Thursday, September 30, 2021

Goodbye Minnesota!

Today I'm saying goodbye to the only state I've lived in, Minnesota. People often say they are impressed with my craving for adventure as I travel throughout the world, often times alone. I have never been anxious about traveling. However, I have always felt overwhelmed about moving out of Minnesota. Today it does not feel that way. I'm ready. I'm excited!

In my last post I shared Ten Steps to Moving as a Nomad. I was on step #8 and promised I would update you when on step #10. That is happening now. 

  1. Live minimally
  2. Create a budget
  3. Figure out where you want to live. Refer to #2. 
  4. Get approval from Work (and possibly your kids)
  5. Look for housing
  6. Find a place to donate your possessions
  7. Create a project plan
  8. Execute project plan
  9. Take a deep breath and believe in yourself
  10. Jump on an airplane that will take you to your new home 
The most stuff I have ever flown with

My driver - I'm going to miss her

The last couple months I have been executing my project plan. 

Ship Off the Final Offspring. In August my youngest, Annelies, moved to college. I am proud to say I kept both children alive through adulthood. As most college students do, Annelies will stay with me over winter break. I cannot wait to show her my new city!

Annelies at MSU

Secure Storage. As a minimalist, storage facilities make my skin crawl. From a business standpoint they are brilliant, tapping into the overconsumption that plagues America, but I wish our culture would promote sustainability instead. With skin crawling, I secured a storage unit for my favorite possessions as I begin this nomad adventure. The eight (8) totes I am storing include my photo albums (3), collection jars (3) and two (2) totes of miscellaneous memorabilia, paperwork that is not electronic, and high school yearbooks. I have no idea when I will get this stuff but I prepaid two years. 

Storage unit sans License Plate Map

Pack. People keep asking "what are you bringing?" Even to me it seems odd to look at what I packed. I love that my "important documents" are in the same envelope my birth certificate arrived in when I applied for my first passport, in 1991! I kept the letter I wrote to the courthouse. Why I kept that letter, and not the other hundreds of things I donated, is hard for me to explain.

Letter to Courthouse in 1991

Below are questions I asked to determine if I would donate, store or bring with me to California: 
  • For items I do not use for daily activities of life: When you are done with this nomad life, will the item bring you joy? If yes, put in storage. If no, donate.
  • For items I do use everyday: Can you purchase in California? If yes, will it be cheaper to buy new or ship? I considered the sustainability aspect of buying new but justified my decisions knowing if I buy new, my old items would be donated. I know this isn't perfect but I'm buying very little (I will create a post for that later). 
Answers to those questions resulted in stuff to fill one (1) carry on suitcase, two (2) boxes small enough to check-in with Delta, four (4) boxes shipped via USPS, and one (1) gigantic monitor shipped via UPS. This boxing and shipping strategy didn't go exactly as planned so I documented lessons learned at the end of this post. Below is a photo of everything I own (except things in storage). The duffel bags were converted to boxes as I realized they were not sturdy enough. This is it. To me it was way more than I thought I would keep, but I think I did pretty well. My goal for years has been "to fit everything I own in the back of a Prius". I no longer own a Prius but my possessions would have easily fit inside. I call that success!

Everything I own going to California

Boxes shipped via USPS

Moving day meals (Big Mac & Lean Cuisine)

Donate. Obviously, I owned enough to furnish a two-bedroom apartment. I had a vision it would go to a family in need. So I shared that vision on Facebook a couple months ago and my friend Melanie answered the call. Melanie works with Westminster Presbyterian Church, who is working with the Minnesota Council of Churches, to sponsor a refugee family. It isn't always easy to do the right thing, so I cannot thank Melanie and all her refugee champions for working with me on this effort. On Saturday I moved 99.9% of my possessions to the Westminster garage where they will be stored until the refugee family arrives. Melanie just texted today saying a family from Afghanistan was flying into MSP - the same day I'm flying out. As I leave to start a new chapter, that family will be starting a new chapter of their own. I'm hoping my donation will make their transition a bit softer. Wow, this was emotional. In a really good way.

