I am so excited to announce my newest adventure!
Although I’ve done so much since I last wrote a blog post, I have been keeping a little too busy to routinely (or in my case, really, at all) update my blog. What have I been doing that’s keeping me so busy? Well, good ol’ working and saving money (the PCT ate up all of my savings and then some!), flying home (I’m not sure what to call home really, as I move around so often, but usually this means California because that’s where I spent the longest period of time) or out of the country on short trips (such as much two-week Europe trip), and getting out of town nearly every weekend to explore parts of the beautiful state (Oregon) that I moved to just under two years ago.
After hiking the PCT in 2016, I went on a few mini-adventures that I didn’t write about either (sorry!) such as my summit of Half Dome in Yosemite and exploring hot springs in Mammoth and several failed attempts at finding a suitable new home (Portland? Nope, not my cup of tea).
A month later, I decided to move to Bend, a beautiful desert town in Central Oregon with about a dozen snow-capped mountains right nearby, gorgeous white winters, and some of the coolest nature-loving folks settled in their homes–some of them cabins or even yurts. There are plenty of forests for hiking (when I said it’s a desert town, I didn’t mean the kind of desert I had experienced in Southern California where the scenery consisted mostly of sand and Joshua trees) and the snow transformed hiking trails into snowshoeing trails (which I did plenty of). There were lakes galore (I learned that born-and-raised Oregonians don’t experience a moment of doubt when it starts raining as they’re building a campfire–if we came out to the lake to have a fire to sit around, we will have a fire to sit around) and a river that runs right through downtown (still confused why it’s called the high desert, huh? haha), and in the summer, pretty much the entire population brings out their inflatable tubes and goes floating down the river or goes fishing at one of the 20+ lakes nearby (didn’t I tell you?–“lakes galore!”) . Sounds like a dream, right? So why did I leave?
Well, as lovely as it all is–actually, because of how lovely it all is–Bend is getting too overpopulated. Everyone wants to be here. There’s a reason why many Bendites’ vehicles carry a bumper sticker that says, “Bend Sucks. Don’t Move Here.” Too many people are moving to Bend. And yes, I was guilty of that as well. And that guilt was an unpleasant reminder of how unwelcome I was in this town. Not that I needed reminders. They were everywhere. My first day in Bend I saw a “STOP NOXIOUS WEEDS” street sign with “WEEDS” crossed out and replaced with “CALIFORNIANS.”
But let me explain a little about why Bend is this way before I get into anything else. If you search up Bend’s population, it says that 2 years ago, it was 91,122. All I can say is that all Bendites know that it’s long since surpassed 100k and is way beyond that now. It is said that, on average, 12 people move to Bend every single day. There is a major housing crisis (not enough places to live!) and the places that are available are jacking up their rent costs significantly (my last place of residence was one bedroom I rented in someone’s home for $800, utilities not included; why this may seem just fine and dandy for someone making 100k+ in San Francisco, these prices are steep for the “small town” salaries many in Bend are still making.). And those who were born in Bend and remember that it was once a tiny horse-and-buggy logging town are getting a bit resentful at the massive boom and the way things are changing consequently–understandably so.
So, in all honesty, I felt a bit crowded out. After two years of living in town, working in town, regularly visiting probably 99% of the restaurants/cafes/bars in town, I walked around town knowing that I still wasn’t considered a local.
In fact, in a rather tactless (in my opinion) move, the Source Weekly Newspaper “jokingly” published a quiz that asked a set of questions about what your preferences are regarding restaurants in town, or winter activities, or whether you knew what a particular building was used for before it became what it is now, and if you scored low in your knowledge of Bend’s history or choice of place to eat (which doesn’t even make sense), then the quiz results will tell you to go back to California. While the quiz no longer exists online, the article about it does, and you can see for yourself how many Bend transplants have experienced hostility from the “real locals” (even at 10 years old! from other 10-years-olds!).
Unfortunately, it is not a joke. I had lived in California for a good chunk of my life prior to moving here, but was told on my first day there to omit that part when introducing myself. “Just tell people you were born in Russia,” I was advised. “They’ll like you better if they don’t know about the California part.” I did no such thing. And while the hostility was not direct–no one ever actually shouted, “Go back to California!” at me from their car window as I walked past in a short denim skirt and UGG boots (which I never ever wear; this is a joke, I promise!)–it still could be felt. And while I met plenty of wonderful people, locals and transplants, who didn’t care where I was from and that I just moved here recently–I just couldn’t commit myself to a place that I didn’t feel welcome in.
And so, the search for a home continues.
But I didn’t walk away dejectedly. Is that ever something I’d do? I don’t think so. I celebrate even my biggest losses. Those close to me were surprised to see me absolutely thrilled when instead of an offer of condolences at finding out about my divorce, a person I just met gave me a high-five and a “Congratulations!” When the friend who introduced us berated him for being inconsiderate, he explained, “I’ve been through a divorce and I can tell when someone needs an ‘I’m sorry’ or a ‘Congratulations!’ and this girl did not need an ‘I’m sorry.’ She seems happy where she is.” I nodded as I stood there beaming. He understood. And he was right. I choose to see even my darkest moments as a building of character, and my divorce is what led me to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and so many beautiful things came after that that maybe I would’ve never experienced if I’d never gotten married and divorced.
Okay, back to not walking away dejectedly. So, instead of sighing, and downheartedly crossing out Bend while grumbling, “Where to next?”, I decided to make my search an adventure (as always). My boyfriend (whom I met in Bend and who also wanted out!) and I purchased an RV, quickly threw together a temporary itinerary, had a yard sale to sell off most of our belongings, and took off traveling around the states to see if someplace else appealed to us a little more.
We will be taking a few detours just for fun (Canada, Yellowstone, maybe Zion/Bryce), but our main objective is to drive around the states that spark our interest, park and post up for a week or two in the towns that call out to us, and decide if our hearts want to call this strange, new place “home.”
I will be blogging about our RV travels regularly, so get ready for a complete turn-around. This blog will–for the next 3 months or so–not be about getting places on foot (though I will still be doing plenty of hiking), but of taking our little house on wheels with us to some really awesome places.