I’ve lived 30 years on this planet and I’ve never been to Europe. I’ve never been to Asia, Australia, Africa, Central or South America. I’ve never waded in the Caribbean or dipped my toes in the Mediterranean.
Now, my focus is on traveling to as many of these places before I die as I’m physically and financially able to.
It’s easy to stay where you are, but it robs you of experience and perspective. My understanding of this need for exploration started with my 4 cross country moves.
I went to college to study film. I didn’t have dreams of being a director or video editor, but I wanted to write creatively. I wanted to be surrounded by artsy, rebellious visionaries. It wasn’t as romantic as it sounds, but my inner idealist had all kinds of preconceived notions.
I always had this dream of moving to Los Angeles and breaking my way into a field that everyone practical tried to talk me out of pursuing. To most, writing is a hobby and not a career choice.
It was February of 2010 and I had just graduated the previous December. Two of my best friends were living with a third guy I didn’t know in a too-nice-for-our-budget-range apartment in Burbank.
Never having been to California or anywhere west of Pittsburgh, I packed up as much as I could into a suitcase and a laptop bag and I flew out with my Dad to embark on a journey.
Turns out, the job market isn’t so great after a recession. This is especially true when you were a film major. I couldn’t get a job at Pizza Hut.
I spent most of my time walking around enjoying the scenery and taking weekend trips to cool locales around the state. I didn’t have a car or much disposable income at the time, so it was mostly fast food and bumming rides from my roommate.
Although it’s still part of America, California feels like a different country. The people are different, the weather is different, the houses and architecture are distinctive, and the strip malls contained eateries I had never heard of. It felt like I was on a different planet.
After busting my ass to find work and coming up short time and time again, sending out over 1,000 job applications in a 7 month time frame, it was time to move back East. My parents offered to front me some money to stay put and see if anything would shake loose, but I had too much pride for that. However, I had just little enough pride to beg them to let me move back into their house for a few years.
Though the experience was overall unsuccessful, I had learned some valuable lessons. Just being smarter than the average person, creative, and likable did not lead to endless amounts of job offers. I had learned to budget myself on very, very little income and I had learned to live with a third roommate I couldn’t stand being around. It was an awakening. I had gotten slapped in the face by the real world, forced to manage my own money, and learned to deal with people I hated being near. These are important life lessons.
Fast forward a few years. After several temp jobs, a 2-season stint as a logger for NFL Films, and my first permanent job with benefits doing Ad Ops for a large medical website, I had my first taste of being jaded by my job and anxious to look elsewhere. Where before I couldn’t beg my way into an offer for a job at K-Mart, I was now being actively recruited. I had a skill set that I could sell. And, through all my trials and tribulations, I had written a resume story that made some semblance of sense. A creatively gifted guy with writing ability who worked his way through marketing and customer service and logging video tapes and self-taught web and software skills now had the advertising industry knowledge to pursue more lucrative opportunities. Somehow, my disjointed job history started to make sense. I could actually land interviews.
It was in November of 2014 that I had the itch to try and find a way back to California. I had been dating the girl of my dreams (and current significant other) since 2011 and, while some may think this is crazy, she was fully in support of me moving back to Los Angeles. She knew how much it meant to me to lift the chip off of my shoulder and conquer a town that had done me in just 4 years prior. That’s when I found Hulu.
There was a listing for an ad trafficker at Hulu in Santa Monica. I applied on a whim thinking I wouldn’t get a response whatsoever, being a distance applicant and all. Just 3 days later, I was contacted by a recruiter. After some phone screens and an arduous Skype interview, I had the job. After crunching the numbers, the relocation benefits and my base salary would be enough to afford an apartment and live there. I had to make a decision.
Now, mind you, my girlfriend wasn’t going to be able to move out and join me for a couple of years. She was still finishing up her prerequisites for optometry school and, upon completion, she could apply to the schools in California and then move out to be with me. We both talked it over. It was heartbreaking, but we both decided it would be best for me to pursue it. We were going to be living a 3,000 mile long distance relationship.
The day I left I was on almost no sleep. We kissed and hugged for a long time at the start of the security line at Philadelphia International Airport. I thought I had made a huge mistake. As I watched her and my parents disappear into the distance, I felt incredibly alone. I was about to get on a plane and leave everyone and everything I knew behind again for a company I’d never even seen the inside of.