Melanie & me with my donation

Say Goodbye. It didn't feel right having a party to say goodbye due to Covid (I hate Covid) so I spent the last few weeks slowly saying goodbye to friends one-on-one. I moved out of my apartment Saturday and stayed in a hotel the last few days. It was so nice having my last few days with nothing to do but work and say goodbye to friends. Annelies surprised me by driving up from MSU and my last night in Minnesota was spent with my girls!

Last night in Minnesota

Annelies bought me Minnesota chocolate

Jump on an Airplane that will Take you to your New Home. That is where I am now. So here I go my friends! I'll connect with you from my new home...San Jose Cali(freaking)fornia! 

Lessons Learned from Flying to a New Home Nomad-Style:
  • If staying for enough time where you are securing a lease (versus Airbnb), try to find a new building so you can secure the lease a few months out. It helps with planning.
  • It will most likely be cheaper to buy new than rent furniture. Don't sacrifice your home just to get a furnished unit if you live simply.
  • Use a floor plan tool to draw out your apartment before purchasing furniture. Annelies created a digital floor plan for me and I was shocked to see how little I can fit into my 450sf apartment! I used Home By Me.
  • I mailed four (4) medium-size boxes I bought at Home Depot via USPS. The weight ranged from 25 to 45 pounds. It was ridiculously expense ($356.10). I estimated $250 and I'm still not sure why I was so off. The weight didn't matter - just the size of the box. One thing I learned is California has the highest shipping taxes. My first introduction to the California cost of living. 
  • I paid UPS to box and ship my 35" monitor as I didn't have the original packaging. It cost $389 new and $196.05 to ship! Yep, you read that correctly. As I said to the cashier "let me look up the value as I may buy new when I get there and throw this out" she hugged the monitor and said "I will take it". I decided to just go with my original plan and ship. In hindsight, I should have bought a cheaper version when I arrived in San Jose. Lesson learned. But I do love that thing and I will hug her when I land in San Jose.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

I'm Moving to California!

I'm moving to California my friends! Holy shit! I signed a lease in San Jose, gave notice to my current apartment, booked a flight out September 30, sold my car, and set up my forwarding address! I'm pretty committed at this point so I guess it is time to write a post.

I have lived in Minnesota my entire life. I often wonder if part of my wanderlust is because of my strong desire to live somewhere else. After having children I set 2021, the year Anna graduated from High School, as my first opportunity to move. So, why San Jose? Why not? I'm an overthinker so this decision was not made lightly but I must admit every time I looked at another city San Jose would call my name. My plan is to move often, so I don't have to love it, but things that drew me to San Jose were: 

  • Unbeatable Weather. Summers are long, warm, arid, and mostly clear and the winters are short, not as cold as Minnesota, wet, and partly cloudy. Weather is important to me. 
  • The Culture. San Jose is in the heart of Silicon Valley (my company is located there) and that is just  I'm a quick train ride to San Francisco which is filled with adventure and there are cheap flights in the region to explore. 
  • To Join the Bandwagon. We all know everyone loves California. I want to see why. Oddly, this is why I kept returning to San Jose.
  • Tick some Boxes. For my first move I wanted to accomplish a few things: Live without a car, live in a major downtown, live among "my people" (not really sure that is San Jose but I can name many cities that are not), as well as great weather and culture. 
  • The Challenge. Of course there are downfalls to San Jose including the cost of living (ranked in the top 10 most expensive cities) and the fires but I figured starting with one of the most expensive cities would make my next move easier. 

The Plan. Twelve (12) years ago the documentary "The Story of Stuff" had a huge impact on my life which kicked off my journey toward a more minimalistic and purposeful life. Of course I didn't throw out everything I owned the following day but the more I read about minimalism and the more I practiced the lifestyle the more addicted I got to experiences and connections over possessions. My plan is to put less than ten (10) totes into storage, fly to San Jose with two suitcases and ship a couple boxes. I'll let you know how well that plan executes after I move. 

no·​mad | \ ˈnō-ˌmad : a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory

I read a book this week People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. It is a love story, with a wanderlust twist, that I have been anxious to read while sitting on my libraries waiting list for ten weeks! Poppy and Alex have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. I could relate to Poppy as she lusted for travel and making new connections. The last couple chapters Poppy realized her wanderlust was because she was running away from the fear Alex (and others) would reject her. I read those last few pages repeatedly because they spoke to me. I struggle with the fear of this fear myself. Note I said "the fear of this fear". Consciously I do not believe I'm running away from something but so many people (close to me and strangers alike) ask me often "what are you running from"? I always respond "how do you know I'm not running toward something?" But I admit, I'm really unsure. I have such a strong drive to wander I can't imagine this is wrong. Maybe I'll meet "Alex" in a pair of khakis in San Jose. I hope he is bald.

