I’ve been wanting to tell the tale of ‘How I Moved to New York’ for awhile. I absolutely don’t consider myself an expert cross-country mover, however, when I was making the move, I wanted to know every way shape and form that there is to move to New York…so here’s one of those ways.
This is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution to moving to New York. If you’re genuinely considering making the move, look at this as the way that I made the move under the circumstances that I was in at the time. You’ll have to evaluate your circumstances (savings, travelling with pets, travelling with family, travelling without a job, etc) as you plan the big move. I feel like David Copperfield right now. Now, I’m going to show you how I walk through the Great Wall of China! But it does feel that impossible, doesn’t it? Moving to New York feels impossible. It’s like moving to a different country.
Again, I don’t consider myself an expert cross-country mover. In fact, I attempted to move back to my home state of California after 3.5 years in New York, and had the rug pulled out from me numerous times. I promise I’ll post a future blog on the mishaps and mistakes I made that time around, but for now, here’s how I successfully moved to New York.
First, I gotta start with the work that I put in about a year before the move. I was living in California. The state I grew up in. I was living in the LA area. Rent was very high, and I was working part-time. I was broke. I was behind on every bill imaginable. My car had been totaled in a car accident I got into whilst running an errand for work, and I was now in crippling car payment central. On top of that, I was getting ready to move out of the room I was renting in a house, and had nowhere to go. I got offered a job with a prominent company. It felt like a beacon of light. Until the beacon of light was offering me not much more money than the first job I got when I first got out of high school. I felt like I had just fallen down the ladder. I felt like I was worthless. I felt like I was never going to pull myself out of my situation. My family called me from Idaho and made the suggestion that I moved to Idaho until I iron things out. I don’t think that they actually thought I was going to take them up on it. But I did. Because in the moment they called me, I was in the parking lot at PetSmart getting ready to drop my cats off for boarding because I didn’t have a stable roof over my head and I was getting ready to couch crash. I had no clue what my future looked liked. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving California. But a day later, I was out of there.
What was supposed to be a ‘couple months in Idaho until I figure things out and go back to California,’ turned into, ‘Wait a sec, I can save some money living out here and I can stop struggling in California and struggle in the state that I really want to struggle in, which is New York!’ Suddenly, everything had meaning. California spat me out because she knew that it was time for me to go. Idaho welcomed me in because she knew that I needed a goddamn break. I made a decision immediately to focus every action I made on moving to New York. I got a full-time job with Directv as a call center rep. I arrived at my cubicle before the crack of dawn with an x-large coffee from the local Jacksons every morning ready to listen to a slew of angry jerk-offs complaining that their precious NFL Sunday Ticket got blacked out, or threatening to cancel service because they knew that that was code for, ‘We’ll give you a free equipment upgrade.’ I loathed that job. I frequently broke into tears at my desk, and I got really damn good at highlighting ‘harassment by customer’ policies on my computer so that a supervisor would have to step in. However, I had health insurance, and I was making more money in Idaho at this job than I would’ve made in LA working for my dream job. It was a huge sacrifice and of course I had those moments of, ‘What would’ve happened if I would’ve just said YES to the job.’ But, I know how hard I work. I know how much I should make. And finally, I could build my savings and focus on my future move. When I wasn’t at work, I was stage managing rehearsals in the evening for the local theatre company or hustling props backstage for Opera Idaho. In fact, it was through the work with the local theatre company that I met my current boyfriend, Matt. When I met Matt, I thought to myself, ‘Awesome, I’ve met an awesome dude who I can never date because I’m moving to New York. DAMN YOU!’ As it turned out, Matt was also in the midst of planning his move to New York. Another reason why I’m 100% convinced that California spat me out. The adventurous part of my life was destined to happen elsewhere. So, Matt and I started dating. He moved to New York a couple months before I did. A lot of people were scratching their heads as to why we didn’t just move to New York together. Here’s a few reasons why I’m thankful that we moved separately:
- Moving as a couple is twice as hard. Most sublets want to rent to a single person in a single room, not a couple in a room.
- We were new to dating each other–moving in together out of necessity seemed like an easy way to have a short-lived relationship. We wanted to move in together because we were ready to.
Fast-forward to one month before I was ready to move to New York. It was November of 2012. I had purchased my one-way plane ticket to New York, I had a little under $1,000 in my savings account, I had no job or housing lined up. Here’s what I did accomplish: I had sold my car and got out of my car debt. I got rid of most of my clothes and only packed clothes/shoes that would work for New York. I sold most of my furniture and personal items and left the remains with my brother. Any family heirlooms or high school yearbooks went into my parent’s storage. But other than that, I was officially a nomad.
