How I found myself by moving across the country…three times…

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I think everyone should live somewhere else at least once in their life. There’s risk involved, and it’s not an easy thing to do – to pick up the life you know and start from scratch somewhere else. But, you learn a lot about yourself in doing so, and in the end…you can always go back home if the place you moved to is not for you. For me, I moved away after college, moved back home, and then realized going home was a huge mistake….and back to California I went.

My adventurous spirit was a bit of a late bloomer. There was a lot that led up to the move, but it wasn’t until after college that it started to kick in. This is my experience…

Growing Up a Brooklyn Girl

I was born in Colorado, but we only stayed for a few months before heading back to Brooklyn. My mom and dad were never legally married – they were hippies who decided to go up on a mountain and ask God to marry them, but then somewhere along the way while my mom was pregnant, they split up and my dad found a new girlfriend (his now wife). I don’t know the whole story, but at some point he took me, my mom’s parents flew to CO and got a lawyer, and we went back to New York and never turned back, and he never followed…yadda yadda yadda.

I spent the next 18 years living in Brooklyn – my mom got sick when I was very young (she’s bipolar, but very high functioning now and great with her meds), so her parents adopted me and became my parents, although my mother is still active in my life. I went to public schools, I started taking the city bus to school around 7th grade, I eventually drove my grandparents’ 86 Grand Marquis which was a boat, but comfortably fit all my friends and kept us safe. I had an incredibly thick Brooklyn accent, and a mouth like a trucker. I loved being a Brooklyn girl. We spent summers upstate New York, but for the most part, NYC was all I knew.

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My grandparents and I
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That’s me and cookie monster on the right
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Been an introvert as long as I could remember…hated anything where I had to be put on stage, like elementary school graduation

 

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Dancing is the only time I’ve been fairly comfortable on stage…and I mean, with outfits like those…how could I not be??

I was bullied terribly in middle school. It all started in the 6th grade – I went to a school where I only knew a few people, pissed off the wrong girl and spent the next two years trying not to let it bother me when I would walk past the lunchroom table and a large group of girls (some being those I had grown up with) would count to 3 and in unison yell out “Ew, it’s Rachel Sciacca”. Eventually in science lab, and I remember it clearly, one of the girls, Julia, out of nowhere apologized to me. Basically said it was stupid and she was sorry. Slowly, some of the other girls came around as well, and by senior year there were just a few snooty stragglers, mostly ones who had followed along from the beginning with no real reason other than to follow, and probably now felt silly just throwing it all away. The two years I spent getting bullied were very difficult. I could have fought back, but I chose to lay low, make other friends, and ignore it – eventually that paid off with Julia making the first step.

I think this experience, although miserable, was also incredibly important because it helped shape me into who I am today, and made me stronger. I remember actually having an epiphany of sorts the summer before high-school where I decided that there are enough people in this world that some are going to like you, and some are not, and the opinions of those who don’t really don’t matter much. I went to high-school with this new mentality, and I was able to find some really great friends. But the biggest thing it got me was an independence and mindset to do whatever I wanted (as long as it didn’t hurt others*).

After high-school, I went on to college in Albany, NY, about 3 hours north of the city. I knew I needed to get out of the city and see what else was out there, and I needed to go off on my own. Most of my friends went to Binghamton together, but I wanted a fresh start. It was the first time I had really spent much time away from the city. After my four years in Albany, I realized that I had become a very different person than the one who left Brooklyn, and I didn’t feel it was where I wanted to go back to. I needed something new (and I needed sunshine – Albany can be a very gloomy place!).

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Spring break in Albany….’nuff said.

I also felt this huge need for independence. My grandparents have always given me everything I could ever want, and I think I was pretty good at young age of only wanting what was reasonable. We were a very frugal family, and although we never had trouble affording the things we wanted, we didn’t really want much. But, I’ve always known that at some point, sadly, my grandparents will no longer be around and I will be on my own. I have extended family, but we all have our own lives to live so we’re not very close. I didn’t want to move back home and continue depending heavily on them – I wanted to get out there and build a life of my own. I needed to know that I could do it, and I knew that if it didn’t work out for whatever reason, I could always go back home, so that safety net was there.

