Escaping Paradise

10 Things to do when escaping your home among the coastal elite and relocating to a new state

A life-long friend called me the other day and spoke about his family’s decision to leave the state of Washington. It is where they’d called home for over 2 decades.  But It seems they’d have enough.  They’ve had enough of policies that make it harder for honest people to live and provide for their families. They’ve had enough of political vitriol that separates neighbors and families, while creating boogey-men out of anyone with a different opinion. Finally, they’d had enough and of new policies forcing them to make decisions about their children’s health.  I totally understand.  I’ve been in similar situations myself, as have countless people.  Two thousand six was the moment for me.  I’d had enough of California and moved my family to Dallas-Ft Worth Texas, where I’ve been ever since.  So, I know about moving to a state far away first hand.

Now, I’m pretty sure that my friend and his wife aren’t card-carrying members of the Religious Right.  They likely don’t have MAGA hats, and their TVs aren’t regularly tuned to Fox News.  But they’ve had it.  So, they’re loading up the Jalopy (a Tesla, actually) and heading off to someplace more freedom-y. 

There’s a lot of places they could go, but likely to the somewhere through the Sun Belt or the South.  In much of those states there is less government and a whole lot more room.  Heck, Texas could fit the entire world’s population inside it before it achieved a density greater than New York city.  But, if you are an expat thinking of a move to Texas, most Texans will tell you the same thing. “Please don’t move here.  We’re full,” they’ll tell you. I know, because I’ve said it myself.  But OK, I’ll tell you a secret if you promise to keep it just between us…we aren’t really full.  We’re just scared, and reasonably so.  I had an experience last week that illustrates my point well, I think.

I was driving home from work, when nearing home I came to a stop light behind a car with California plates.  It was a rice-rocket, maybe a Honda Civic or equivalent.  The exhaust had been modified and cold-air intake probably installed.  It had been lowered, with custom wheels.  It looked like a RC car on a skateboard, trying its best to make vroom-vroom noises.  From the perch in my Ram I looked at it the way a Rottweiler glances at a yippy chihuahua. 

On the back were two bumper stickers.  One was the driver identifying himself as someone who enjoyed a particular sex-act.  It was only three words, and one of them is not a word I would want a child passing by to see.  It was lewd, and I am not a person who blanches at R-rated content.  At the time most of my thinking was that it was more unintentionally self-demeaning than anything.

The other sticker which ran along the entire bottom bumper, was one advertising his Instagram channel.  Apparently, if you liked the first bumper sticker then you should check out the pictures he posts daily.  I had a passing thought that people who are annoyed at his driving will easily find him later, but I’m not going to waste my time with that one.

It wasn’t the ridiculously customized import, the California plate, the inappropriate bumper sticker. It wasn’t even the other sticker that made me sure he labels himself an “influencer,” which made me bookmark the scene in my head.  To me it was the whole package, and what it represents.  It’s what that represents to me as a Texan. It’s likely what it would mean to an Arizonan, Idahoan, Floridian (insert any “flyover” state here) that got my attention. It’s what makes us want to buy him a plane ticket back to California. 

 So, to help explain why you might hear a “Sorry, we’re full,” or struggle to deal with what it means to move out of one of the coastal states to one of those in the vast middle of the country, I’ve put together this small primer.  I’m not aiming this at my friend in any way, or even anyone who I know at all.  Also, I’m going to completely ignore any question of if and where you should move.  I’m assuming that the decision has already been made, the security deposit has already been paid, and your bags are packed.  So, here goes.  This is what you should do, according to me, in detail and in order. Here are 10 Things to do when escaping your home among the coastal elite and relocating to a new state.

1 – Get rid of your California, Oregon, Washington, New York, etc. license plates. 

You can hang them in your garage or put them under your bed.  Just get new plates and register your car in your new state.  It doesn’t matter if you have to camp out at a government building to do this.  Just do it, and do it immediately!  Driving around with out of state plates puts a target on your back.  What those old plates represent to you might be you laziness or inability to shuck out a few schillings after you’ve already spent a lot on a move.  However, what it means to everyone else is “I’m not from here, and I’m not one of you,”

2 – Don’t lie…but also don’t lead an introduction with “I’m not from here.  I just moved here from_____.” 