In case you are wondering, I've created Ten Steps to Moving as a Nomad:

  1. Live minimally
  2. Create a budget
  3. Figure out where you want to live. Refer to #2. 
  4. Get approval from Work (and possibly your kids)
  5. Look for housing
  6. Find a place to donate your possessions
  7. Create a project plan
  8. Execute project plan
  9. Take a deep breath and believe in yourself
  10. Jump on an airplane that will take you to your new home

I'm on step #8. I'll update you as soon as I'm on step #10. 

Holy shit I'm moving to California! Rae Ann

Monday, May 31, 2021

St. Louis & Joanna Ward

I flew to St. Louis this weekend. It was a last minute trip scheduled to celebrate Joanna Ward. I met Joanna around 1980 when she moved her family to Isabella Minnesota, population ~ 200, a 30 minute ride from my hometown of Silver Bay (population ~ 2,500). Joanna's daughter Jessie was in my 8th grade class, which had less than 60 kids. My view of the world was so small at the time.

Joanna Ward, 1928-2021

My first memory of Joanna is watching her cook crepes after a sleepover with Jessie. Since that day I have enjoyed crepes in several countries (including France) but at the time had never even heard of a crepe. Joanna and her family seemed so worldly to me. 

Sleepover  Shenanigans at the Wards
Day after a Ward Sleepover

The house was filled with people and it had so much energy it felt like a holiday. It wasn't. It was just a common day in the life of Joanna Ward's home. It was at the Ward's home I was first introduced to real cheese. I was 13. All I had known to that day was Velveeta. FYI, Velveeta is not cheese. I also had Tang, which I heard about on TV but had never had. I seriously looked at these people like they were from another world. Trust me when I say the Ward family is the most down-to-earth group of loving people you will know. But my world was just so small at the time they felt like foreigners.

Joanna introduced me to a world beyond my tiny town. She talked of travels and history and introduced me to exotic foods like…real cheese. Joanna was loved by so many, including myself. I will be forever grateful for Joanna teaching me there is a world beyond the confines of northern Minnesota and giving me the urge to explore. 

I flew to the ceremony and I'm here to say airports are feeling "normal". I found myself navigating past the slow walkers and it felt great! That crazy "award trip" I took to Chicago in December of 2019 (finally) paid off as I was upgraded to Comfort and First Class! Things are coming back my friends. 

New wanderlust Tattoo
Me, Mary Ward and Jeff Clement
The Pre-Flight Bloody Tradition

Get your vaccine. Don't lick doorknobs and wash your damn hands! More importantly, share your travel stories with the younger generation to instill in them there is a world beyond "their little world". 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Map Display Board

Over the last six years the crap I own has diminished GREATLY. Although it is impossible to calculate I would say I have gotten rid of 90% of what I owned in 2015. Oddly (or not), the amount of "travel memorabilia" has grown. 

I added something to that collection. 

I've been wanting to do this project for more than ten years now. COVID quarantine made it possible. I hate COVID. I created a board to display my maps. I love maps.  

The how: 

  • I purchased 1/8” thick plywood from Home Depot and found someone in my neighborhood Facebook group to cut the wood into perfect 2” x 2” squares
  • I sanded the edges slightly
  • I looked through my maps and cut out sections that were memorable, leaving about 1” around. This was my favorite part. I laughed and cried while looking through the maps. So many great memories. 
  • I used matte mod podge to attach the map pieces to the wood
  • I used a credit card to smooth the top
  • After they dried I used a utility blade to cut off the excess
  • I then applied mod podge to the top and attached magnets to the back
  • I attached the map blocks to a black IKEA SVENSAS magnet board
  • I hung near my bed so I could look at it every morning and dream about adding new blocks

After the tops were dry cutting close to the edge was easy!