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Spring break trip to San Diego, celebrating with Mexican food and margaritas in Old Town
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Tony and I…um…yea, no idea what was happening here. We’re a weird bunch…

At the time, I was working at the Outback Steakhouse and a couple had sat at the bar one afternoon while I was bartending. We got into a conversation about what I was going to do after college, and they told me I should check out San Diego – said it was basically the closest thing to Hawaii in the lower 48 states. My good friend Tony was interested so we booked a trip with two other friends for spring break to check it out, and of course it was amazing – how could anyone not like San Diego? It was set – Tony and I would be moving after we graduated.

Moving from New York to San Diego

I (the Planner) was ready to start our planning – when would we leave, what would we take, where would we visit along the way, where would we stay when we got to San Diego? Although Tony assured me he was 100% on moving, I wasn’t quite certain it would happen until the morning he actually pulled up in front of my house with his Jeep Wrangler and trailer hanging on behind. I had sold my Saturn and would figure the car situation out when I got to CA. Tony had a friend that we went to school with who lived in Del Mar, so we would stay with them until we found a place.

We packed up my suitcase and a few small boxes of things – and my gigantic computer which was a HUGE pain, but laptops weren’t as cheap then as they are today, and there were no iPhones. I had planned out our route (Tony was down for whatever), packed a map (again, no iPhones), and off we went! We also only had disposable cameras, so didn’t get as many pictures as I wish we would have!

The ride was fun and exciting. You’re kind of on your own in college, but you’re still tied to home. Now, we were really on our own. Going wherever, doing whatever, responsible for everything.

This was our route:

NY -> Virginia Beach -> Atlanta/Opelika -> New Orleans -> Houston -> Sedona -> San Diego

Map

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I think this was in Virginia Beach
  • Virginia Beach was nice, but pretty boring. Lots of families at that time. Nothing super exciting.
  • We were told by the lady at the hostel we had planned to stay in Atlanta that if we couldn’t lock up the jeep and trailer, we shouldn’t stay there. We asked for a recommendation on somewhere nearby and she said “no, I mean don’t stay in Atlanta”. That was all we needed to hear, so we got back in the car and kept driving. Came upon a small town, Opelika, and had dinner chatting with a nice businessman.
  • At the time (~2004), the last Dunkin Donuts we found was in Alabama. Beyond that, they had all turned into privately owned donut shops. Luckily, they’re expanding again!
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Our ride!
  • We drove directly into a rainstorm heading into New Orleans – our suitcases were strapped on top of Tony’s mattress on the trailer, and we hadn’t planned for rain so our things got soaked. We spent 2 days at a cool hostel in New Orleans and tried to dry out as much as we could, but it took a few wash cycles to get the musty smell out of them.

 

  • Texas is a HUGE state. My cousin was living in Houston at the time so we drove through and stayed with him overnight. After that, it felt like no matter how much we drove, we couldn’t get across the border!
  • Had lunch in Albuquerque – it was really my first experience with Tex Mex and I wasn’t all that impressed (I still don’t love Tex Mex). It was fun, though, driving through the small towns along the way. We followed Route 66 whenever possible.
  • Sedona was amazing. I had never been out West and I was completely enamored with the red rocks. We stayed at this small motel with an incredible view, and made friends with the family in the room next to us. They treated us to sushi dinner where I had my first sip of sake and hated it. (I now looooveeee hot sake!)
  • The trip to San Diego from Sedona was pretty agonizing. Tony’s AC didn’t work, and we had been okay to this point but it was July and we were now driving through the desert. It was about 115 degrees out, so even with all the flaps of the Jeep open, it was terribly hot. At one point we stopped at a gas station for drinks (and to practically sit in the coolers) and Tony told me that he had been hallucinating that there were scorpions crawling on him while he was driving.
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Our hostel in New Orleans – it was a pretty awesome place!
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Walking the streets with a cocktail

We eventually made it to San Diego, and spent our first night jumping waves at the beach in Del Mar with our hosts. It was an incredible feeling to be swimming in the Pacific Ocean with a whole new adventure ahead of me.

