That is the million dollar question.
Well, no one has actually offered a million dollars but the number one question that we are asked as we meet people in our new town is some version of “what brought you here?” As it turns out no one really wonders or much questions why we left Los Angeles. Folks ask a lot of questions about life out in California but they don’t wonder about our choice to pack up and leave. We are always welcomed though sometimes get the suspicious side eye since so many city folks are leaving the cities and landing in places like North Carolina. There are lots of New Yorkers moving in and more than a few other Californians. The locals worry – and for good reason – that us City folks are just in this for the cheap housing and the lower cost of living and we aren’t moving in ways that are beneficial to the places that we move to and I completely get that and quite frankly, I agree. Our move was less financially motivated and more of a whole-life-change motivated.
Once we made up our minds that we needed to change our lives to save our sanity and our health, we started planning for our exit. We made no secret of it so that people at work would be aware and start making arrangements. We refreshed our home to put it up for sale. And we began to plan a year of travel to start finding our new home. At the same time we would spend the year going to all our favorite hangouts, restaurants, haunts in a big year long good-bye tour. Then that jerk Covid showed up uninvited and none of that happened. We knew Virginia and North Carolina a bit and decided that we would probably land in one of those two states since we already had some small familiarity with them. We could always relocated post-pandemic if it really didn’t work out was the discussion at that point. We didn’t get to say good bye to too many people, our dentists and our vet and that’s about it. No last Tommy burgers, no last turkey dinner at Talleyrand, no tan tan men ramen in Little Tokyo.
My family had also decided to move back to Charlotte, where they had relocated previously. So North Carolina seemed a good idea with the bulk of my family deciding to move there as well. We didn’t want to move to Charlotte though. It’s a nice city but it’s a city and we weren’t going to go through all this to move from one frying pan to some other kind of hot pan, pot, skillet, or wok. Of course, we only knew Charlotte so we took one long weekend and did a Covid-flight into CLT where we had basically made a 60 mile radius and looked at houses all around the Queen City. Mountains, lakes, farm land, everything was really beautiful. We drove like crazy people all around Charlotte to King’s Mountain, Shelby, Lake Norman, Waxhaw, there were great homes in lovely neighborhoods. On the final day we drove out to Stanly County which turns out is basically the boonies, like seriously podunk-ville. Albemarle, which we couldn’t even pronounce, is a tiny town of brick colonial buildings at the foothills of the Uwharrie forest and Morrow Mountain. There is a newer part of town with grocery shopping, hardware stores, food, car washes, all the things a person needs to do life. We drove into a neighborhood listed as Forest Hills, all this way just to see one house. The neighborhood reminded me of Pasadena or San Marino just a few miles north of us in Los Angeles. The neighborhood was super quiet and really beautiful with big houses on large plots of land, surrounded by trees and not much traffic. There is a massive hospital complex nearby and apparently a lot of the doctors live in Forest Hills because it’s close by but also peaceful and quiet. The house was a Georgian Colonial, red brick with black shutters and white wood trim. A small balcony in the large columned front porch and another covered porch right off the kitchen. The driveway snakes up along the side of the house where it becomes a complete turn with a small boat house to the right of the house and garages to the left. Despite needing a bit of work, it is stunning. The house sits where one street ends and another curves so there is literally no traffic going in front of the home only turning up the street to drive away from the house. There are a few runners in the morning and lots of walkers in the evening. Families with kids on their skates and bikes ride by and wave hello. It’s a neighborhood that is a community. So even though it is considered “in town” the house is far from the street with about an acre as the front yard and an acre as the backyard which includes a bit of forest, a lawned paddock and a creek that runs at the rear of the property. It’s five minutes from a supermarket and a drug store but also only 10 minutes from being deep in a forest, up a mountain, or on a lake or river. It is a 50 minute drive from Charlotte with tons of other little and midsize towns in between. Deer wander around the yard in the early morning and at dusk and birdsong and the wind high up in the tree canopy is the soundtrack. We made an offer. By the time we were boarding the plane for home, we were in contract.
We chose a place to slow down to a snails pace. We chose a place to hibernate for a bit and heal from the past few years that left us both bruised and burned in our hearts, minds and spirits. We were pretty messed up physically as well. We chose a place were we could sit on a porch with a cup of coffee and wave at strangers who call out “good mornin, how y’all doin?” We chose this place because of the natural beauty, the friendliness of the people and the joy we get from just watching deer in our backyard. We left Los Angeles for a lot of reasons. LA had become a bad boyfriend – emotionally distant, abusive, obnoxious, angry, violent, unreliable – basically a mean drunk with a nasty right hook, better loved from a far. North Carolina invited us to set a spell on the covered porch, have a sweet tea, and enjoy listening to a warm rain shower and a thunderstorm in the distance. Here we can learn to relax and breathe deeply again. I honestly would have never imagined that we would move out of a city. I could see us moving from one city to another city. Most of our vacations were usually to a large city, we enjoyed cities, we are city people. We were city people. Now we live, fully live, in the country and I couldn’t be happier.