Saturday morning, July 28th, we started on our journey. The goal was to get to Dallas by Sunday evening. We booked an Airbnb in Richardson, a small city to the north of Dallas that had been swallowed up in the growth of the metroplex many years ago. I made sure it was located within a reasonable driving distance to my former office.
I work for an engineering firm in Plano, Texas, the next city in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to the north of Richardson. We lived in Plano for 8 eight years. However, by the summer of 2018, we had grown tired of the boiling hot summers and felt we were overdue for a change.
That change came in the form of a suggestion from our daughter and son-in-law to join them in Durham, North Carolina. While we always thought North Carolina would be a nice place to live, and had looked for work there back in the mid to late 2000’s, it was only out of a desire to escape the North Texas heat, and not because we were particularly excited about Durham.
But here was a chance to make a change. Only, it would mean leaving a job that paid well, that I enjoyed, and that seemed to be about as secure as a job could be in the civil engineering industry.
We decided to go. I typed up a resignation letter, rehearsed my speech to the boss, and made my move. Only, my boss had other ideas. He wanted to retain my services and I became the company’s second remote employee instead of a member of the unemployed. We were released. And with the security of a full-time income as a major bonus, we packed everything that would fit into a U-Haul pod, gave the rest away, and were off for North Carolina.
Fast forward to several months before our trip. A familiar feeling of unrest had settled over us. After only a year in Durham, it was time to shake things up. It was not home. Maybe we had never given it a chance. Maybe if we had invested a little in the community, we might feel different. Other than some semi-regular visits with family, and the occasional chat with neighbors, we kept to ourselves and were OK with that.
What could we do? Our lease was running out and we had no interest in renewing — we had a decision to make. That decision was to set off on what I thought would be a six-week trip to the west coast. We had never been, or I had never been. My wife had visited Seattle when she was a kid.
The plan was to set off for Dallas, checking in at the office for about a week to get a feel for how things were going with our work arrangement from the company’s perspective, and to see what it would feel like to work with colleagues, even if for only a handful of days.
This involved another pitch to the boss. The proposal involved setting up shop in Portland, Oregon for about six weeks in the summer to escape the heat and humidity in North Carolina. I assured him I would be reachable, that nothing would change work-wise, and because I had already proved I could work from a variety of locations, having kept up with my duties while visiting family in Ontario, Canada, it wasn’t too hard of a sell, and he agreed to it. The trip was on, with our 20-year-old, who had just moved home from a seven-month adventure in Hawaii, a story for her to tell, joining us on our adventure.
The first leg was the trip to the Dallas area, and with the exception of a traffic delay that turned a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Charlotte into a five-hour ordeal because of an overturned tractor trailer on the interstate, things went smoothly.
We were on the road. First stop, Tuscaloosa, Alabama and a tired old La Quinta Inn that caused me to reconsider the benefits of saving money over security. We would be in the Dallas area by the following evening. And I was nervous. I didn’t expect this feeling to grow as the trip unfolded. The emotional roller-coaster I was unwittingly getting on was about to get real.