For many, it’s hard to imagine why we wanted to leave The Golden State of California. She is certainly beautiful, the weather seems ideal, and there is plenty to offer in regard to activity. However, as I mentioned in Part One of this series, the high cost of living, the exorbitant tax rates, traffic, and exploding population were just a few of the reasons why, after forty years of living in California, it was no longer the right fit for our family.
So how did we land on North Carolina for our new chapter and what do we love about it? Well, thank you for asking…
Our journey from the coast of California to the country-style of North Carolina was not a decision we made overnight. Once we realized that making a lifestyle change was going to be a real possibility based on the sale of our business, I became a full time, professional (if that’s possible), Googler. (I know what you’re thinking… resume builder!)
My husband and I sat down and started a “Bucket List” for moving. After all, if we were going to do this, we wanted to make sure we checked off as many relocation boxes that we could. Here is what the list looked like:
- Seasonal changes. Growing up in Southern California, I never really experienced seasonal changes, but always wished I had. Sure we could drive to the mountains in California to see snow, but until you live on the east coast, you don’t really understand the true magic of leaves changing in the fall or the emergence of spring after a hard winter.
- Close proximity to the beach. After all, you can take the girl out of Cali, but you can’t take the Cali out of the girl. I needed to be close to the beach.
- A slower pace of life. We didn’t want to have to be in the fast lane of the freeway to enjoy life.
- Acreage. Ideally, the new house needed to have an acre of land or more. We were done with the postage-stamp-sized backyard and being able to see the next-door neighbor grilling his chicken in his backyard through our kitchen window (no offense, Stuart).
- A home with enough space to grow in. This was going to be our forever home, we needed extra room.
We weren’t asking for a mansion or an estate. We just wanted enough to make the lifestyle change we were looking for possible. Let the Googling begin!
My husband was interested in returning to the east coast where he is originally from. I was certainly open to the idea, so we started our search in the northeast.
It didn’t take much research before I realized there was one major issue I foresaw in moving to the northeast. I’ve never lived in snow. Sure, I had been to Big Bear and Mammoth (both mountain towns in Southern California) and I had been to Utah and Colorado for ski vacations, but to LIVE in the snow day in and day out for months at a time!? I did not feel qualified. I had visions of being on the nightly news with Lester Holt as he is reporting on a major snowstorm hitting the northeast. Only, I’m the lady when they cut to the conditions of the roads who is careening off the side because I decided to run out for milk at the wrong time. I did NOT want to be that lady!
Anywhere on the east coast where it snowed every winter was immediately eliminated from the search. Okay, now we’re making progress!
With snowy winter eastcoast states scratched off the list, my husband and I decided to head all the way down south on our mental map of the east coast.
We knew we could easily check off some places. Florida, out. Too hot year-round, not enough seasonal change. Georgia seemed much the same. (Though after visiting Georgia since moving to North Carolina, I sure do love Savannah…but I digress.) Now we found ourselves looking at South Carolina. Oh, how I love Charleston! We thought South Carolina was going to be where we’d end up.
However, at this time we also kept reminiscing about some of our favorite family vacations at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The more we talked about them, the more we kept coming back around to North Carolina. There were mountains to the west, prairies in the middle, and beaches to the east. It’s topography was a lot like California. It had so much to offer! We continuously talked about how much coastal North Carolina reminded us of southern California with it’s laid back beach life. Then we looked at each other and said, “What about North Carolina?”
I began researching coastal cities in North Carolina, school districts, shopping, etc. All the things you think about that are important for a family and that you want in your hometown. (Trader Joe’s, I’m looking at you!)
After entering all my criteria and whittling down the pros and cons of many places in coastal North Carolina, my husband and I quickly realized that Wilmington seemed like the perfect fit. The beauty of this revelation was that we had been there. For several summers, we visited friends just outside Wilmington and we were somewhat familiar with the area.
At this time, summer was approaching. We planned to visit our friends in North Carolina again. I began to realize that this trip was going to unlike any of the others. We were now going to look at this area through different eyes, eyes that were considering making this place our new home.
I had made a list of schools I wanted to see and shopping areas I wanted to check out. At the same time, my husband was on Realtor.com and Zillow constantly. Every night, after we put the kids to bed, he’d show me houses he had been looking at and we would virtually house hunt for hours. Things were getting real now.
One night, a few weeks before we were planning on leaving for our summer trip to North Carolina, after the kids were in bed, my husband called me over and said, “You have to see this house I found today. It literally checks all the boxes.” You see, much like our search for the place we wanted to move to, we also made a Bucket List for the house we hoped to find. Again, if we were going to take this leap of faith, than we wanted to make sure the house had everything we wanted.
I scooched him over on the couch and he handed me his laptop. The house I was looking at was a darling farmhouse. It was a late 70’s, early 80’s ranch-style house on five acres and it looked perfect! Sure, it wasn’t really my style, and it needed some TLC, but it had great bones and the idea that I could put our stamp on it made me very excited. Not to mention, the price was right.
Suddenly, something caught my eye. It was the name of a street. “Zoom out a sec!” I said to my husband. “I recognize that street name.” The main road that intersected the street the house was located on sounded so familiar. As my husband zoomed out, my heart skipped a beat. ‘Could it be!?’ I thought.
The name of that main road was the same as the address of a school I had been researching for the kids. I was in love with this school! I told him what I had realized and we zoomed out further. Right there, on the other side of the woods that backed up to the house’s property, was the school. The very same school I had been looking into and hoping the kids could attend. Was this a sign?!