I wrote this post in pre-COVID 2019. Ponder this advice while you daydream about escaping your house. Despite any logistical hassles, doesn’t an extended adventure sound amazing right about now?
Miami. 90 days. Do you pack up and go? This was the scenario facing me recently. It is the stuff of television and movies. As in, “Girl leaves home for an unexpected adventure and ends up finding ____ [fill in the blank].” Usually, the answer is love, happiness, or a career. I have all those things. Yet, I hopped on the plane anyway. Because I could. So I did.
As a typical American, I claim only a few weeks of vacation time a year. These are precious weeks where I dive manically into new cultures to experience as much as possible before the clock runs out. It is exhausting, this whirlwind view of the world. I have always craved more time in the places I visit.
These three months in Miami were a chance to slow down, absorb the culture, and live like a local. In all my daydreams about an opportunity like this, I never considered the practical aspects. Here are a few things to ponder before your big, temporary move:
Your Spouse/Significant Other: It’s all fine and good to leave town for three months if you are footloose and single. What if you become excited about a travel adventure and then you suddenly remember that you have a husband? A husband who makes every day fun despite the fact that he won’t use a coaster and leaves his shoes everywhere? Luckily, my guy could join me for part of my time in Miami. Otherwise, I would have turned down this particular opportunity, which was 3,000 miles away from our home in California. You must know yourself. Thirty days would have been enjoyable, but 90 days would have been a grind without him.
Mail: Despite electronic banking, I have a seemingly never-ending pile of random, paper bills that arrive at my house. Acquiring an address for mail forwarding was nerve-wracking. Please note, the postal service needs a bit of lead time to shuttle mail around the country. I discovered this the hard way when an important document landed in my mailbox at home, and a neighbor agreed to express ship it to Miami.
House: Your house is too big an investment to leave sitting around unattended while you are gone. Before we left for Miami, we installed cameras that alerted us by text to any noise or motion in the house. An app on our phone allowed us to look into our house for imaginary intruders anytime, day or night. Checking on my empty house became an odd obsession.
Cleaning Service: When my cleaning service company started over a decade ago, I was one of their first customers. As a result, I have the coveted Friday morning timeslot. You know, the timeslot that allows other people to clean your house before frequent weekend guests arrive. The absurdly privileged result: I paid for a cleaning service every two weeks even though I was not home.
Car: A long-term rental car is prohibitively expensive, as is long-term parking in a big city. Driving my own car to Miami from California was not an option on short notice. I learned to appreciate public transportation and short-term rentals for weekend trips.
Tolls: Toll roads are everywhere in Florida. If we rented a car for a weekend, we would be charged a toll AND up to a $15 administrative fee for every toll by the rental car company. The rental car companies offer unlimited toll packages, but those packages don’t make financial sense for a weekend renter. We opened our own toll account with the state of Florida and bought a mobile toll transponder to move between rental cars.
Food: We pictured ourselves living like the cosmopolitan French and going to the market every day for baguettes and cheese. Then, we stopped into a grocery store for a few essentials, and, before we knew what was happening, we found ourselves in a $300 food-buying frenzy. When we analyzed our actions later, we realized that we simply felt better with a refrigerator stocked with familiar foods in this new place. Although we ate out on the weekends to experience new, local tastes, we had to establish a normal food routine during the week.
Start-Up Costs: I can pack one, small carry-on for two weeks in Europe. Therefore, I was surprised by the number of purchases we made during our first week in our new apartment. Our apartment came furnished with furniture, towels, linens, dishes and utensils. However, in addition to our food, we needed: toiletries, hangers for my work clothes, cleaning products, food storage containers for leftovers, a printer and scanner for my husband’s business, etc. We also purchased the condiments and basic cooking ingredients that one usually acquires over time: salt, pepper, mayonnaise, oil, sugar, etc. Renting beach equipment is expensive for multiple weekends, so we acquired beach chairs, a beach umbrella, snorkeling equipment, and beach towels.
Entertainment Costs: On a vacation, you cram in tours, admission fees, fancy cocktails and restaurants. You live it up, and then you go home and seal your wallet shut for a while. At least, this is my system, and it works for me. Be forewarned: If you are partaking in tourist activities for three months of weekends, things will get very pricey, very quickly. Figure out a budget and live within it.
Exercise: I regularly exercise five times per week, but I forgive myself if my routine slips on vacation. Three months, however, is not a vacation. Adopt a new exercise routine during your first week of a long-term stay in another city and stick with it.
Medical Needs: I scrambled before I left home to fit in routine medical appointments, fill prescriptions, and transfer prescriptions to Miami. Review your insurance coverage and finding a trustworthy pharmacy, urgent care and hospital in your new neighborhood in case of emergencies. I landed at urgent care three times in three months due to allergies that emerged in a new city.
I am not trying to scare you away from a temporary move to a new city. We had a FANTASTIC experience. My big lesson learned is that a temporary move is more than a vacation, but it is not your normal life. You must learn how to live in this in-between world in a way that makes sense to you.