Ten years ago, on August 31, 2006, I moved to Portland, Oregon. I had spent the summer of 2006 heartsick, couch surfing, and working as a nanny in Indiana. I had gotten out of a long-term relationship around February of that year, graduated from college that May, and found myself ready to move out of the state where I was born and raised. I needed a change, but I couldn’t decide where to go or what to do with myself.
I had interviewed for two very different opportunities in two very different parts of the country, and had been offered both jobs. One was to move to New York City and work with Teach for America and the other was to move to Florida and work as a camp counselor for a year. One would have required me to live in a giant city, in an assigned apartment with other teachers. The other would have required me to live in a teepee next to a lake. While they both sounded like amazing (and kind of terrifying) life adventures, neither housing option would allow me to bring my dog.
My dog, an old blind pug named Buckeye, was my best friend. That little buddy and I had been through a big breakup and homelessness together. He was with me the day I moved out of the house I shared with my college sweetheart, he was there with me when I decided to skip my college graduation ceremony and go camping, and he kept me warm by curling up at the very bottom of my sleeping bag. There was no way I could abandon him. I had to find a place where my dog was welcome, where I fit in better than I did in Indiana, and where I could get a fresh start.
I knew that place was out there, but I hadn’t yet found it. I asked my older sister, who had done quite a bit of traveling, if she had any suggestions. She suggested I visit her in Portland to think about my next steps in a new environment. Of course, as soon as I spent my first day in Portland, I fell in love with it. I think she knew that would happen when she invited me there. That tricky bitch. 😉
I could write a novel about my life in the Rose City. I have experienced a lot during my ten years there; the highest highs and the lowest lows of my life have all been in Portland. In a lot of ways, it has been a wonderful place to call home and I am grateful that I experienced the majority of my twenties there. However, I have a complicated relationship with my city now, as do many people who have lived there for a while. Oregon is a lovely state filled with natural beauty in every direction, Portland is a special city with gorgeous green parks and lots of rivers and bridges and art and rain, but it is not paradise. In fact, it has some major problems that seem to be getting worse. Portland is becoming more and more expensive by the month, gentrification and overpriced housing are pushing out long-time residents, beloved businesses and buildings that once gave the city character are being demolished and replaced with pretentious condos that most Portlanders could never afford. In many ways, the city is losing the charm and uniqueness that put it on the map in the first place. Homelessness, the rapidly rising cost of living, and a lack of jobs have already caused many people to leave, and it certainly contributed to my decision to buy an RV and convert it into my tiny house on wheels/sex ed mobile.
When grief and the end of my marriage were added to the list of things I was dealing with in Portland, it became obvious to me that I needed to get away from my city. So, it seems fitting that on the ten year anniversary of moving to Oregon, I left the state. Yesterday we crossed the border into Idaho, and today we continue heading east. We plan on visiting the Craters of the Moon, Lava Hot Springs, and having another night in the woods to think and heal and reflect.
Looking forward to the famous Wyoming night sky.