People will ask you as soon as your accent or vocabulary gives you away.  At some point you’ll say “you guys” instead of “y’all.” You’ll tell someone to get on line instead of in line at the grocery store, people will know.  When you tell them where you’re from, your next words should be, “But don’t worry.  I’m not one of the bad ones.”  I’d recommend saying this even if you are one of the bad ones.  I’d recommend learning what one of the good ones means, and becoming that. But more on that later.

3 – Try to fit in as much and as soon as possible

For countless years, the news and entertainment media have been talking down to the vast middle of the country.  Political candidates for national office have actually called the majority of the US, “flyover states.”  Can you imagine how demeaning that is?  Perhaps you can’t.  But to have your home referred to as irrelevant is insulting.

No one will be impressed that you come from New York or California.  They won’t think that you are their superior.  Believe it or not, they actually tend to look down on those states you are escaping, just as coastal elites have looked down on them.  There are pretty good reasons for this, though.

First, while people on the coast tend to think of the middle states as backward and un-cosmopolitan, the opinion in the other direction is that the states on the coast are dangerous and threaten the very way of life that people enjoy.  People in cities on the coasts mostly ignore the rubes in a state like Alabama. But many of those rubes secretly (or openly) hope that an earthquake or tsunami might sweep them away. 

There’s also a constant fear that people from these states will move in large groups out of their people’s republics. Then they’ll turn the state that they are fleeing to into a carbon copy of where they came from.  For instance, Texas has no income tax for a reason.  Our legislature is in session for a few months every 2 years, only.  We like it that way.  Politicians can’t do too much damage when they aren’t even meeting. 

But in California, perpetually in-session politicians makes lucrative salaries (about $130k) passing constant new laws.  In Texas, we will gladly forgo state income tax in order to pay lawmakers about $7,000 and let them stay home most of the time.  We don’t need more government programs that serve largely to enrich bureaucrats, and we’re happy to not pay them more money.  Don’t feed that fear, irrational or not.  Don’t be afraid either, but make it your home too as quickly as you can.

4 – Make a few friends locally.

Many years ago, this would be more of a given, but in this day and age Grandma and Grandpa are just a Facetime away.  If you are moving as a family unit, it will be really easy to only interact with each other.  That is a terrible plan for your future.  Success in a major move like that depends on you building relationships with people in that new place.  If you don’t, it doesn’t matter if the weather is better, how much cheaper things are, or even that race rioters are now not actively looting your store, you’ll never be truly at home.

The nice thing is, this is generally much easier than you fear it is.  You’ll actually be surprised finding out how warm and welcoming some people are, especially in the South.  But you probably need to be a bit intentional about it.  Join a club, meet your neighbors, take walks with your dog and talk to people.  In my neighborhood, we actually bring cookies to new people, spend time talking while standing in the street, have barbeques, and even visit each other in the hospital.  It’s different than I was used to before I escaped California, but it has become something I really treasure.

You might not be used to going to church, but I have found that to be the best place to meet new friends.  They won’t force you to be baptized.  Don’t worry.  In fact, they will probably not even care if you don’t believe what they believe, but they will become people who quickly genuinely care about you. 

5 – Get out of your comfort zone at least once a week.

There will be new foods, new festivals, new experiences, and new cultures all around you.  All of us automatically think that things outside of our experience are weird.  The problem is that those things are only weird to you, not to others necessarily.  No, I’m not saying that you should take drugs, do something that you find immoral, or change your name to Eugene and walk the street in a pink mumu.  But you will become a better person, discover new things, and learn more about the culture of where you are if you do that.

6 – Get lost once a month.

We all have smartphones and many of us travel with GPS on almost all of the time.  I laugh when I’m driving with someone to a very familiar place and they turn on their Waze app to get there.  “Dude, you know where Walmart is.”

GPS is great.  You can’t get truly lost, so don’t worry about it.  You aren’t going to make a wrong turn and end up in Uzbekistan.  So, sometimes just go somewhere without a plan…no destination.  You can play “Left, Right, or Straight ahead” with your spouse and see where you end up.  The crazy thing is that you’ll discover new places that you would have never known about otherwise.  Then your GPS will show you the most efficient way back home. 

