HOW I MOVED TO A DIFFERENT COUNTRY IN 3 WEEKS

August 17, 2016 // - - - - - - - - -

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I don’t even know where to begin, really.

I haven’t published anything on here in a couple weeks, which at first glance probably looks lazy. But considering I’ve packed up my life and moved to a different country on a whim, it’s not that bad.

I moved to Los Angeles at the beginning of August. I accepted a job offer, gave two weeks notice at my office, trained my replacement, got out of my lease, sold/tossed/Bunz traded most of my belongings, moved out of my apartment, prepared a *lot* of paperwork, booked a one-way plane ticket, threw a going away party, got my visa and then moved to the United States. This all happened in the second half of July. Things haven’t entirely hit me yet, so maybe that’s why I’ve been putting off talking about it in detail.

A lot of friends and followers have been asking questions about the move — both out of genuine support and for personal gain — understandably, since Canadians are often looking to move across the border and vice versa. So I thought the best way to address it would be to write out an in-depth explanation that doubles as a blog post. Get your body ready, because this is a long one!

HOW DID I MOVE?

I got a job offer. There’s no way around it, so if you’re reading this hoping I’ve found some sort of loophole in the American immigration system…sorry! You need to have a job offer, be married to a citizen or attend school here.

I have a TN-1 visa, which coincides with NAFTA and is what I’d recommend looking into if you’re Canadian and have gotten a job offer in the states. It’s a temporary work visa which means I won’t be here forever. But it’s made Los Angeles home, at least for the time being.

WHAT AM I DOING HERE?

I’m working for FHY INC, doing all things digital for Ferrecci USA! It’s a men’s formal wear line, so not *exactly* my forte but I’m already acclimating well. They have some killer accessories that I’ve been incorporating into my wardrobe and embracing an androgynous look with, like the black ranger hat I’m sporting in Silver Lake below. I’ll also be getting back to my freelance hustle as soon as I possibly can — more on that later.

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WHY DID I MOVE? 

I could say I moved solely for my career, but that wouldn’t be honest.

Around this time last summer, I was working my first “real” job after graduating from university. After 3 months I had grown accustomed to my day-to-day routine. Then I found out a week before my contract was due for renew that it wasn’t being extended, and suddenly my future looked unsure. Responsibility-free, I impulsively booked a trip to tour the west coast by myself and left a few days later. I climbed a mountain in Vancouver, failed to find Frasier Crane in Seattle and got chased by gutter punks at sunset in Portland. My trip ended in Los Angeles, where I fell for somebody after 5 days. He and I have been together ever since.

Yuck! Gross! Cut to a vomit-inducing scene from a rom-com featuring a couple crying at an airport, but that’s what happened. We stayed together despite the distance, while he looked into moving to Canada. He ran into some visa issues on his end, so that plan fizzled out. Things were left up in the air for a long time, and then I started considering making the move on my end instead. I initially didn’t want to even think about leaving my friends, my family and everything I’d ever associated with the feeling of “home”. 

But then I started really looking into it and weighing my options. I work full-time in social media and digital marketing, and that field has so many more opportunities in Los Angeles compared to Toronto. Out of curiosity, I applied for a few positions in Los Angeles — and I heard back from multiple, despite living 4000 miles further than most applicants. From a career perspective, it makes sense for me to be here. I’ve heard Los Angeles equally referred to as “the land of broken dreams” and “the land of opportunity”, but I’m going to stay positive and believe solely in the latter. 

As a going away present to myself, I got a little tattoo on my arm that my friend Brian drew. It feels symbolic for this next phase of my life, exploring foreign territory and all. 

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WHAT’S GOING TO CHANGE?

  • Less materialism. I moved here with two suitcases and ditched the rest. I’m no packrat, but that whole process sucked way more than I thought it would. Anything I really need, I can always replace as I go.
  • More self-care. The sunshine has already persuaded me into getting back into running, and I’m going to figure out what the heck Bikram yoga is.
  • Less of a ballin’ lifestyle and more packed lunches. Los Angeles is pretty expensive, which I low key knew but apparently was in denial about.
  • My blog Vegan Girlfriend will keep on keepin’ on, but is now being coordinated internationally. Aine and Alex will be holding down the fort in Toronto, while I build our footprint in Los Angeles’ vegan community.
  • Less illustrations, including both personal and freelance pieces. It’s a temporary hiatus, I swear! I don’t have a desk or a scanner right now, and I’m already going stir crazy without having that outlet. I tried to switch fully to digital overnight and drew some very sad looking tacos, so I’m hoping to figure out a solution ASAP.

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IMMIGRATION TIPS:

1. Get an immigration lawyer. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people try to do it on their own. You can set up an initial call or meeting with them to discuss your options, and usually won’t have to commit to a fee until you’re ready to proceed with your visa application. Additionally, having a job offer might not be good enough, which a lawyer will help you determine. The visa I have only covers certain job types, and you need to be able to prove that you’re qualified for it. You want to work alongside an immigration lawyer so they can make sure your paperwork is in order. The last thing you want is to have your visa rejected last minute due to a minor wording issue, which happened to a friend of mine.

