Year ago it finally happened. We took the leap even though it was scary, seemed like a lot of work, and even though we were insecure about many things (mainly finances) and we knew it was going to be a pain in the butt to organize a cross-country move. We did it even though the three moves we had done locally in New Jersey were super annoying. We did it anyway. And have no regrets.
There’s no regrets even the living expenses here are far greater, our salaries way lower and we live under a constant earthquake scare. It’s all going to our bank of experiences and experiences, my friends, are worth more than gold. Do things that are out of your comfort zone, because that’s where the growth happens.
I still sometimes find myself wondering what my life would have been if I had stayed in Finland instead of moving to the US after graduating. I’m quite convinced that most certainly I would be way further career wise. Probably by now I would have a couple of kids too, own a beautiful home and have a well-paid job. I would’ve seen half the world by now (with all that European vacation time!) and most probably would also be in the best shape of my life (all those after-work yoga and Body Pump classes 🙂 ), and an extensive tribe of friends (20 years worth friends).
Yes, often times I feel like I’m behind in life. That at this age I should’ve already done this and that, should be making this much money, live in a house like that, traveled to this many countries and have a powerful network of friends and colleagues. Oh, and of course have the most amazing marriage ever. And be super smart because of my extensive life experience. Yeah. Right.
This past year in California has humbled me a lot and I’ve learned to live with very little extra money. There’s been very little eating out, shopping for other than necessities and just a few leisurely trips. We’ve moved already once inside California, from Daly City to Alameda (because our rent went up after 6 months!), so I’ve given away even more stuff (because packing is more annoying than donating your things). Living light is all good though.
One magnificent thing I love about our new home state: the California weather. I do not miss the steaming hot and humid summers in NYC when no make-up stays on your face and your hair is always flat, you can’t wear sleeves because your armpits are always sweaty (yes, I use aluminum-free deodorant!), the garbage on the street smells like death and the subway tunnels are like stinky-ass saunas. Here I’ve yet to experience a day when the weather was “too hot”. It’s never humid. When you look at the forecast on your phone every single day of the week shows mostly sunny. No clouds. Just sun. It’s like an insanely gorgeous spring day, every day. Do I miss the seasons? No. If I want snow I’ll go to Finland for a vacation (flights are cheaper during the winter anyway). Or drive to Lake Tahoe.
One thing everyone warned me about was the “fact” that in California I must have my own car. Meaning: getting over my fear of driving. I survived fine in NJ suburbs without a car for almost 10 years. But I was ready to buy a car when I got to California. Because hey, in California everyone drives and so must I. I even worked extra time at the hotel in NYC to save more money. Must buy a car. But then I got here and there were multiple modern, clean bus lines that ran from our door to BART station for a couple of bucks. Uber is no stranger to me either. Now that we live on an island there’s an express bus to San Francisco, also, multiple buses that go to downtown Oakland where I can catch the BART at any hour, as well as a ferry terminal that takes me straight to the SF Ferry Building.
So did I buy a car? Nope. I bought a used bicycle on Craigslist for $35 that was only used once at the Burning Man. What a great deal! I ride my bike to the gym, all shopping areas within the island (furthest one takes me 15 mins to get to), the beach, Meetups, winery, yoga studios and so on. I have no need for a car right now. My bicycle, so far, has been maintenance free and cost me just that initial $35. Not a penny more. Oh yes, I almost forgot that I did buy a helmet and a pink basket for it. Ok, add $25.
I must also not forget about the beautiful nature that’s everywhere. Even Oakland has gorgeous hiking areas with views overlooking almost the entire East Bay. The city of San Francisco has multiple places to get really close to the nature. To mention a few great hikes: Presidio Promenade, Batteries to Bluffs, Bernal Hill, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, Philosopher’s Way in McLaren Park, Land’s End, Fort Funston, Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill, and Golden Gate Heights Park. Our island of Alameda doesn’t have the most gorgeous beaches, but the views of the mountains across the Bay always give me chills. The most gorgeous beaches I’ve seen were in Pacifica and along the Highway 1.
I don’t know how long California will be our home, but right now we enjoy everything it has to offer. Who knows, maybe we’ll buy a farm here and start growing avocados, kale and lemons. Rescue a couple of animals and enjoy the laid-back country life. Or you might find us in London. Or Helsinki. Or NYC. Life is an adventure. When you get a chance to go and explore the unknown, just do it.
“If you don’t like where you are, go somewhere else. You’re not a tree.”