When I arrived at LAX, I was picked up by a friend who had graciously offered to give me a ride to the AirBnB I’d be staying in until I could find an apartment. It was pouring outside and this was not typical of Los Angeles weather. It almost seemed ominous. She took me to In ‘N’ Out and to grab a few groceries at Ralph’s. As we ate together in the tiny AirBnB, I was hoping she wouldn’t leave. I didn’t want to be alone in a strange, new place.
She left shortly after and I was alone with my thoughts in a tiny room. This AirBnB was owned by a woman from Boston. She had a house just on the West Hollywood side of Bundy with 2 guest houses. Each one had been converted into a studio apartment that she rented out as an AirBnB. She was a sweet lady and I looked forward to running into her, her husband, and her dog when I walked around town.
I spent most of the first night talking on the phone with Heather and my parents and feeling like I wanted to cry. I felt super alone and the culture shock was palpable. I kept telling them I had made a mistake. They all told me to wait a year and then decide if that’s where I wanted to be. I had to give this a chance. They were right.
The first week at Hulu felt like a dream. Everyone was extremely nice and welcoming. The building was insanely cool with game rooms, free food, and kegs in every kitchen. Pretty much everyone there loved to drink and I was invited to frequent happy hours. I started to make friends with my coworkers and I loved hanging out with them. The celebrity sightings, sometimes-lavish parties, and “in” crowd experience of the whole place really helped to quell any feelings of alienation and loneliness.
I soon found a studio apartment within walking distance to work and moved everything in. It finally started to feel like somewhere I could set up a life. After I had my car shipped out 2 months into the job, I had finally gotten my freedom and convenience back. I could grocery shop with ease and travel everywhere I wanted to go.
I started going to the beach pretty often, driving around to different hiking trails, traveling up to Van Nuys and grabbing lunch with my only of the 3 roommates who lasted out there after our first time living in Burbank. Weekends were spent in the backseat of Ubers and Lyfts traveling around to different bars and getting hammered. Warehouse clubs, BBQ competitions, and enough bourbon to fill a swimming pool filled my downtime happily.
In time, work really started to grate on me. I realized Ad Ops wasn’t where I really wanted to be. After word got to me of my last surviving grandparents going through some health issues and the burden my parents faced taking care of their moms, I started to feel kind of bad. I missed my girlfriend terribly. While we saw each other every 2-3 months with frequent trips, it wasn’t enough. I missed falling asleep next to and waking up with her. It wasn’t the same.
I started to phone it in at work and people took notice. I was angry all the time, bitter and resentful of the job. I started letting my mind wander and made stupid mistakes. I think most of it was symptomatic of my mood. When I wasn’t drinking with friends on the weekend, I wasn’t really happy. I loved the surroundings and I loved the city, but my heart wasn’t in it. I couldn’t stomach being so far from friends and family and my girlfriend. It was time to make a change.
I started dropping hints to my dad that I wanted to move back. He said that if I was serious, we should make the cross country road trip back home. I agreed with him. That sounded like fun and there’s some much of the country that I hadn’t seen.
A few months later, my notice was given to my job, my landlord, and my utility companies and I was ready to start planning for the long trip home. With all of my worldly possessions packed into a minivan, my dad and I set forth on a 6 day, 3,000 mile road trip back to the suburbs of Philadelphia.
We passed through awesome states like New Mexico and Tennessee, ate some delicious BBQ, saw the national civil rights museum, and spent a lot of time listening to Howard Stern on SiriusXM, eating pre-packaged snack cracker sandwiches, and stopping to pee.
It was a beautiful trip filled with awesome scenery, a variety of local dishes, shady uninhabited gas stations, and enough rest stops to write a travel guide about. I wouldn’t have traded that quality time spent with my dad for anything. After a year and a half back in California, I had returned home to roost.
People called me crazy for wanting to move from sunny California back to the sometimes-frozen northeast, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I am close to family and friends and my girlfriend again. I am back in the land of good pizza, amazing sandwiches, and a lack of political correctness.
While moving across the country 4 times is an emotional and financial strain at times, it made me far more independent than I have ever been in my life. I have lived alone and covered everything for myself with my parents and support system 3,000 miles away. I have made it work. I have met new people both at work and out by myself. I grew so extensively as a person and fostered so much confidence in myself that I wouldn’t have traded either living experience for anything in the world.
I highly suggest that, should the opportunity arise, you move somewhere as far as possible from your current living situation. It’s an invaluable experience.