2. Budget. Make sure you can afford to make this kind of move before committing. Consider factors like hiring movers, shipping existing furniture vs. buying new furniture, rental deposits, a plane ticket, health insurance, transportation and taxes. The exchange rate is something to keep in mind, too.

3. Take everything into consideration. If you haven’t visited the city that you’re moving to in person, do some extensive research. For example, I’d been to LA before so I knew that not being able to drive would be problematic (a non-issue in Toronto). I prepared accordingly by checking bus routes and comparing Uber rates.

4. Figure out what you can’t do in advance, and what you’ll need to do right when you land. In the 48 hours following my move I set up a new phone plan, applied for a social security number and sorted out health insurance.

5. Exercise and get lots of sleep. It may sound silly but trust me, this process is insanely stressful and you need to look after your body so you don’t spontaneously combust. I had so many panic attacks that I felt like I was 17 again.

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I’m settled in, for the most part. Things feel strange…in a good way? I’ve felt very homesick (Miss you, Mum) but it has only been two weeks so I’m sure it’ll get easier. I’m sad but at the same time very content. I wrote a good chunk of this nestled next to my boyfriend, two roommates and two dogs while watching John Oliver and eating tortilla chips. It’s crazy how quickly things can change. For comparison: I have a piece drafted with the title “A Room Of One’s Own” à la Virginia Woolf from two months ago all about how much I loved having an entire apartment to myself. That will likely never get posted now, but that’s okay. Because like I said…I’m content.

A ROADTRIP TO CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

June 9, 2016 // - - - - - - - - - -

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I’ve grown quite accustomed to divvying my time between Toronto and Los Angeles. My partner resides there and, as long distance relationships often go, you both split your life in two to create parallel lives together. Both places feel like home to me in very different ways. In Toronto, I’m the workaholic that I’ve spent years building myself up to be. In Los Angeles, my desires are to eat, explore and see as many new things as possible. The idea of being able to hop into a car and drive across the state, getting glimpses at vastly different cultures in each small town you stop in, is something I’d never experienced before I travelled there.

So that’s exactly what we did. During my most recent week-long visit, we made a relatively impromptu decision to pack up and take off with Zach’s rescue pup Pixel for a weekend trip along the coast. We spent the drive listening to basketball podcasts, eating salty snacks and stopping every so often to watch the waves.

Scroll down for a list of my favourite spots that I discovered in Los Angeles and central California this time around. 

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-Dinosaur Coffee in Silver Lake. Really good Americanos, charming baristas and their drink menu casually boasts “Butts Butts Butts!” without any explanation, the latter of which which sealed the deal for me. The back wall features a floor-to-ceiling art installation mixing gathered hanging fabrics and neon pink typography. 

-Santa Barbara County Courthouse. We stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch and afterwards plopped ourselves on a large patch of grass outside of the County Courthouse, an eye-catching building with Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture. We lounged there on a sunny Saturday afternoon, so multiple wedding parties were trying to take group photos at the same time. Plump infants in frilly dresses kept waddling over to play with Pixel, soon chased by whichever uncle was supposed to be watching them. Bonus points for the all-pink-everything floral boutique I spotted across the street.

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My Airbnb in San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo is a small town that was nicknamed “the Happiest City in America” by Oprah and lives up to its well-deserved reputation. We stayed in an AirBNB that “quirky” doesn’t even begin to describe. Every corner of this open-concept loft (ceilings and floors included) held something unusual, whether it be the fridge covered in a collage of celebrity faces, the Barbie dolls sitting on the bathroom shelves, or the dozens of licence plates decorating the walkway up to the house itself. Despite its eccentricities, it instantly felt like home to me and I slept much better than I usually do. I felt strangely sentimental leaving the next morning, and gave our host Pete a tight goodbye hug. 

Venice Beach Boardwalk. Self explanatory.

SunCafe in Culver City. Best vegan spot I’ve hit up in Los Angeles so far, with the exception of Shojin Sushi and probably Hugo’s Tacos too (those churros, though). We went for lunch here after hiking up behind the Hollywood sign, so we were covered in dirt but served with kindness nonetheless. I can honestly say that they have the best green smoothie I’ve ever, ever had, and that any I’ve had since has been disappointing. 

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Bishop Peak in San Luis Obispo. We hiked up a volcanic plug and took in a beautiful view of the town. I kept pausing along the way to remind myself of where I was and to appreciate every moment. I climbed a big boulder at the very top of the peak and carefully posed for a rap squat photo on top of it. Photo intentionally not included in this post.

Upstairs Bar at the ACE Hotel in downtown LA. When we got to the bar around sunset, the first thing I saw was a girl in a bikini, splashing around the pool by herself and having the time of her life. That’s a sentence that would be pretty much non-existent back in Toronto. LA is weird, you guys, but wonderful in its own way. 

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Anything you’d add to my list? Tell me in the comment section below! And for more photos from my trip, follow me on Instagram here.

  • Hi, I'm Megan! I'm a lifestyle blogger, social media specialist, illustrator, writer and vegan recipe maker-upper based in Toronto. Let's work together: megstulberg@gmail.com.
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