I’ve secretly been carrying the weight of the world around on my shoulders but wasn’t able to tell anyone about it. Finally, I can relax.
Deciding to bring my wife and daughter to the USA was a huge decision and not one that I made lightly, the visa process to get my wife permanent residency was a struggle that took everything I had, especially doing it from Morocco, not having a residence in the USA, and not having a traditional source of income – at times, while we were going through the process it nearly ended things. We had some stupendous donnybrooks and when we finally got to the USA, I thought we could finally move forward.
I’m an extremely goal oriented person and even though I don’t talk about it much, most of my life and my accomplishments are mapped out and scheduled – for example – a year ago, without the visa, without the money to come to the USA, one of my goals was to have my family in the USA by May 1, 2013. We arrived on April 17th. As I said, I thought that I would be able to move forward easily – and, not surprisingly, I had a plan.
Over the past five years, I’ve supported my family and our adventures with the business I built from scratch, Vagobond Travel Media, LLC. Granted, we haven’t earned a six figure income, but it was enough to support us in Morocco, pay for some great trips, bring us to the USA, and put about $10k in our savings by the time we got here. It’s fair to say that I am one of the world’s top experts on travel blogging, web development in the tourism sector, travel public relations, and most certainly in travel social media. I am one of the pioneers in these fields. In addition, I have a degree in anthropology that focused on how the world uses the internet to make connections in real life and a strong background in hotel management, project management, and mass media.
My plan was to use these assets to land a job in the tech capital of the world, San Francisco. I figured that in the modern tech world, my work would speak for me and that I would be able to find a decent position with a travel or social media start up, find a house in the bay area for my family to move into, and then, to move forward gangbusters and take the world by storm. Longer term plan was to use my start-up experience (and capital) to create a ground breaking travel social network.
All of that plan fell to shit. Here was the plan:
Arrive and recover from jetlag for two days in a hotel. April 17-19
Stay with my sister for 1-2 weeks while job hunting. April 20- May 4
Visit my mother in Redding in late May, introduce my family to my family. Road trip to Washington, Oregon to see friends and more family.
Begin job. Locate a house in San Mateo area. June 15.
Have a garden in my backyard by July 1 and be growing vegetables and doing worm composting.
For a variety of reasons, I failed almost all of that. Things changed and didn’t happen the way I had planned. I adapted, but man, I hate it when that happens. Our hotel recovery was interrupted and I accepted an offer to take us to Redding before I really had time to think about what I was doing, while in Redding my mother had an accident and we found ourselves feeling like we needed to scrap all of our plans and stay to help her but then we were made to feel less than comfortable with that decision and I grabbed my family and took us away as soon as I was able. The first opportunity after we knew my mom was okay and I had a car, we split. A friend offered us a two week house sitting gig in Sacramento in early May and I figured that was close enough to San Francisco that I could follow my original plan.
That’s when I was slapped in the face with an ugly reality. Tech start-ups don’t want to hire a guy in his 40s who has been calling his own shots for the past five years. My accomplishments didn’t count for enough with the start-ups to get past the fact that they could hire a fresh college grad with a social media or advertising degree for far less than I could support my family on in the Bay Area. I made the two hour trip from Sacramento to SF for multiple interviews but every time, the interviews ended with slightly apologetic/slightly arrogant remarks about how it was an entry level position and I was over qualified – i.e. my resume didn’t have a tech giant on it they could list on the company website as they sought funding and I wasn’t willing to accept less than I could support my family on. Fail.
But, adapt and overcome. I decided we could stay in Sacramento. Our friends returned from their trip and offered to let us stay in their house rent free for as long as we wanted – or until the courts evicted them – whichever came first. For the past three years, they have been fighting to overturn a foreclosure – and, aside from all the work they put into learning how to manipulate the courts, filing motions, and sending out documents – they have been living rent free. The house belonged to my friend’s cousin and was foreclosed on by the bank, she wrote a quit claim deed to him, and he and his partner began their fight to say that the house was really theirs and so it couldn’t be foreclosed. Three years of free rent, but the threat of eviction hanging over their heads every day. That’s no situation to have a two year old and a new immigrant wife in, so I agreed to stay but only for as long as it took me to find a place to live.