One month before I moved to New York, I took a one-week trip to the city. I crashed in Brooklyn with my boyfriend to save money, and dedicated the trip to going on job interviews. All of these job interviews had been lined up the month before that trip by doing the following: I reached out to companies that weren’t even hiring. I emailed them with the casual greeting that I would be in town and that I was interested in their company and I would love to meet them to learn more about their company. People were more responsive than I thought they would be, and what I learned, is that while some companies aren’t hiring right now, I was getting ready to move during the winter holidays, which for New York, is prime tourist time. Which meant that there were jobs that were going to be opening soon, but hadn’t been posted. I’m not going to gloss over this important fact: I absolutely wasn’t applying for fancy jobs. I was applying for what I like to call, gateway jobs. It’s not necessarily your dream job or a career, but it’s a way for you to have income rolling in once you get into town rather than going a few weeks without employment. A lot of the companies I was looking into were companies that handled merchandise/concessions for Broadway theaters, or popup companies that sell merch in Times Square for concert events. Again, not a fancy job, but I knew that bodies would always be needed for jobs like this.
By the time I got to New York in November 2012 for my one-week visit, I had a couple interviews lined up. I nailed my first interview with a Broadway merch company and had myself a side hustle lined up for when I got into town. The pay wasn’t great, but I’d be working a couple hours every night and would have the daytime to interview like crazy. I had a couple other interviews lined up that week, and then…Hurricane Sandy hit.
I’m a California girl. I thought there would be a little wind, and from having lived a year in Santa Ana, I can handle my wind. My boyfriend explained to me that hurricanes are a little different. I begged him to stay. I had interviews lined up! He explained to me that the city was closing down for a couple days. We ended up fleeing New York, and I took my first trip to Scranton to stay with his family.
My interviews ended up getting post-phoned, and I had the good fortune of getting them post-phoned enough so that I could be moved into town to be present for them.
One month later: My moving date was December 5th 2012. I’m the owner of two cats. My cats have traveled on planes, they’ve taken road trips. They’ve moved with me a lot, and they’ve always adjusted well for one simple reason. There’s two of them and they keep each other company. This time around, I had to leave my cats in Boise while I made the move. What I learned, is that when you first get to New York, you will probably move a lot. You will become pro at sublet-hopping until you find your apartment, and that’s the time to bring the cats out so that you’re not shuffling them around every month. Plus, if you’re subletting, it means you have at least 2 other roommates and guaranteed, one of them will be allergic, and one will pretend they love cats and then they will loathe you once you present a litter box into their apartment. My brother watched my cats for over a year while I got settled. I hated being away from them, and I hated throwing that responsibility at my brother. At the end of the day, they had a quiet home life before eventually becoming city kitties.
When I moved to New York, I moved with 2 roller suitcases. I brought clothing staples, a winter coat, warm hats, walking shoes, interview clothes, and photos of my family. That was pretty much it. You start to realize that all of that other stuff is pretty meaningless. I promise you, I didn’t need any of it to survive in New York. I had lined up my housing situation in the final moments of living in Boise. I lined up a room I could sublet in a beautiful and huge apartment in Bed-Stuy. Bed-Stuy is not a safe area at night. When I lived there, it wasnt even considered an up-and-coming part of Brooklyn. It probably is by now. In fact, if you’re looking for a beautiful and huge apartment with roof access, you should probably only look into Bed-Stuy. This room was only a couple hundred bucks a month to rent. No deposit. No security. And it was a month-to-month basis living with a wardrobe assistant and a girl who I saw once the whole time I lived there. My room was ready 2 weeks after I got to New York, so I lived at my boyfriend’s apartment for 2 weeks in Crown Heights.
In terms of searching for an apartment, you could go the Craigslist route…but that route just creeps me out. I actually went the “Gypsy Housing” route. Gypsy Housing is a FB group dedicated to creating a community for people who are renting a room in their apartment to connect with folks who need a room. It’s called ‘Gypsy’ housing, because a lot of the people renting their room are people who are going on tour and want their room rented for a couple months. In fact, my very next sublet was in West Harlem where they filmed “Royal Tennenbaums,” and I subletted a room for a guy who toured with “Wicked.”
I lived in Bed-Stuy for a brief stint before moving to West Harlem. My West Harlem sublet was landed the day before I moved. I moved all of my stuff via subway. And that’s how I moved to New York. Obviously, my journey isn’t going to be exactly the same as your journey. And it shouldn’t be! The rite of passage with moving to New York is that you get to create your story. Here’s the final quick tips I will include to guide you along.
