First, the dogs died.
We got back from my birthday hashtag-vanlife vacation mid-February, and Sophie clearly wasn’t well, and Roxy had a seizure. Sophie was shortly diagnosed with lymphoma and given probably 2-3 months. Roxy initially seemed okay but was clearly experiencing an escalation in what had been some light doggie dementia, to the point that if something hadn’t happened when it did, we were either going to lose her to some kind of preventable accident (she couldn’t be outside alone anymore after falling in the pool several times, including once when it was drained) or it was going to become clear we needed to let her go.
Roxy started seizing mid-morning on March 7, and was still seizing even under a heavy wallop of valium over an hour later at the vet when we helped her move on. The vet said that Boxers were prone to relatively slow-growing brain tumors that tend to be low-symptom until suddenly they’re not, and that’s what she’d put her money on.
I called the home euthanasia service to come to Sophie on March 14.
They were both 17; it was a good run for med-large dogs. We were on year 10 or 11 of the two of them being permanently separated, and that had been extra hard on all of us since we lost GIR in March of 2019.
The thought came to me within a couple of days: we could go now.
We love LA, and if money wasn’t an issue we’d stay permanently. Well, money and other resources; it’s hard to stay here as the summers get ever hotter here in the Valley, and having a tiny pool and little drip-irrigated garden are perhaps inappropriate indulgences. The heat is really hard on Jay, while I don’t mind too much as long as it cools off at night.
But two-plus years into a pandemic that obviously is never going to end means we can only barely take advantage of what is available in LA. And the landlord keeps raising the rent, and we suspected this September he’d hike it up to an entire thousand dollars more than when we moved in 9 years ago. (We were right.) Our water, power, and natural gas bills just took a big jump.
Maybe it’s time to go.
I suggested to Jay as we sat on the patio a couple nights after Sophie died, “What if we just traveled the country for a year?”
He asked if I meant in an RV, because we’ve been van-camping several times and watching all kinds of van and RV youtubers, and we’d been tossing around the idea of buying something like a Winnebago Ekko. I said no, because the Ekko (IF you could get one, but you can’t) is $120K and we have jobs and I’m not quite ready to throw us at the entire mercy of cell networks. But what if we spent a month or two in each of the regions we’ve identified as maybe places we’d want to live? Short-term rentals, we’d buy a bigger vehicle to hold our critical supplies and camping gear so we can do a fair amount of that along the way. Go visit some friends, see some parts of the country we’ve never seen.
Every time Jay and I have made some kind of big life decision, it’s been like this. “What about X?” “Yeah, I was thinking that too.”
It didn’t happen fast. We gave ourselves a lot of time to wait and see how we felt about it, time for the early grief to pass, time for the pandemic and Garcetti and climate change to unfuck themselves. This, you may be surprised to know, did not happen.
The one thing that had kept us in LA was that Jay works in the entertainment industry, in a job that absolutely CAN be done remotely but the Industry is highly resistant to change…up until the pandemic. People started figuring it out. Jay figured it out for the company he most often worked for, and aside from occasionally porch-dropping hard drives to each other (which could be done by overnight shipping) it was entirely virtual and worked just fine. It’s all project work, though, and just because it worked because it had to doesn’t mean the next project would work out that way, or the one after that, et cetera.
Just as he was about to test the waters with them to see how they’d feel about maybe him working elsewhere in a very temporary manner, a project he worked on a couple years ago reared its head for some additional work, probably about two years in total project time. The stakeholders aren’t even in the state; they wouldn’t care where Jay was. His producers didn’t care where he was. Problem solved, neatly.
We went to a wedding on our 18th anniversary, April 16. We’d moved their original Save The Date card – for October 2020 – to our new Pandemic Fridge in a little expression of hope, and then eventually I threw it away because it made me sad. It was a wonderful wedding, bursting with color and mostly outdoors at a little venue in Eagle Rock, and it was really our first time seeing all our friends in over 2 years. We started telling people about the Plan. Nobody looked at us like we had lost our minds, and maybe in another city people might have said “That seems awfully…expensive” but, you know. Everyone was pretty much “yeah, we’ve done some thinking about leaving too…” People thought it was cool. It was not embarrassing to say it out loud. It started feeling like a real thing we could do.
We went to a weekend event in June, one we’ve attended every possible year since 2007 (? I can’t ever remember if it was 07 or 08). It’s what lit the spark that moved us from Dallas to San Diego and then LA. We talked to people there, some of whom were new friends and some we’ve known for years, about the Plan. People seemed to think the Plan was reasonable and exciting.
When we got home, Jay started casually van-shopping online. I found a couple through Enterprise fleet sales, he found one at a used lot nearby that was in our price range, not horribly old, and just happened to be a work van with industrial shelves down both sides. Literally a cargo van. For all our cargo.
We bought it. The Plan became a lot more concrete.