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The One Where She Decides to Go West

February 1st, 2021

For about decade, I've often thought of leaving Pittsburgh, and my home state of Pennsylvania. I just never knew where I would go or why. What I didn't realize is that 1.) You don't always need a reason to live elsewhere, and 2.) The fear will always stop you. For me, that fear was....not enough money, no new place set up, not a stable job, not having a safety net, missing loved ones, being in a new place alone, etc....the list would go on. For few years now, I've felt this draw to the Southwest. Specifically, New Mexico. After merely thinking about it for a year, I finally pulled the trigger and decided to leave when my Dad passed away on June 16th, 2020. I had been feeling like my life wasn't really moving in any one direction and most of my friends have hit those common life " milestones" - ie. job promotion, marriage, kids, etc. These "milestones" never really appealed to me and I could feel my restlessness for something new getting much worse. SO, after my Dad died and I made the choice to put things in motion to leave PA, it was like nothing could stop me. In addition to making the move, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and drive to New Mexico via Route 66 a.k.a. The Mother Road.

I feel like I should mention I’m figuring this all out on my own. I mean, I’m doing a LOT and I mean a LOT of research on moving cross-country, driving cross-country as a solo female, tips for traveling Route 66, tips on moving to a new place without a job or place to live, etc. So, I’ve been utilizing a number of websites and forums and Facebook groups to help me and keep me motivated. I‘ll be name-dropping them throughout my blog from time to time. Be sure and visit those websites, if so inclined.

So, how does one begin to do this? I’m really Type A and am obsessed with making lists. I started using Word Docs like crazy. The first thing I did was figure out a time that I would make the drive. I started seriously thinking about this in July of 2020 and knew leaving that year wasn’t a reality for me. Winter means too many issues with bad weather, things being closed, dangerous road conditions, and more STRESS. Fall also could be hit or miss with the weather, but it would be nice to see leaves changing in a some of these places. For me, it was about not leaving before the holidays. I still hadn’t told a lot of key people (my Mom and step-Mom included) and since it was going to be the first holidays without my Dad, I figured it would be a good idea to stick around. Turns out, due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases, I wasn’t able to get out to Harrisburg to see family anyway. But I digress. Spring/Summer of 2021 seemed like the perfect time to get on the road. I was already picturing myself with windows down, wind blowing in my hair, radio turned up, and everything I need packed in my car. Ok, so Spring/Summer it is.

Now, which month? Which day? For this, my first thought was related to money. In order to pick a time, I had to already figure out how much money I could save until then? , how much money did I even need for such a journey?, how long will I take to travel the “Mother Road”? So, it seemed like timing and money had be thought of simultaneously. You may have the luxury of massive amounts of both; or you might be more constricted on both. I had (and still have) no job to worry about since my sole source of income is driving for Uber. I also have my photography Etsy store which is passive income and have been stashing cash from a side gig driving this one guy to and from work Monday-Friday for 6 months. In short, I had all the time I wanted to take – but not unlimited funds. Even though I started a rough draft of a budget, I realized that I JUST HAD TO PICK A DATE. You should too. If you don’t, you may never make a move like this. If you have a new job waiting for you in the new place, then that makes the decision for you. I, did not.

The more I reflected upon timing, the more frustrated I got. “I don’t want to leave before the holidays because of family”, “ I don’t want to leave during the Winter – well – for lots of obvious reasons”, “ I probably won’t have enough money saved up be early Spring”, “ If Art All Night ( an event I’ve volunteered for the past 4 years) is a live event in April – then – I don’t want to leave then”. This thought process went on and on. I was frustrated mostly with myself. Call it fear or call it safe planning. Then it occurred to me. June 2021 would mark one year since my Dad died. I didn’t really want to go back to Harrisburg and mourn him again with my family ( horrible – I know). I could find my own way of honoring him. Then it hit me. Dad loved road trips. He loved driving. I’ll leave on the one year anniversary of his death in memoriam.

There it was. My date of leaving Pennsylvania for good: June 16, 2021.

Then, the real planning began. I made a list of what all I had to do aside from planning the trip itself. I had to start thinking of logistical things like: “How much money should save up? Where will I stay along the way ( hotels and Airbnbs)? What about gas costs? Food costs? Sightseeing costs? What about safety? Do I keep a gun or mace in my car? What about my belongings? How am moving my stuff – just in my vehicle or do I get a U-Haul hitch? How much is that? What about my mail? Where does that go if I have no official new address? What about a new bank? …..than began the more personal things like: “Who do I actually NEED to tell? When? Should I give my friends an opportunity to have a good bye party? CAN I have a good bye party with COVID-19 still being rampant?

Your mind will race too. Don’t worry. Just get organized and take it day by day, month by month.

So, that’s what I did. I started a document outlining all of the things above and will continue adding and subtracting to it as the time gets closer. At first, I only did one major route rough draft, then went a month without even looking at it again.

It’s now 2021 – so my planning has ramped up even more.

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