It took us about 2 weeks to find a place to live (and, wearing out our welcome in Del Mar, we needed to get a move on), my grandparents co-signed a lease for me to get a car, and we were set. We found a 2 bedroom condo that had one person, Rick, living in the smaller room, and the master bedroom was big enough for Tony and me to share. We spent a bit of time enjoying our freedom and I spent most of what I had saved up – it was super fun, but man do I wish I would have held on to some of that savings! It’s much easier to spend than to save…

Moving back to San Diego from New York

About a year in, I decided I wanted to get my Master’s Degree, so I moved my entire life back to New York and back into our house in Brooklyn. A college friend had wanted to do the cross-country drive, so he flew to San Diego and together we drove back to New York.

We went the central US route this time:

San Diego -> Tahoe -> Zion -> Four Corners -> Denver -> Nebraska or Kansas or one of those middle states -> New York

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Stopped on the side of the road in Bryce for pics
  • We had originally planned for our first stop to be Yosemite. Neither of us had been, but a friend told us the Eastern route was beautiful (and it is!!), so we went up that way. Unfortunately we hadn’t planned properly and the Eastern entrance was still closed in May due to snow. Luckily, I had some college buddies living in Tahoe so I gave them a call and we stayed with them overnight.
  • Decided that rather than trying to get to the Western entrance of Yosemite, we’d just head down to Utah and hit up Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands and Arches. We were not disappointed – what an incredible section of the country!
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At Arches – incredible place!
  • We stayed somewhere around the four corners in a random motel (the spot where the four states, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet), but it wasn’t very exciting besides being able to say we slept there.
  • We spent a few days with another college buddy of mine in Denver. My dad was living there, and having found him about a year before after 21 years of no contact, I figured I should stop in and meet him (we had talked a few times by this point). It was awkward. I don’t remember much of our stop in Denver because I think there was too much shock surrounding it.
  • After Denver, there’s really not much to see so we just drove as much as we could as quickly as we could to get back to New York.
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Arches National Park
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Hiking in Zion
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More Zion – such an incredible place
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Zion – look at that view…

Three days after I got back to Brooklyn I realized I had made a huge mistake – I had built this incredible life out in California, and just like that I had walked away from it, back to a place where I felt I no longer belonged. I had luckily been working for a company that agreed to keep me on and I would work from home in New York, so when I asked the CEO if I could come back to the office, it was an easy yes. I spent a fun 3 month summer in New York living with some friends, and in September I headed back West. I shipped my car this time, and I remember driving north on the 5 with the sun shining and smiling, knowing moving back was the right decision.

I still went to grad school (SDSU), I just worked while going to school, and the experience was maybe a bit more difficult than it may have been if I had stayed in New York…but I was happy. Over the next 10 years, I branched out and developed my love of the outdoors and exploration, something I may not have been able to do if I had stayed in New York. I lost some friends in the move – for some reason people back home took it very personally that I didn’t want to live there – but I do have a great group of friends out here now, and I wouldn’t change a single detail of how the last 11 years went. I was able to find a place that fit me…very well. I found my place, and I would have never even known there was a place to find had I gone back to Brooklyn after college.

For some, moving is a huge experience, and maybe too much. But whatever you do, try to push yourself just a bit further. Travel to new places, and get out of the resort to explore. Not just the touristy spots with the snorkeling and jet skis, but the local spots (please do it safely and either do your research or ask the people where you’re staying what they would recommend). Get out there and experience different cultures, not just the Americanization within those cultures. There’s a whole world out there and it’s far too awesome to miss out on!

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg

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*Sadly, with all I went through, I was not innocent of bullying. There were some throughout middle school and high-school that I laughed at and picked on, and for all of that I’m sorry. Children can be cruel, but hopefully we at least grow out of it, and I work hard now to be accepting of all, like this amazing young man.

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