I liked our neighborhood in Sacramento and the rents were modest for the area at about $900-$1200 per month for a house with yard, 2 bedrooms, etc. I found a couple of likely houses and filled out applications – now here is the thing, I had money in the bank, I could show my income from writing/blogging/book sales and I was willing to pay first/last/deposit which came to about $3600 up front, my credit is not stellar, but the only flaw on it is that I don’t have any credit cards but do have $40k in student debt – the landlords, however, were so scared of renting to someone without an outside (not self-employed) source of income and not one of them agreed to rent to me even after we met and I showed them my paypal payments from clients, records, etc. One jack-off slum lord met solely for the purpose of getting a business consult on his website and had someone moving in the next day…FAIL.
Also, living in someone else’s house isn’t an ideal situation for me to write, maintain websites, or even buy and sell estate and garage sale items since all of our possessions were in boxes and needed to be put back in boxes, kept tidy, and stored. My wife and two year old spent lots of time in our temporary bedroom and I tried to work in the living room, but since both of our friends also worked at home, I didn’t really get anything done in the almost 3 months we were there. Yes, we were there for 3 months while I tried to find work, tried to find a house, and tried to figure out how to take care of my family the best way. I am deeply grateful to our friends for letting us squat with them while I figured out that California just wasn’t going to work for us. We made frequent trips to the Bay Area and Redding and I took us on a road trip up the West Coast so we could scout other locations, so my wife could meet my friends, and so we could be away from the squat and give our friends space.
By the end of July, I knew we had to leave. The women had begun to squabble over toilet paper and tampons and anything else, our two year old needed more structure for her development, and I needed to have a dedicated space to work. For Sophia’s 2nd birthday we went to Redding to see my mom and so I could help my friends Matt and Amber with a garage estate sale and then I got in the car and drove to Reedsport, Oregon – which I’d picked out as the perfect spot for my family to live.
What makes Reedsport perfect? Violent crime is zero. There are no registered sex offenders. The town sits slightly inland on the Umpqua River and is safe from tsunami, the coastal region is wet and safe from forest fires, the town is a completely undeveloped tourist mecca which has the Oregon dunes, the Oregon coast, the Smith River, the Umpqua River, and Winchester Bay all within a stone throw. Coos Bay is 20 miles south and Florence is 20 miles north. Because it is inland it doesn’t have the wind you find along the rest of the Oregon coast. The climate is mild with lows in the winter around 37 degrees and highs in the summer around 80 degrees. It has good schools, good fishing, crabbing, and a health food store.
So, I came up here and went to a property management company. I filled out the forms, checked into a hotel, and began my search. Here’s the thing – there aren’t all that many houses in Reedsport and most of them are owned by the residents – there were no 3 bedroom single family homes available – but there was one coming up mid-month. I looked at the outside, filled out the application, and gave the agent deposit and first months rent. She couldn’t get in contact with the owner. For three days we tried and I searched for other houses…I didn’t find any. This was my only option.
It was time to go anyway. I went back to Redding and picked up my family and we went back to the squat in Sacramento where we packed our things. I’d bought an $800 jeep a few weeks before and had a hitch and ball put on it so I could tow a U-Haul trailer. I rented the trailer, we packed our things, we said goodbye to our friends, and we set off. The trailer was too big and too heavy for the jeep but we made it anyway after reversing the ball so the hitch didn’t drag. I reserved a hotel for a week in Reedsport and up we came not sure if we had a place or not.
A week in a hotel room with a two year old is a long time. Long story short, we got the house and yesterday we moved in. I signed the lease, set up my office, transferred the utilities (deposits on utilities are a big moving expense you don’t think of but should), and here we are! Last night was our first night in the house. We barbecued steaks in the back yard and slept in our own bed in our own room in our own house filled with our own things.
Not having a home for my family and not having a job were a heavy load to be carrying – missing that June 15th deadline was a challenging blow. Now I can rest and get to work building my business again – my family has a home, I have an office, we have a life. It took me two months longer than I expected, but the funny thing is that during that two months – we managed to gather everything we needed (except couches and some other furniture) to make this house into our home.
I have a job – taking care of my family, writing, and continuing to develop Vagobond Travel Media, LLC – and here’s a bonus – my wife got a job at the hotel we stayed at – when things like this happen, you have to know that you are in the flow and the flow is good.
Our hometown is now Reedsport and it just might be the coolest undiscovered place in the USA.