7 – Get to know at least one person who has very different opinions that you.

This one can be more difficult than many of the others.  Unfortunately, one of the big problems in America is that many people dwell almost entirely within our own echo chambers.  It’s getting pretty crazy.  The stores you shop in, restaurants you dine at, and even the very news that you consume is different depending on your political beliefs, religion, race, etc. 

This is a really bad thing, and even worse of a problem when you go to a new place.  When you get to know people who are different than you, you realize that they have many of the same dreams for their life as you.  You likely assume certain things about them that aren’t true at all, but you’ll never find out the truth unless you get to know them.

I remember having a conversation with a teenager in Texas years ago.  He asked me how I liked living here versus California.  I told him that I loved it.  I did miss certain things sometimes, like the beautiful mountains, and that Texas just didn’t have some of that beauty.

“What do you mean?” he said.  “Texas is the most beautiful state in the country.”
“No, it isn’t by far.” I retorted.  “How many states have you seen?”
“I’ve never been out of state.” He said proudly. 
“Then how could you ever know that?”
“I don’t need to travel to any other state to know that.  I’ve seen Texas!”

I laughed at his silly answer.  I still do.  You likely are laughing too, but his statement is no different than assuming certain thoughts about people with different points of view.  Strive to be better than that.

8 – Realize that certain understandings that you have about way the society runs, how government should work, and how economics should function are likely wrong. At least it may be wrong for this new place.

OK, I said that the last point was hard, but this is way harder.  The truth is that many people won’t even attempt this one, unfortunately.  That is because people respond to others with beliefs that vary from theirs by using a thought process that is instinctual and dismissive.  You do it.  I do it.  It’s almost unavoidable.

When you encounter a person with a divergent view, it is automatic to start by assuming that they just don’t know all of the facts, and if you can just educate the person about the way things really are, then certainly he will thank you and correct his point of view.  However, many times that person seems to be well-aware of the facts, and maybe he then counters with facts of his own that support his point of view. Unfortunately, in this day and age everyone seems to have their own facts and it’s hard to know which is true at all.

Your next conclusion is that the offending person just isn’t capable of making a wise decision on that matter.  Maybe you are just better educated, smarter, or have experience that gives you a better understanding.  Sometimes your intellectual opposite is well educated, able to demonstrate that he has an understanding of the situation maybe even better than you do, and even has experience that is compelling.

Finally, you are left with no alternative but to assume that the person on the other side is just evil.  He knows the facts, is perfectly capable of understanding them, but hasn’t come around to your position.  So that person must be intentionally trying to cause problems.  Maybe he is wanting to create havoc, force others to adhere to his religion, or he’s just racist, sexist, or something that ends in –phobe.

This whole line of thinking is much easier for you and I to hold when there is more distance between you and the person you are opposing.  Maybe it’s physical distance.  People in New York can think bad things about us redneck Texans, just like Texans can despise those damned big city yankees in New York.  It’s much more difficult to think of the people who live next door in the same way.

But that distance isn’t just geographic.  There are the socio-economic differences between blue and white-collar types, Democrat and Republican, Buddhist and Hindu, and black and white.  Increasingly, you even hear of people completely dismissed because of their race or politics.  I’ve even heard nationally-known politicians tell someone their opinion doesn’t matter because they are a man or white. 

Recently, I heard an audio clip of an expert being interviewed on a podcast.  The expert made a point about race relations, and the host (quite graciously) corrected the lady’s assertion.  The expert being interviewed was a liberal professor at some university, who was part of the woke white crowd.

“Well, you just don’t understand because of the white privilege that you benefit from.  But if you were a person of color, you’d see that I’m right,”  she said.
“Ummm…I’m not sure that you really have done your research,” said the host, “I’m not white at all.  I am black.”

