Last we left our heroes, talk of a Raleigh move was coming into focus as a more full-formed possibility. Jason and I both knew that when talk of a move got serious, at least one trip down to the area would be necessary to determine if this was a place we could actually see ourselves living. So, we did some research on the area, booked our flights, and dove into the adventure head first. After I got off the flight and began driving around, though, I started thinking to myself, “Oh my God, what are we getting ourselves in to???”
There was so much open space. So much nothing. I grew up in the South, and even though my hometown of Sarasota, Florida is definitely more urban, I was still only a 5-minute drive from cow pastures, so I am no stranger to wide open spaces. But the amount of open, undeveloped space in the Triangle area (the area around Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill) was shocking even to me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I personally loved this idea. I have craved more open space like I was used to in Florida and to have even more of it than I expected was fantastic. I became very nervous, though, because I was worried about what Jason thought about it. This is something he is definitely not used to, even though he went to college in a more rural area of Pennsylvania. Would this be too po-dunk for him? Too bumbly? At one point very early on in the trip, I was driving alone in our rental car and the car began to have some transmission issues. No big deal, though, right? Just pull over at the next gas station and check things out. But there was no gas station. No grocery store. No strip mall. I drove for 10 minutes and couldn’t find as much as a road inlet or area to just pull over to the side. “Jason is never going to want to move here,” I thought to myself. I was convinced at that moment that my grand exodus from New York had once again received the kibosh.
Luckily, I remembered one of my indispensable life lessons from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and I didn’t panic. I calmly drove the car back to the rental car place, which was only about 10 minutes away. (Hey, that’s a positive for Raleigh! Everything is close by!) They were willing to exchange the car with no charge……. but I just had to fill up the gas tank first to avoid those insane fees. I tried my best to stay positive and made it out to and back from the gas station safely, thank God. Overall, while the situation itself was stressful, the staff was very nice and accommodating, so I will mark this down in the win column.
After I exchanged the car, my stress level went down, but I was still nervous about my worries that Jason would never want to take the plunge to move to Raleigh with what I had seen in my short time down there. Rather than letting this eat at me for our whole trip, I decided to talk to him about it right away, which turned out to be the right move. In talking about this, he pointed something out to me that I hadn’t really taken into account: while there was a lot of nothingness down in the Triangle area, there was also an insane amount of new construction and building. As we spent more time down there and the initial shock wore off, I began to notice he was right. Every time we’d turn a corner it seemed like there were new apartment or housing developments being built. New construction and building on this level has to be fueled by something and indicated to him that the area was growing, which he thought was exciting. How cool would it be to get in on the ground floor of an up-and-coming area? As you can probably guess, that conversation left me smiling.
After we tackled that issue, we were able move on to what we had really come down for: to get to know the area. In reflecting on the amazing time we had, we were able to come up with three tips that we think other scouters might benefit from in the future, with the first being:
Find Ways to Get to Know Some Locals
If you really want to get a feel for an area, you need to talk to the locals. This has the possibility to be a bit daunting, though. I mean, are you just supposed to chase down random people on the street and say, “Excuse me, are you from here?” I am laughing to myself right now because I am just visualizing a pair of over-aggressive Mormon missionaries running up to random people on the street and asking them this. But in all seriousness, meeting locals is very important to determining if you want to move to an area. Two strategies we took that I think might be helpful for others are:
1. Stay at an AirBnb, not a hotel.
2. Find a local community group that you would be interested in and reach out to them to set up a meeting during your visit.
One of the best things we did for our trip was to stay in an AirBnb rather than a hotel. If you are unfamiliar with AirBnb, it is a website where people rent out their homes or rooms in their homes just like a hotel. AirBnb is also not the only website that offers this service. A quick Google search for “websites like AirBnB” returns a long list of websites and travel advice sites about similar services. After you have done your research, whatever website you end up going with, your host will very likely be a local and can potentially provide a wealth of knowledge about the area. Utilize them! This is one person you are expected to communicate with and even if you are shy, it’s not hard to strike up a simply conversation by saying, “We’re thinking about moving to the area. Can you suggest some places for us to check out?”
During our trip, we stayed with a host in the Durham area who was absolutely fantastic. She loves to get to know her guests, so we were able to have long discussions with her about the area, get some great restaurant suggestions (KEY for us – we love food), and even make our first new friend in the area. Plus she had an adorable dog that we would have taken home with us if possible.