Listed below are my other travel memorabilia with a link to view here:

  • Wall hanging with license plates we collected from each of the 50 states
  • Collection jars (I have well over 100)
  • Room keys
  • Pressed pennies

In case you need to hear it from a friend, if you have a "project" sitting around that you didn't get to during COVID quarantine, it probably won't happen. Release the guilt my friends and chuck the stuff. 

Happy travels, and crafting so you never forget the memories! Rae Ann

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Final Post: Winter at the Beach

This will be my final post regarding my three month adventure spending a winter at the beach. many hours on this patio

On my walks I would visit hotels and enjoy their amenities

"Long Live Rae". I did not write this. 

Listening to an audio book while sitting on Pier 14

I saved $439 by using my local library

I consider this adventure a success. I loved my condo. I loved Myrtle Beach. I loved my location in the city. I just simply...loved it. I walked every day (see stats), awakened to the sounds of the ocean, and moved my simple life south to a much warmer climate. 

I'm sad to say goodbye to Wilson, the footstool that replaced my previous ironing board version. I spent an unhealthy amount of time taping and re-taping the framework of this little guy (not to mention simply purchasing tape!) to hold up the many hours he spent beneath my tapping toes. Goodbye my friend. 

Wilson, a well used Amazon box

Click here to see the condo where I stayed (Meridian Plaza). It was perfect. My hosts Steve & Sarah ( were fantastic.

Final statistics:

  • Fulfilled a life-long dream of living on the beach
  • Read 25 books, all physical versions checked out from Chapin Memorial Library
  • Saved $439 by checking out books from my "local" library
  • Lived alone for the first time in 27 years
  • Walked 316 miles along the beach
  • Climbed 1,179 flights of stairs (lived on the 11th floor). You would think my ass would be smaller.
  • Enjoyed 174 meals on my patio overlooking the beach. Full disclosure: This is an estimate. My phone isn't that good. 
  • Connected with new friends
  • Completed a goal of wearing the same dress 100 days in a row (read more)
  • Avoided a Minnesota winter, without a care in the world
  • Avoided getting COVID (as far as I know). I hate COVID.
  • Pageviews: 195,500
I'm going to miss Myrtle Beach. In my initial post for this adventure I said "My plan is to never return to the same place twice". I'm not so confident of that now. 

I received so many messages asking for details on how I made this possible. I talked to several. During those conversations I heard longing in their voices to do the same. Life is short my friends. If this post motivates you to get outside your comfort zone, and fulfill a dream of moving south for the winter, hit me up. I would love to help you make it possible.

I just scheduled my Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for March 30! Woohooo!!!! Thanks to the brilliant scientists, politicians that believed in the science and the supply chain and logistic magicians at the State of Minnesota for making this happen. I am going to cry.

And more good news...I start a new job April 12 working for ServiceNow as a Platform Architect. Working for ServiceNow has been my goal for three years and I have worked hard to get here. I have had seven (7) different jobs over five (5) years, with five (5) different employers. My goal is to retire with ServiceNow (although my track record doesn't predict it). Regardless, I will wake up every day and "work the plan" that hangs on my bathroom mirror.

Safe travels my friends! Get a COVID vaccine. Wear your damn mask. If we all work together I am confident I will see you on the road soon. - Rae Ann

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Second Month: Myrtle Beach

I am 50 days into my 85 day "move south for the winter" adventure and I couldn't be happier. The hours I spent researching a location were well spent. Myrtle Beach feeds my desire to be on the beach, my condo is a perfect location for walking everywhere and it is quiet enough to feel safe during a pandemic. I hate Covid.

As I embrace this nomad life (no·mad: a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer) I am committed to making my home where I rest my head at night. So...

  • I found a dentist and got my teeth cleaned
  • I found a tailor to do some alterations on my dress
  • I found a place to continue massages on my aging hip
  • I found a hairdresser to cut my hair
It has been so easy to move my simple life 1,400 miles south. 

Annelies sent me a care package at the beginning of my stay with envelopes to open along the way. It was so darn sweet. So far I have received a box of chocolates (for Valentine's Day), some vodka (for a night of fun), money to eat out (when I don't know what to have for dinner), hand sanitizer (to stay safe), an ice pack (in case I miss the Minnesota winter...I don't), some soup (if I feel sick), and some candy (if I want a sweet). 