She had nothing to say more about the matter, but began talking about her staff not providing her with the correct research.  While she was very confident in assuming the ignorance of the host based upon his racial distance on this issue, when her preconception was proven wrong she could no longer even discuss the issue.  She also had assumed that he had some genetic evil because of his whiteness, which explained away his differing view.  When that was shown to be nonsense, she had no paradigm left to understand his not sharing her point of view.

This tribalism is deadly for America and our communities.  In a country that was based not on a common heritage at all, but in a concept of how society should function, the glue that holds us together no longer works. When we put everyone into groups of us and them it only leads to that bond dissolving and the various parts of our society falling to pieces.

I notice this when I travel from Texas to many of these places that people are fleeing from.  Nowhere seems to me to be more extreme than Portland, Oregon.  While I haven’t travelled there since the chaos of COVID started, going there in recent years has made me feel like I’m visiting a foreign country, and one that doesn’t like people from my land at all.  I really don’t say this in artistic hyperbole for effect.  It is more than just my feeling.  It’s palpable.  Their language, mannerisms, and even personal ethics are different than mine.

The first time I went to Portland with work I made the mistake of wearing my baseball hat with the Texas flag on it.  People didn’t like that.  The Texas flag is pretty unmistakable, even for out-of-staters, and I got a ton of dirty looks.  Yes, it could have been that I didn’t have tattoos or piercings, all quite ubiquitous there, but when I took my cap off (a lesson that I quickly learned) people were a bit nicer.  Also, when I wore the hat people would shift their eyes up slightly before telling me to go to hell with their expressions.

The hotel did not put a mint on my pillow, there was a condom in its place, and there was a copy of some sort of self-help-ish book instead of a Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer.  Several times each day, I had difficulty in determining the gender of a clerk or server at a restaurant helping me out.  I wasn’t trying to be rude or mean, but where I live you call a stranger sir or ma’am in those circumstances.  I had to simply skip that part and it was a very awkward experience.

I’m not bagging on Portland.  It might sound like that, but I’m just reporting things that led to my feeling uncomfortable and out of place.  If you travelled to Pyongyang or Tehran, you likely would not wear your American flag T-shirt.  You would probably keep to yourself more, in order to avoid uncomfortable encounters.  You also wouldn’t readily appear overly American, particularly when a waiter was going to serving you food later.  This might be something that you didn’t think about, but you’d also likely try to be the best person that you could be because you might be the only American that person ever encounters.  I have that same dynamic when I’m visiting Portland, and no it isn’t all in my mind.  I travel a lot, to many different cities around the US.

So, remember how we mentioned that people are wary of Californians, New Yorkers, etc. moving into their communities and changing things?  People living in other states don’t want to live in a place where suddenly they feel like I do when I travel to Portland.  They like their laws the way they are.  They voted for their politicians.  You might find an abortion law in Texas to be unpalatable, or a voting code in Georgia to be objectionable, but the citizens of those states (majority-wise) support that. There are reasons that the states with the best economies are almost all Republican controlled, and the states with the worst are mostly Democrat super-majorities.

People in many states are legitimately afraid of having these things changed by people moving from the outside.  It isn’t an unreasonable fear.  People usually don’t change their preconceptions on the world when they move locations.  If they flee from somewhere to another place, they are more likely to come up with a host of other reasons that are to blame for everything going downhill, rather than to take ownership of policy that led to those ultimate consequences. 

That’s why Marxism has failed every time it has been tried throughout history, for instance.  Yet, that system is more popular now than ever.  Instead of admitting a failed system in Venezuela for example, their leaders create all sorts of straw men that are to blame.  To do otherwise would take humility that most of us don’t possess.  It takes a lot of strength of character to say, “Well, that didn’t work at all.  Maybe I was wrong.”  That seems like admitting failure, but it is actually growing as a person.  Unfortunately, most of us do everything we can think to do in order to keep from growing.