Besides for staying at an AirBnb, we also reached out to a local branch of an organization that we are familiar with: Chabad. Chabad is an orthodox Jewish organization that sends emissaries all over the world to locations that have a Jewish population. We are very involved with the Chabad in our community, so it seemed like a no-brainer to reach out to one of the Chabads in the Raleigh area and make a connection. Finding a Jewish community in general is something that is very important to us as part of the move, especially considering we will be moving from New York City, a mecca of Jewish culture and practice, to the Bible Belt.
When we reached out to the Raleigh Chabad, we were able to schedule a visit to have Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) dinner with them on Friday night at their home. I have no pictures to show from this meeting because orthodox Jews do not use electricity during Shabbat, which means no phones and no cameras, but that does not diminish how fantastic this dinner was. The rabbi, his wife, and two of his three children (one was already asleep) welcomed us into their home with love and a delicious meal. We must have been there for at least 4 or 5 hours just talking, getting to know them, and getting to know more about the area. I am so excited to get to continue to get to know them and the surrounding Jewish community when we move.
While we reached out to a local chapter of a religious organization for our trip because a Jewish community is important to us, a religious community might not be important to you. Brainstorm a bit before your own scouting mission. What kinds of activities do you like to participate in in your current community? What kind of people do you hang out with? Is there something in the area you’re visiting that you’ve always wanted to get involved with? Get the ideas flowing about what you’re looking for in your new community and home, and then take to the internet. There are sure to be at least one or two local organizations that you can make contact and meet with while you are visiting.
Have a Plan to Get Lost
The second best way to get to know an area is through self-discovery. This is our philosophy when we travel to any new area. What Jason and I will usually do is conduct a bit of preliminary research so that we have a very basic lay of the land, and then we will just walk or drive around the area aimlessly to see what there is to see. If you are in a big city, walking is usually best, but for the Triangle area, everything is so spread out that driving with stops to walk in areas we found interesting was best. And let me tell you, we drove ALL. OVER.
We drove through both Duke and UNC Chapel Hill. At Duke, we found a “whimsical stickwork sculpture” by Patrick Dougherty called “The Big Easy,” which I just had to laugh about because Dougherty created another such sculpture at Sarasota High School in my hometown a few years ago and I had never seen another one until now. The “sculpture” is made out of a whole bunch of sticks and branches woven together:
Sarasota sculpture, May 2013.
Besides for visiting those campuses, we found some fantastic food:
A great Vietnamese food restaurant.
A roadside BBQ joint. I used to go to these pop-ups in Florida. Always the best BBQ.
A car repair shop that had been converted into the cutest little coffee shop.
More coffee shop.
We also saw some really neat street art:
And some local oddities:
And killed some robots on the HTC Vive virtual reality demo:
Last, but not least, we found a Publix, my absolute favorite grocery store, as well as one of my favorite restaurants from Florida, Tijuana Flats, which I had no clue had made it all the way up to North Carolina. We had such a fun time wandering around and I can’t stress how critical this was for us in making the decision to move. After meandering for a few days, we felt like we had a good feel for the area and that it would be a place where we could definitely see ourselves living.
If You Are Moving for a Job, Try it Out if That’s Possible
While I personally can’t speak much about this area as Jason is the one whose job is moving from New York City to Raleigh, I think the idea in general is sound. If you’re moving for a job, especially one at the same company that is just in a different state, if possible, try to do a week-long test run at the new location just to see how it goes. Maybe you are moving away from co-workers you see every day, but will still have to work with remotely. In this day and age with things like video conferencing, you may not see a difference. But what if the video conferencing or other remote communication software the company uses is sub-par? This could make your life a nightmare and it could suck up more of your time, making you look less productive than you were pre-move. Or maybe the new office you are going to has a completely different culture than what you are used to. I’m not saying these things will happen, but doing a test-run is just another way that you can get ahead of the curve and maybe even take a little bit of the stress out of your big move because the, “What is my first day going to be like?” jitters won’t be there.
Overall, I think we can rate our Raleigh scouting mission a success and I hope if you are considering a scouting mission yourself, that you found our tips helpful. Stay tuned, though, because I will have one more post coming about our Raleigh trip that you won’t want to miss.