**There is never a good time to move to New York. You will never have enough in savings. Don’t let this stop you. New York isn’t just a great city for folks who have lots of money. It’s a great city for people with no money. Dollar pizza slices. $20 Broadway. Free museum days. You can do this. I believe in you. And I want to help. Comment with any questions and I’m happy to help you.
**There are a ton of jobs in New York to be had. If you’re new to town, focus on the industries that stand out in New York: Broadway, tech startups, etc. Start your job hunt there. Don’t be shy. Reach out to people. The thing you’ll learn about New Yorkers very quickly, is that they know how hard it is to move there. They also want to help.
**Packing for the move–Don’t necessarily throw out everything. As a person who moved to New York and came back to my storage, I’m incredibly grateful that I kept some remnants of my former life. Get rid of clothes you never wear and stuff that is cluttering space. Be realistic about each item you take with you.
**The minute you decide you’re moving to New York, tell everybody you know and everybody you meet. Seriously. Do this. This is probably the most important thing. When I started doing this, it started to positively reinforce my brain into thinking that I was making this happen. When everything stacked up against me, I still believed I could do it. Also, you want to tell everyone because you never know who will have a tip that could help you. My boyfriend met his awesome New York roommates because he was their barista in BOISE and they happened to be moving around the same time. I got my dog walking gig shortly after moving to New York because my family in Palm Springs knew people who ran a dog walking business in Manhattan. People I used to work with at Radio Disney lived in New York and helped recommend neighborhoods to me. Friends from high school who lived in New York reached out to help me. I had family in New York I got to meet for the first time. Telling everyone was the best thing I could’ve done. It made this scary move a lot more familiar.
***Make any situation feel as ‘normal’ as possible. When I first got to my Bed-Stuy apartment, I was like, ‘I did it! I made it here! Oh my god I’m living out of a suitcase.’ To make the transition feel a little more normal, I immediately bought a clothing rack. I got all of my clothes out of my suitcase. If you leave everything in the suitcase, you’ll feel like you’re never settling in. Try to make wherever you land feel like home in any way you can.
***Don’t panic about the lack of furniture. Depending on the subletting situation you find yourself in, you could wind up in a furnished room if you are covering rent while someone is out of town, or you could be in the situation I was in, where it’s an unfurnished room. You’ll want to run to Ikea to put stuff in. Don’t do it. Don’t rush this process. If you’re going to live in that room awhile, then sure. Gradually fill it with furniture. Here’s what I did–when I was subletting in Queens, the only furniture I had was a mattress and bed frame. I actually found my desk and chair on the street on a walk home from the train. I never had bedbugs in New York. There’s nothing wrong with street finds. They’re a great temporary way to fill your room with actual furniture. First, find out why the item is on the street. Is it broken? Are there stains? Look it over for potential nastiness, including bedbugs. Next, if it looks fine, wipe it down before bringing it into the apartment. I used to collect apple crates and would rip them apart and hang them on the wall for decor. This desk was a street find. My room looks like a display piece for Anthropologie.
***Don’t compare yourself to others, and don’t beat yourself up. You’ll feel like you’re failing at life a lot. You’ll meet people in New York who have a gorgeous apartment Astoria and work part-time and have time to go on auditions and you’ll meet people who run their own business and have dogs (which is actually a symbol of status in New York), and you’ll wonder, What the hell am I doing wrong? I work all the time. I’m exhausted. I’m always covered in coffee because I can’t balance my coffee on the train properly. I look tired. I’m terrible at life. Stop it now. You don’t know which situation they’re coming from. I’ve met people whose rent is being paid by their family. I’ve met people who inherited money. I’ve also met people who are extremely fantastic at finding a healthy life balance and who know how to balance jobs like nobody’s business so that they have free time to themselves. The latter are the people you want to meet and pick their brain. These are the people who have unlocked the secret to longevity in New York. Don’t compare yourself to people whose financial situation you can never be in. Also (and this is very important), don’t compare yourself to people not living in New York. Living in New York is like living on a different planet. To grocery shop, you have to either have your groceries shipped to you, or you have to buy in small doses or you have to cart a mini shopping cart to the store and wheel it back. You can’t compare yourself to a world that owns cars and simply goes to Albertson’s and loads the trunk and heads on their merry way. You now live on a different planet, so applaud every minor success. I promise you, you’re doing great.
So, that’s my long story of how I moved to New York. It was worth every sacrifice to make it happen. It had been a dream to move to the city. It was hard. It kicked my butt. It was the best experience of my life.
I wish you so many magical moments on your move to the city, or wherever life takes you. Comment below with any questions on moving. I’d love to give you tips or answer questions. Have a great week!