With the tragedy that is Covid-19, our lives have been turned upside down. People are working from home, children are learning remotely, and families are staying quarantined.
Being stuck at home for most of the summer gave my husband and I an idea – what if we tried life in a completely new location, living a month away from home?
With my husband working from home and my daughters doing school online, when would we ever have an opportunity to try a new life in a new place, around new people and a new environment? Since we are only a few years from being (young!) empty-nesters, we’ve been thinking about the day we can detach from the 20 year old job, move to a new place, with a new environment (that we truly love) that provides opportunities for outdoor exploration. With our new lives in isolation from others, we figured this was as good a time as any to try a different way of life in a new city.
With a recommendation from a family member, we chose Chattanooga, Tennessee for our new temporary home. In the coming weeks, I will have posts about our experiences in the town and fun Covid safe activities.
But for now, if you’re considering uprooting the family for a few weeks in a new place, here’s a list of things to consider if and when you try to venture out of your comfort zone and spend a month away from home.
Finding a location that suits the family is probably the most important factor to consider when temporarily relocating. For us, we ideally wanted to go west – like Colorado, Oregon, or Montana. These are places we’ve thought about moving to and love the environment these states provide. However, being from Chicago, we decided not to do a time change that would require earlier mornings. Getting teens up in the morning is hard enough, let alone adding in a new time zone when you get up earlier. So we looked for scenic areas in the eastern half of the country that were relatively remote, had great wifi, and was a completely new place for us to learn about.
Some questions to consider for your location-
Does your proposed location:
Getting lodging for a month-long stay can be affordable, you just have to do some homework. We chose to go with an Airbnb that offered a discount for monthly stays. Some larger cities will offer fully furnished apartments for rent if you don’t want to look at Airbnb or VRBO. If some of the popular rental websites are too pricey, try smaller companies, perhaps that just rent in your chosen area.
When you move away for awhile, you will need to spend a bit more money on food initially, as you won’t have the “staples” one usually has at home in the pantry or fridge. Do you plan on eating out? Are you going to spend money on tourism hot spots that cost money? Will you be renting a car? Draw up a plan for what you can afford and be sure to plan for unexpected expenses. Gas, food, and tourism will take up the biggest chunk of expenses after the cost of the home rental.
If you decide to book a month away from home with an Airbnb, please consider booking with a Superhost. According to Airbnb’s website, Superhosts are “highly rated hosts who are committed to providing great stays for guests.” Our Superhost was actually a property manager, hired by the homeowner to handle all the details of the stay. If you are going to be staying at this home for a few weeks, it’s best to have a high quality Superhost who can help you with anything that goes wrong, and ensures you have a great stay.
How long can you be away from home? For our stay, we knew four weeks was a decent amount of time to be away, to get a sense of the area, the community, and to feel a sense of belonging. In my opinion, two weeks is the smallest amount of time I’d recommend. And if you’re seriously considering a move to this location, you want to make sure you’re there long enough to form a solid opinion.
Don’t expect your kids to want to go along with every idea you have, even if you think it’s a great one, especially if it involves moving somewhere for a month. Initially, our high school age daughter wasn’t keen on leaving the area. Of course, she hadn’t been thinking about it for weeks nor planning it like we had. After discussing our ideas with her and including her in 100% of the decisions, she was eager to get involved. Not only does the temporary move potentially affect your child’s schooling, but it affects his/her social life (albeit now minimized by Covid), activities, sports, and overall comfort. Be sure your kids are up for the adventure and are included in all of the decisions.
Before you even book a rental home, ascertain that school and work can be done remotely. Talk to your boss, your child’s teachers, guidance counselors, etc. while considering your plans. Because of the current Covid crisis, we got the green light to continue work and school remotely in Tennessee. It’s always better to be completely sure your month away from home can work, before you solidify any details.
As our eldest daughter is in college, she only stayed in Chattanooga for a couple of days before heading home. Her schedule didn’t allow for weeks off work so she lived at home and cared for the house. If you’re living a month away from home, considerations have to be made for pets, plants, mail, and just for the general status of the home. If you have no one to live at your home while away, be sure to have your mail forwarded, held, or picked up by a neighbor; your plants on a watering timer or a neighbor caring for them; and/or simply someone to check on the property from time to time. Also, be sure to sign up for paperless billing statements (if you’re not already) so you can be notified when to pay your bills.
For the first few days at our Airbnb, I felt like a guest in someone’s home. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to live in the small home we rented for 30 days. In order for me to feel comfortable (as I am a clean freak), I had to change a few things: I covered the sofas with clean sheets; I made the bed with sheets from home; we purchased a new blanket for our bed; and I even dusted and mopped. I didn’t want to clean, but for me personally, it wasn’t going to feel like home until I made it my own.
Cleaning is my thing, so I spent half of a day cleaning the main areas of the home so that I could feel comfortable and make it my space. We moved decorative accents into cabinets and closets to free up counter space, removed excess pillows and bedding from the beds, and reorganized the kitchen so that it worked for our supplies. Because of the Covid pandemic, we were in the rented house a LOT more than we would have been in pre-Covid times, so making it comfortable for all of us was essential.
This goes along with my previous point about being comfortable in your rental property. If you have favorite pillows that you sleep with, be sure to bring them; bring the house slippers you always wear and so on. I brought a set of bedsheets, a favorite cutting board and knife, along with a pumpkin I grew in my garden, reminding me of home. Obviously, you have to think about the amount of items you can pack, but if you have extra room, be sure to grab a few things that remind you of home or can make you feel more cozy in your rental.
Also, since we had family members working and doing school remotely, we had to make sure they had a comfortable, proper setup for learning and working. We brought collapsable tables for each of them, large computer monitors, and ensured there was good lighting in their workspace.
Packing up and moving away from “normal life” for a month is a scary thing. Living a month away from home, in a new setting, is essentially uprooting the family for an extended period of time. Since you are spending a decent amount of money on an experience you won’t forget, it’s essential that it’s done with thought, preparation, and with everyone’s approval.
For my family, our month in Chattanooga turned out to be an eye-opening positive experience that we would do again in a heartbeat. We learned how little we need, to appreciate nature and being outside, and that shared family experiences only strengthens the bonds between us.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments about living a month away from home. Stay tuned for future posts on fun things to see and do in Chattanooga, Tennessee!