Welcome! I'm Katie Toomey, a freelance video editor living here in Los Angeles, CA. I started this “Get Moving” interview series in what feels like a long overdue fashion. After having many approach me about my own moving blog and how helpful it was to have another experience to read about or relate to, it sparked me to interview others in our industry who have made a move somewhere for their own work.
My aim is to help broaden the reach to share these stories for others out there, like me, who wanted to hear more perspectives to help build confidence, to relate to planning worries and execution woes, and to understand the struggles and even successes more fully.
This series will hopefully help you gain wisdom to be better informed when and if taking that risk and leap for yourself.
I myself have made a rather large move (the biggest I've ever done to date) moving from the East coast in NC to the West coast to LA just last year. I wrote my “East to West Coast Moving Adventure” on Creative Cow very soon afterwards to document the process. I've been living in LA ever since. All these experiences will combine to make a collective resource that anyone can access - from any where, at any time. If you don’t know anyone who’s done this sort of thing, it can feel very isolating and impossible to manage on your own. You shouldn’t have to face this alone - and now, you won’t have to.
Michelle moved to LA for college (Occidental College), then straight to NYC for grad school (NYU), and 10 years later, she moved back to Los Angeles. She is constantly evolving, experiencing, and learning how to live in the moment. She frequently takes notes and writes for future ideas and projects. Additionally, she is quite interested in the music and film landscapes.
About a decade ago, when Michelle first went to graduate school, she was interested in creating documentaries. It’s what led her to journalism. Now, after a few years working for an educational non-profit, she is intrigued with the world of film and television, and it is part of what led her to move to Los Angeles.
Michelle, currently living in LA, is “basically a sponge” right now: admiring and studying the roles, efficiencies, and workflows in this new media world. Outside of this work and her explorations, she’s also a musician (self taught guitarist), a Green Bay Packer fan, and a record lover. She also maintains an “I Can’t” list, which is basically memorable “I can’t” statements she has made and is later willing to re-explore. Last year, she took an acting class based on this list. This year? Ice skating!
A 7-day memory creating drive with Dad in a mini-van.
Katie: What event or situation sparked the move?
Michelle: I had three primary motivational drivers for the move. I'll start with the least sexy of them: my lease and living situation shifted in New York. I had already been out here once and was thinking about the idea of moving West; I just didn't think it would be so soon. I wasn't feeling any energy towards finding a new place in NYC. I'd done that many times, and knew what I could afford and where I could live. I was eager to put my energy towards something new.
The next reason was I was interested in learning more from the film and tv industry. Sure, we have film in NYC, but I was interested in the sets and the industry available in LA.
And lastly, I grew up in the Bay Area and this brought me a little closer to home. It also provided a soft landing should something go ridiculously awry.
Can you tell us some of the ways that the new area(s) differs from some of the other places you've lived or the last place you lived? What is similar and different for you? What do you like and dislike about your new area?
The biggest difference is the number of people around! In LA, if you wanted to go the entire day and never run into anyone, you could. As an extrovert, suddenly a big source of my energy was gone. I joined a co-working space to help, but it's still weird to me that in sections of the city, you can walk down the sidewalk and not run into anyone.
In my new area, there also are not too many bars you can just walk into. This is not a restriction of all of LA, but really just a Burbank thing. I don't have a car (I'm sure I'll elaborate on that more later) so social watering holes in short walking distance was something I was looking forward to. Alas, no dice.
How did you begin to prepare for the move?
Lucky for me, my dad REALLY wanted to go on this trip and planned out our route. I provided input on where I wanted us to go, and he picked up the AAA tour books. The week before we left, we had daily phone calls on what stuff I was planning to bring in the car and what stuff I planned to ship (it was QUITE the operation for my stuff). Driving a minivan allowed me to bring some of the pricier things I cared about with me, and then ship the rest. Highly recommend over a truck!
What did you use to help plan your route? Did you fly, drive, or otherwise teleport to your new location?
Waze! We had Waze running across the whole country. I learned 1) how FUN Waze can actually be and 2) how much it drains your phone. Always keep it plugged in when you use it!
Do you have any packing tips and tricks for us?
I actually LOVE packing. I love finding nooks and crannies and creative ways to pack and store things. And I will share my favorite packing hack I created this round: If you need something to wrap around your glasses and mugs, your bras are PERFECT. Place socks in the actual mug part, but you can place mugs around to help protect the outside. Brilliant!
I also bought plastic bins instead of boxes, which were nice. I color coded them: I put my tech stuff in a brightly colored one so I knew which one I needed to open first. I needed to be on grid within days of arriving, so I knew I needed that tech stuff first.
The one thing I needed to get rid of was a window air conditioner unit. These things don't really live here in LA, and I actually had a portable one too. At this point, it was a sunken cost... hard to sell and even harder to drag around (remember, I had no car). So, I chatted with a guy at the Glendale UHaul and he agreed to just take it. Problem solved! So one tip: talk to anyone and everyone if you need to donate something. You never know who might take it off your hands!
