We’ve moved with Jake’s company to Fargo, North Dakota, Mason City, Iowa and St. Louis, Missouri all within our 20’s, however we’ve got nothing on Beth. Last year, Beth’s husband received a new job opportunity and her house sold about the same time we learned about our move, and so we’ve been saying goodbye to North Iowa together. She’s been like my corporate move mentor since she understands what it’s like to move for her husband’s job and start over again in new communities. While I may be more stressed about this move since we have a dog, she’s moved with pets and kids, often living apart from her husband for long lengths of time. Her number one suggestion for moving is not to stress. I’m still working on this.
Our movers have come and gone and the relocation company postponed our move-in date by a couple of days. Now that all of our belongings are on their way to St. Louis, Trayse and I are enjoying our last weekend in North Iowa and taking this moment to reflect on the past two years. Here’s my best advice for your next move.
1. Eat as many local specialties as possible.
Each community has unique food traditions. Find one, try as many versions as possible, and learn how to make it at home. I’ve only lived in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa, but am intrigued by the different food traditions I learned about in each state (or even parts of each state_. In Minnesota, we grew up on wild rice and chicken soup while my North Dakotan friends crave knoephla. Ranch dressing runs rampant in North Iowa, as do Greek-style steaks and cheese balls. We’re excited to learn about St. Louis food traditions.
2. Don’t save experiences for later. Once, when I lived in North Dakota, I did something really stupid. I saved a road trip or later, convincing myself that I’d be back. I had read Del’s Journey‘s intriguing blog post describing why he considers Fort Sisseton State Park in South Dakota one of his top ten favorite state parks in the nation. The post inspired me to drive solo to Sica Hollow State Park (which is known for being beautifully spooky) and Fort Sisseton.
I experienced a mishap along the way when I locked myself out of my car ordering a cheeseburger from a drive-in. After the AAA guy unlocked my car, hours had passed and I lost my nerve. I drove straight to Sisseton, instead of stopping in Sica Hollow. When I arrived in Sisseton and noticed the state park was another 30 miles away, I decided to turn around and go home, telling myself that it was no big deal since I’d be back. Two weeks later, we found out we were getting transferred to Iowa and “later” has become much later. If there’s a place you want to visit, just go visit it, even if it’s in your own backyard. If you move often for work, there might not be a later or next time.
3. Ask for referrals for the important things. Growing up in the Twin Cities, I was all set up with my car mechanic, medical professionals, insurance agent, etc. If something happened and we didn’t know where to turn, we simply asked mom and dad. Now, we don’t have that luxury. The most efficient and reliable way to find new health care professionals and services is to ask a local. People love to share their favorite things and asking for referrals from people who are simply fellow consumers with no vested interest in that company has rarely led me astray.
4. Don’t save your paper shredding for later. Most especially, if you own a small shredder like us. I had saved a year’s worth of documents to be shredded. Two grocery bags of paper took three days and three full garbage bags. Sure, credit card offers and all that life insurance crap your insurance agent sends is obnoxious, but it’s far less obnoxious than amassing a year’s worth that you realize to destroy three days before the movers arrive. A little shredding each day saves you a lot of shredding at crunch time.
5. Clean out your damn condiments! Isn’t it unreal how many condiments one can stockpile in their fridge? Condiments are unlike any other type of food and seem to multiply like gremlins. Similar to that paper that needs to be shredded, go through your fridge once in a while and clean out your old condiments.
6. If you are thinking of purchasing a home that needs updates, gather quotes and then double them. We learned a lot of life lessons all at once when we purchased our first home in Mason City. Always be prepared to spend more money on house updates and repairs than you predict.
7. Acquire a dependable air mattress.
When you move with a company, you never know when your belongings are going to arrive at your new home. If your belongings fill less than an entire truck, you may have to wait for the truck to make another stop. An air mattress allows you to sleep in your empty old house or your empty new house without a problem. My friend Beth generously gave me hers and we’ve used it countless times.
8. Set aside items you’ll want to access easily and pack them in your vehicle. After two moves not doing this, I totally made an effort to do this before the movers arrived. I packed a suitcase full of clothing to last one week, a backpack of toiletries including two rolls of toilet paper, and set aside my files of important documents, remote controls, dog stuff, and bedding. If there’s perishable food you want to pack, bring a cooler and keep at least a plate, spoon, fork, and cup handy for meals. Moving companies usually won’t pack cleaning supplies, anyway. I’d also recommend you pack your car with basic cleaning supplies, a small vacuum, and broom so you can touch up your old house and clean your new home enough to feel comfortable until the movers arrive.
9. Ask for help and perform cost/benefit analysis.
When things feel overwhelming, ask for help. This move felt especially stressful because we didn’t have any time to prepare for it! Jake was out-of-town a lot and I was in the midst of the summer auction college session. There were some tasks that I powered through, such as shredding bags of documents, but decided to budget for assistance touching up the house before our realtor officially listed it online. I asked Beth for help when my car was in the shop and our realtor helped me fill out the complicated relocation paperwork.
10. “Find the weird people who do strange things.”
My good friend Chelsea gave me this advice when I was a new Mason City resident lamenting about how I hadn’t clicked with many friends yet.
Obviously I don’t mean that my North Iowan blogger friends as “weird,” and even if I did, I mean it in the best possible way;)
Don’t give up finding those friends with whom you can be imperfectly yourself. They’re out there. I promise! As my first local blogger friend Sara always recommends, consider taking online relationships offline. I’ve met many good friends of all ages on Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram through our common interests of exploring the local dining scene, traveling, blogging, and writing. In my experience, online friendships always translate into real life friendships. Reach out to others with common interests and connect with local online communities. They often coordinate get togethers.
Whether you live in a small town or large metropolitan area, much of life is what you make of it. There are always kind people in this world and new experiences to pursue. Life will always throw variables at us that we can’t control, but I proceed with the belief that I continue to write new chapters of my story with each choice and day that passes. I’m grateful for everyone who helped me find magic in North Iowa.