success with jobs and homes, but this meant a whole new community and a different experience of family. My wife was ready to leave her matriarchal family and launch in a new direction. We had a false expectation of being able to connect with my mother on a longer term (she passed away a year after we moved) but a church family stepped into the void, and we have enjoyed deep and meaningful relationships with friends.

Third, it was the physical separation of my son from me (born to my girlfriend in 1990, the year I sobered up). I see him now on scheduled visits (and he has achieved frequent flyer status on Alaska Airlines) but there is an open wound on both of us from that separation that may never heal. My girls sometimes forget him in family prayers or wishes, and for that I am sorry.

But overall, the move has been positive. We have enjoyed increased health and vitality as a family, and have been able to address some long-standing issues with debt and emotional maturity. I recommend that type of move to anyone.

One thought on “Long distance moving

  1. Our Canadian Permanent Residency just came through! My husband and I looked at the visas in our passports with growing excitement and in my case, some panic.

    We had been living in England for five years. My husband was from India. I grew up in Kenya. How were we just going to move out of our old lives and into new ones again? I had just started my new job and I had not even completed my probation period. We had been talking about having a baby soon and would it have to be postponed?

    However, we had been waiting for our resident rights to come through for twenty two months. We discussed it at length all through the night and decided to move to Canada!

    We first had to determine where in Canada, we were going to live. My brother lives in Vancouver, and it would be nice to go to a city where we had some family rather than none at all. We looked up house prices on the internet and Vancouver was very expensive but we still decided to go there. We had heard from friends and family that Toronto on the East Coast would be too much like London and we really wanted a less hectic lifestyle. We needed to arrange for an apartment to stay, and do some research into the job market. We were quite confident of finding employment because we had worked in the UK for almost four years.

    All in all though, it was a daunting prospect- adjusting to a new environment after being so familiar with everything in England.

    We need to pack,’ my husband said. How much clutter had we accumulated over the years? Two words- a lot! Thank goodness we were renting our flat and the contract was ending. We did not have the added hassle of trying to sell a house.

    Since we were going to just leave the country and resign from our jobs, we decided to take a five month holiday! We were going traveling to Kenya and India. So we handed in our notices, informed our service and utility providers of the move, informed our banks of the temporary change in our address, shipped our worldly belongings to India (to my husbands’ home) and then we announced the move to our friends. To say they were surprised would be an understatement!

    I found out I was pregnant when we got to India! There followed doubts and anxiety about me finding work, not getting maternity benefits, worries on how were we going to manage with a baby in a new country. My husband kept focusing on how things would work out for us.

    Whilst in India, we filled out our UK tax returns forms and received our tax refunds for the year. It was a nice sum of extra money- unexpected but welcome. We also needed to buy health insurance before we traveled to cover us for three months before we could claim health care benefits in British Columbia.

    My brother arranged to rent out an apartment for us in Vancouver. It was a lovely two bedroom place on the fifteenth floor and from the balcony we had a lovely view of the mountains in the distance.

    I was four months pregnant when we landed at Vancouver airport. We walked out and took deep breaths of the clear, fresh air! The other thought that hit us was there was so much space! We were so used to the cramped look of London that Vancouver seemed huge!

    The first thing we did was to get our Social Insurance Numbers. We then registered with employment agencies, in my case, to get temporary work and in my husband’s to get full time work.

    I was fortunate to find work within a week and the project was extended to my due date. I liked the company I was working for as it had a relaxed atmosphere. My husband went to a job finding club, which was a great experience because it helped him prepare a resume (no longer a curriculum vitae!) and helped him make a successful career transition into Human Resource (HR) Management from Hotel Management. He was promoted to HR Manager within five months.

    My husband could drive on his UK license for the first three months and within that time he studied for the Knowledge test and then later got his full driving license. So we bought a car, and we bought a lovely house in Greater Vancouver, with a nice garden.
    We are settling into our new lives, have made so many new friends. I am planning on working next year after my son is a year old.

    Would we do it again? Now that I am here and have seen the lifestyle here- the answer is YES!

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