What sort of challenges did you face trying to save or come up with the budget needed?
Being a member of a hotel points or reward system can go a long way when you're on the road. You can reserve rooms, get special rates, or snag a room when they are "sold out" to the general public. We basically chose a hotel chain and stuck with it the whole way across the country.
Another tip is finding a hotel with free breakfast! It helps that your caffeine and morning energy are already prepared for you; you just need to walk downstairs!
Also, if your hotels have a gym, use it! Driving across the country involves a lot of sitting. Even doing push-ups and burpees in your hotel room, or jogging around the car while you get gas go a LONG way.
What would you -not- recommend cutting costs on when considering a move?
For some reason, I decided to literally take EVERYTHING on myself when it came to dragging my stuff from place to place. I had multiple rounds of moving in Manhattan and Brooklyn before moving across the country, and then I had to unload it again in LA. It would have saved me my sanity, time, and probably my muscles to have just asked my friends to help me.
There are things that literally shouldn't be handled by one person solo (the 70lb. portable air conditioner that I somehow got into a truck by myself comes to mind) and while my moves doubled as Spartan training, it was exhausting. So, don't take on moving your stuff by yourself. Don't be the hero. Put out the call because your friends are SO willing to help you and it's worth the pizza and beer charge on your end. Let them be the heroes. :)
What were some of the advantages/disadvantages to working within your time and budget limits?
7 days is a LONG time on the road. We had an unexpected two day break in the Bay Area, and we didn't know how much we needed it until far too late. So be realistic when it comes to road travel. Stay in one place for more than one night. You'll thank me later!
If budget was no limit, what conveniences would you have liked to use or were you able to incorporate into your move that you would suggest others try using, if they can?
I think NOT having to drive a big U-Haul van was a huge advantage. You can park it anywhere and you can actually see around the car. I know not everyone has the luxury of splitting their stuff between a car and a shipment, but if you can keep the car you drive across the country to a modest size, you'll find it won't be as bulky.
How did you mentally prepare for the move?
I'll be honest: I didn't do this AT ALL and I regret it immensely. I just kept saying "it's going to be great! It's going to be fine!" and well, you'll see below how that went for you. I will say that if you already have a meditation practice, DO NOT lose it in your move. If you meditate every day in the morning, then you should try and do it during the move. You should be present and experiencing it all during the move. Meditation helps that and calms you down.
What is something you absolutely could not live without in the new area/place? Your hard line of "I'm not moving unless..." moment.
Three hard lines:
- Trader Joe within a reasonable walking distance.
- Co-working space within a reasonable walking distance.
- Easy trek to popular music venues.
I ended up in Burbank for these reasons! WeWork, lots of grocery options, and a short trek to Hollywood for shows.
Did you ever find yourself at a low point and feeling like giving up or saying no the opportunity?
I'll be honest: The first two weeks were ROUGH. I wrote a lot of texts to family. I felt like I was physically carrying sadness. Apparently, relocation depression is a real thing. You are mourning the old way of life and you have thrust yourself into something dramatically different and you, or at least I, expected I would just be ok and functional and back on grid just fine.
For a while, I didn't unpack a thing. And then, eventually, about three weeks in, everything shifted. I put together my bed (this is a BIG STEP. GET SOME SLEEP. REAL SLEEP. NO AEROBEDS BEYOND THREE DAYS. SLEEP. NOW.) and set-up my journal. I didn't realize it at the time, but these were routine things I was bringing back into my life. And soon after, I felt at home in my own space.
So, in summary, to deal with this:
1) need to give it time
2) I would tell people honestly if you're not feeling ok
3) as soon as possible, you need to strike out the binaries in your vocabulary.
A decision is not "good or bad." A move is not "good or bad." It does not mean that one city is better than another. It means you wanted something different. I call this move an expansion. I wanted to seek out new people and new life in a new space. It doesn't mean I hated my old one. It means I'm expanding.
How does managing all this have an effect on your sleeping, physical health, and your mental health?
I think I can share what NOT to do by sharing what I did: slept on an Aerobed for days, didn't moderate my diet or keep it as normal, and had a work crisis at the same time. I think I only had control over the first two. Real sleep is SO important. And, you need to bring back the routine of your food soon. If you are used to having breakfast with your coffee, don't just drink coffee. Not only will you just shake all the time, you're removing a vital source of energy.
How do you know the difference between moving worries that can be researched or worked through or a generally bad decision/bad outcome risk? Can you even know that difference?
I don't think you know, and I think that's ok. There's no going back. You have to give it some time to work itself out. I have taken “good” and “bad” out of my vocabulary. I have also decided not to decide which city “I like best” because they are super different, and I have redefined this as “expansion.” It’s not a move, or a decisive conclusion to life on the East coast. It is expansion.
THE MOVE ITSELF
I put together an Adobe Spark story about my move, and there are lots of pictures!
How has moving changed your life, for better or worse or in-between/uncertain?
My lens shifted immediately, and for the better. In LA everything feels new. And that same mindset, and curiosity, has expanded to all areas of my life. And I greatly appreciate that.