That is what people are afraid of.  A state like California has had a super-majority of one-party rule for many years.  They have crafted laws that partisans in that party thought were good ideas, while restricting opposing voices almost entirely. If business is fleeing that state now, if families are leaving because it has become a place too difficult to raise children or own property, then it might not be a great idea to vote for similar ideas and elect those same types of politicians in your new home.   It’s reported that Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” 

That is why your Vermont license plates get sneers.  But that doesn’t mean that the place you came from was all bad and the place you are moving to is all good.  OK, so the socialist paradise that you are fleeing from was a little less utopian than you’d hoped, but the place you are moving to isn’t heaven on earth either.  You know what?  Portland has the Multnoma Whiskey Library, which is one of the coolest places I’ve been to.  Oregon is a beautiful state, and has some really good restaurants.  Even if I feel out of place in Portland, there are countless redeeming qualities and some good people.  You don’t need to abandon all of your politics at all.  Just be willing to evaluate your own positions.  It’s ok to say, “I have changed my mind.”  Only a fool never changes his mind.

9 – Make a list of things you want to do and see.

After you’ve been to the new place for about 6 months, find ten things you want to do and see there.  Write the list down and give it a title like, “Things I want to do in Arizona in the next year.”  Then put the date.  The timeline doesn’t have to be a year, but that is usually reasonable.  The timeline should push you a bit.  You will probably need to do some research, ask some locals, and add things as they come to you.  When you’re done, put it on the fridge.

There is an interesting thing about lists like this.  First, it will give you a goal of sorts, and drive you to do and see more things than you would otherwise.  Here in Texas, I was talking to someone the other day in Dallas who told me that they’d never been to the Fort Worth Stockyards, a place where all tourists to this area seem to flock.  I wasn’t incredulous because it is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, but that it would make any top 10 list of things to see if you are in DFW for a week, let alone a lifetime.

You’ll discover pretty places, tourist traps, quirky locals, and places you’ll never want to go to again.  But after a while, you’ll know more about your new community than some locals will.  You’ll also learn to appreciate it, maybe even love it, in a way that you never could before.  You will have new experiences.  You’ll make new friends, and you won’t be bored.

There’s another benefit that you can’t truly appreciate until afterwards.  When you look back on that year (or whatever period of time you’ve set) and check off all the things you’ve done, you’ll start to feel a sense of accomplishment.  You’ll enjoy the sense of discovery and you’ll feel that progress has been made.  It’ll build a sense of pride for you…and for your new home.

10 – Become a tour guide.

Now that you’ve made it through the other 9 difficult items, this one is kind of like the icing on the cake, and it’s actually far less difficult now that you’ve done all the rest.  So don’t worry.

OK, I don’t mean that you need to become a professional, and ride busses with tourists from Sweden.  But a thing destined to occur after you move, is eventually Grandma and Grandpa are going to visit, or maybe your childhood best friend, or your sisters.  It doesn’t matter who it is, but it’s going to happen.  They won’t know the place.  They won’t have done their research.  When I had my first friends from California visit, they kept asking why everyone wasn’t riding horses.  All they knew about the place were stereotypes they’d heard about, but I wanted to show them how much I loved my new community.

A long time ago I went to Chicago, a city I’d never visited but always wanted to see.  A friend’s roommate volunteered to give me a tour of the city. We drove around to all the most famous places and he told me stories about the Great Chicago Fire, how it affected the architecture as it was rebuilt.  I heard stories of the history of certain buildings and areas.  He even knew the names of many of the iconic Chicago buildings and their architects.  He told me a story about from over a century ago about how Chicago came to be called the windy city.  Not only did he know the town well, but it was clear he had a deep appreciation and love for it.  It was exactly like one of those expensive bus tours.

“So, how many generations of your family have lived here in the city?” I asked.
“Oh, I moved here about 8 years ago from another state.”
, I don’t know that I’ve ever known anyone who knows as much about their city as you know about Chicago.  I thought you’d lived here all your life,” I told him.
“I just decided when I moved here that I wanted to learn everything I could about this place, and I found the more I learned about Chicago the more I loved it.”

So set a goal that when family or friends visit that you will be their tour guide.  Then you can show them the best side of your new home, maybe dispel some of their preconceptions, and give them a glimpse of why you have discovered it to be a great place.  You know what, if you plan to do that, by the time that they do come to visit you won’t have to think about what to tell them.  Instead, it’ll be pouring out of you, because you will have fallen in love…and you’ll no longer be a stranger there, you’ll be at home.

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