Annelies' Care Package

She also came to visit for a week. It was fun to have her and we agreed the two of us could easily share a one-bedroom apartment as she transverses through her college years. I just love that she is embracing my "less is more" philosophy. 

We spent the week walking the beach, eating out, visiting my favorite hangouts and doing what Annelies loves best while on vacation...watching Netflix. I've always known Annelies lasts about five days while on a trip before retreating to the room watching Netflix (she will never live down spending two weeks in bed in Hawaii). It bothered me at first wanting her to enjoy the experience as much as I but a few years back I stopped caring and figured we each get to make our own experiences. She loves travel in a different way than I do and I'm cool with that. It is cheaper too. 

Satisfying Munchies At Dollar General

My travel buddy Steve visited for a couple weeks, and his girlfriend Amy for four days. We had so much fun. We spent hours discussing travel post-Covid. I hate Covid. 

Travel Buddy Steve

Amy, Steve and I at Tin Roof

These two are so freaking cute!

Margaritas at Banditos

I have 35 days remaining. I am planning to return to Minnesota end of March and enjoy my favorite months at home...spring and summer. Anna heads off to college this fall and my mind is already planning the changes I will embrace to make this nomad life full time. I have concluded this experience a success and look forward to doing it more in the future.

Stay safe everyone. Keep your distance. Wear your damn mask. Get your vaccine. 

Rae Ann

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Week 1: Myrtle Beach

I wrapped up my first week in Myrtle Beach. Every morning I wake to this sign in my bedroom, highlighted by the sun, while listening to the ocean waves lapping against the shore. I want to pinch myself.

My Morning View

I admit my mind is having a difficult time parsing out emotions this week. That may have to do with the crazy shit that happened at our capitol but it also has to do with trying to figure out if I'm on vacation or not. The reality is I'm not on vacation, yet I'm living beachside. It feels crazy. 

Within 24 hours I settled into my temporary home, purchased food, rearranged furniture, deep cleaned, bought simple necessities and navigated my neighborhood. I'm going to like it here. 

My 8th Covid test came back negative. As far as I know I have never had Covid. I hate Covid.

Negative Covid Test #8

I have been working through the challenges of living a nomad life. 

No car. In Minnesota I live in an urban setting and have been walking more to transition to life without a car. I've come to enjoy my daily walks. My initial thought was I would have my first 'large' grocery order delivered but quickly realized time was my biggest asset so I simply purchase a backpack full every day. The weather makes it so easy to walk and I'm enjoying exploring my neighborhood. I have a soda addiction so I must admit I've learned the toughest thing to carry are liquids (which includes wine and beer) but I figured it out eventually (pro-tip: single cans of beer). 

Mail. My apartment building does not accept packages and I am not renting a mail box. I've discovered you can have anything delivered to UPS for a $5 pick up fee and I'm tapping into Amazon Lockers. Brilliant.

My Office. I work a lot and I'm on the phone a lot so I need my office setting comfortable. I was hoping I could use my TV as a monitor but quickly realized...ya, no. So I purchased one off Facebook Marketplace. My monitor at home is huge but this new one can fit in a carry-on. I'm preparing for my next gig. I'm short and need a foot stool - I quickly realized the reason for an ironing board. 

Table-Top Ironing Board Footstool

My Office - Dish Drainer as PC Stand

Internet. I'm working off a common WiFi. The speed is really good but it doesn't reach into my living room. My travel buddy Steve suggested a Wi-Fi Extender. Amazing. It has been added to my packing list. 

Solo Life. As I mentioned previously this is the first time I have lived alone in 27 years. Annelies and I talk nightly, and I miss her, but I'm loving it. Friends have asked to visit but I've said no. First, this isn't a vacation as I'm working. Second, I'm really enjoying my time alone. Covid makes things weird but I have already met a couple people in my building and I'm satisfied with my human contact. Covid has taught me to be more comfortable with my own self.

It is odd because my simple daily life has transitioned so easily to Myrtle Beach. I wake up, eat, work, poop, pee, drink, walk, read, make connections, sleep, and repeat. Our surroundings do not make our life. Our actions make our life and I'm looking forward to continuing switching up my surroundings. 

There are TONS of shells on this beach