Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Things We Will Miss

They finally announced the job opening at my workplace, which allows me to actually speak about my leaving! It's such a relief. We have gotten the chance to see lots of friends this past weekend and announce our departure. It's very bittersweet. While we are super psyched to be headed somewhere totally beautiful, and looking forward to our year of fun, we are also very nostalgic about Los Angeles and all the wonderful friends and family we will be leaving behind. Just a sampler of things I will miss:

1. The Hollywood Farmer's Market: this is our church! We'll have to find a new routine on Sunday mornings.

2. Latin food - the restaurants, and Northgate in Boyle Heights and the Amapola in Paramount. Where am I going to get masa preparada por tamales in Bend?

3. Warm weather. I spent a good portion of my life in Chicago, so my 9 years in LA hasn't been quite enough to erase the nightmare that is winter. I will miss the constant sunshine and 75 degree days, year round.

4. Asian food, and the Asians here in general. They give me a sense of anonymity that I won't have in Bend...where there are less than 1,000 Asians.

5. The diversity of the beauty here. I really love that people in SoCal take care of themselves and present the best version of themselves that they can possibly be, and that there are millions of different kinds of beautiful here. I like this lesson of living up to your maximum potential. And I appreciate the aesthetics of it.

Oh, Los Angeles. I'm glad we're going out while we still love it here, rather than when we're sick of it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Goodbye, Los Angeles!

Remember when I posted about Life Changes Pending? It was partly inspired by this story I read on NPR. This guy, Winston Chen, heard a Ted talk about taking 5 years of your retirement and spreading them out throughout your working life. It inspired him to move his family to a little island in Norway, where they got to experience 24 hour daylight, 24 hour night, and the Aurora Borealis. You cannot put a price on that type of experience - and wouldn't it be so much better to experience it while you're young, with energy and physical stamina/strength?

So we made a decision! We're going to do the same thing (not the Norway part, but the retire-for-awhile part), and we'll be using this time to have new experiences and also to do a little soul searching about our own life paths and careers. 

To give you some background, here were the numerous options we considered:

1. Taking off in the van. Where? Anywhere! But first, the US and Canada, visiting Nova Scotia, Banff, New Orleans, Key West, and everywhere and everything in between...with the amount of money we want to spend, we could only afford about 6 months.

2. Going to Greece/Italy.Starting off in Athens and backpacking through the islands, taking the ferry across to Italy and touring up the coast, ending in Milan and crossing over eventually, into Germany (to visit a friend in Munich and then head home). This option? We'd run out of money in about 3 months.

3. Staying in L.A. so Mike can continue working (I'd be just writing) and we'd still be enjoying time with our friends and his family. We could do this for about 8 months before hitting our budget.

4. Moving to Chicago. Moving to Seattle. Moving to Joshua Tree. Moving to Grants Pass, San Luis Obispo, Medford, San Diego, Eugene, Salem.....options are endless! Obviously, depending on the location, the budget stretches further for some cities.

After extensive discussion and detailed spreadsheets, in which I calculated every single expense we could have (including haircuts, kitty litter and a winter wardrobe, if needed), the most cost effective option was to move - FOR A FULL YEAR OR MORE! - to....

....wait for it....

The most awesome place we could find, that would offer opportunities for fun, outdoor recreation, gorgeous breath-taking scenery and new adventures in our van with access to Canada and Alaska...and still have everything I needed (Target, REI, Trader Joe's, organic eateries, a local bakery):

By Matthew Johnson Studios
By Amanda Green Bottoms

by Mike Putnam Photo

This place looks pretty ridiculous, right? It's sort of an isolated medium-sized town, with 80,000 people, surrounded by state and national parks, snowboarding 20-30 minutes away, a nice dry climate (no bugs!) and a Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. 

Haven't guessed yet? It's Bend, Oregon. The only downside is I hear they hate people from Los Angeles (and California in general). They call us "equity immigrants." Which, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, is exactly what Mike and I will be. But whatever. I'm actually from Chicago. And we are going to have the most amazing year ever, starting in a few months.

I can't wait!!!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year! 2014 - the year the Vanagon was completed.

One of our goals for the new year is, of course, to get the damn Vanagon finished! To be fair, I have not actually contributed much to this project in the way of physical labor. I'm more of a money manager. Mike, on the other hand, has literally bled over this machine. And now, I have too!

On new year's day we decided to get a move on and start installing the sound mat and insulation into the van. The sound mat is a bitch to work with because you have to cut it to fit exactly, then press it into every nook and cranny on the panels (inside the door, sides, and back panels).

You're basically peeling off a giant, very expensive sticker, and then trying not to touch the sticky side to anything, while maneuvering it into a tiny crevice. Then you have to roll all the air bubbles out. Your arms are at weird angles, you're holding awkward tools you've never used before, your hands get cut on the metal door frame, things are all dirty, and overall, it's not super fun!

The best thing that came out of all our labor was that I have a newfound appreciation for Mike's job and what he does all day. I was so pooped that we went home at 2pm and I passed out for 3 hours. Manual labor is exhausting! Who knew?!
In the end, we only managed to get the back door and the motor cover completed, but at least we know what we're dealing with, now. We'll be back at it again tomorrow.