Cross Country Move Without a Plan

My family and I moved from the Phoenix, Arizona area to coastal North Carolina two years ago today [1-11-17 : triple 1’s are a numerology sign that Angels are co-creating your reality with you – helping you manifest your visions and goals more fully into your life] Our dream became a reality for sure!

My family of four left our home, family, main income job and friends to board a one way flight to a new city without a plan of where we would live. Crazy? Maybe. That is how much I was done with living in Arizona. How much I knew this was the right path for my family and I. We took a leap of faith and landed in a spot we are happy to call home. This almost 2,000 mile relocation was not a smooth ride, wasn’t without stress or fear, but was necessary and so very rewarding.

The desire of living by the coast was not new. I have always loved the beach. Pretty sure my friends and family associate anything beachy or mermaid related with me. The ocean took hold of my soul as a child and has forever been my happy place. Leaving the seaside was the most difficult part of moving from New Jersey to Arizona way back in 2009. [Recap: born and raised in NJ, got married and moved to AZ in ’09, then moved to NC from AZ with my family of four on 1/11/17]. The low cost of living, sunshine and palm trees, cleanliness and warm weather in Phoenix was fun, way different than New Jersey and a breath of fresh air, albeit a bit dusty. After a few years the novelty wore off of desert living. I missed the ocean, seasons, cold rainy days with a bowl of tomato soup and grilled cheese and also greenery. The desert is beautiful in it’s own way yes. But I just did not awe in its beauty, my heart longed for the sea. 

The conception of a huge move and a second baby became the catalyst of truly living the motto “Life is too short”. We weren’t fully happy living in Arizona [we gave it 7 years] just wasn’t where we saw ourselves in the future or where we wanted our girls to grow up. We recently lost my Dad [step-father] to stage four cancer in 2014. His sudden death [3 months since diagnosis] rocked our family and made me realize life truly is too short to be unhappy, uninspired or just complacent. I wanted my daughters to know what a squirrel was, roll around on real green grass and have neighborhood friends that actually played outside. I imagined the four of us building sandcastles and teaching them how to boogie board just as my Dad did for my brother and I. We moved cross country without a plan once before, why couldn’t we do it again? The children, 401k, preschool, health insurance, money and jobs were all heavily weighted concerns this time around. Still, I was determined to say adios to the valley of the skin scorching sun. 

Trading cacti for seagulls, but where to?

My husband Tom [he blogs also at] is a sweet guy who probably could be happy any where. He knew I wasn’t happy in Arizona, and being pregnant for a second time in the insanely hot summer pushed me over the edge into selling this ‘dream’ of mine to him and my Mom. For two years I researched, commented on City-Data forums, and watched Beach House Bargain Hunt countless times all in the determination to find ‘the place’ to move to. I knew I wanted to live by the sea, but what coast or where exactly was another story.

I became accustomed to warm winters and no snow in Phoenix. So moving anywhere north of Virginia was out. I did 23 years of harsh winters in New Jersey, not something I missed or desired to deal with again. California was out because well cost and it’s Cali [they are a different breed out there]. Gulf coast wasn’t a contender really. Florida was out because well, the Florida heat. Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina were left. Being “Yankees” I didn’t want to choose a place we would be marked with a scarlet Y even if we truly did want to live in the south and did not miss NJ. So a melting pot of transplant locals was added to the list during this new hometown search. I literally looked on Google maps for medium sized cities along the coast of South and North Carolina.

I finally landed on the perfect city. It checked all of the boxes. Dawson, Joey and even eventually Jen loved living there [#TeamPacey]. Mild seasons, 9 hour drive to visit NJ, surrounded by beaches, greenery, a cool riverfront downtown and a good healthy dose of southern charm made Wilmington, NC the perfect spot. I began to gaze at pictures of the ocean, large century old oak trees, local businesses, the health and wellness scene and parks. After researching and calculating living costs, salaries, real estate, schools and more I determined it would be a great fit for our family.

Waiting, contemplating and committing to moving.

For a year and a half my heart was set on moving to North Carolina. We welcomed our second daughter in 2015, life carried on, kids grew older, same shit different hot desert day. We learned three more times how life truly is short and we all do not live until we are old enough or wealthy enough to be where we want to be. No time like the present to pick up and start over. Death is scary and horrendous but it sprouts beauty in the form of reminding those still fortunate to wake in the morning to not take each breath for granted. Somehow your tears of grief turn into a gracious smile at the sun, after a delicious meal or directed to a stranger walking by. Death changes us all, good or bad, it’s up to us to apply those grieving feelings towards the improvement of our own lives. Death lessens the intensity of fear; scary ideas, actions or things become less scary – dying trumps them all. While we’re still kickin’ why not move to find happiness and joy in the sounds of ocean waves and seagulls.

With our minds set of leaving the desert, we just had to figure out how to. Except we didn’t have a large savings to be able to easily up and move. We had a house to fix up to put on the market and sell before we could even leave. My husband had to secure a job, we needed a place to live.

Before we could commit to moving to Wilmington, my husband and I visited in April 2016. First time we ever left the kids overnight let alone for four nights. We flew in and operated this short visit as if it was a business trip not a vacation. We met two realtors, one who was so gracious enough to show us a dozen homes in various neighborhoods to get a feel for the real estate and town. She was so kind, helpful and accommodating to two dreamers who had zero plans in place to actually move. We chose her to be our Realtor from then on, someone who took the time to treat us the same as if we had a 20% deposit in our pocket. She ended up showing us 59 houses total until we found the one. Patience is her greatest quality. After the tour, dining at multiple waterfront restaurants, a stroll downtown and me crying happy tears at the sight, smell and feel of the sandy shore we both knew this was the place for us. We dipped our toes in the salty ocean, held hands and looked at each other as if we shared the exact same thoughts simultaneously. “This is it, I love it”

Saying “Fuck it, let’s do it”

We flew back home and focused on figuring out how we could get to move to Wilmington. My husband had to have an income, he needed to secure a job before we packed our bags. He applied, interviewed via phone and nothing. Disappointment after disappointment. It was the summer of ’16 I was hot and angry. I wanted out and was getting desperate. Tom felt the same and I knew we had to get it together when he called me from work one day saying “Fuck it let’s just withdraw from my 401K and move” [we didn’t don’t worry]. I was shocked because I am the fearless optimistic dreamer in this relationship, not my analyze everything husband. He was done, his whole leg was out of the proverbial door at work let alone just a foot.

We received unsolicited advice, opinions and questions from those judging our choice to leave and move somewhere unfamiliar. But we also received great advice, support and encouragement from friends and family who shared our “life is too short” motto. We confided in my husband’s cousin Ryan and his amazing wife Kelli [digital nomad coach and bloggers] early on in the dream stage. We looked up to them for years as they built a life traveling around the world, writing, connecting and thriving as entrepreneurs away from ‘home’. They agreed with us that fear is only a blocker. Money comes and goes, time will never return. They didn’t look at us like we were crazy parents making a rash decision. Kelli and Ryan reaffirmed our thoughts that it will all work out and to lead this adventure with fun and optimism.

The For Sale sign was the nail in the coffin.

On November 11, 2016 [1/11 – these angel numbers were not playing with us] the For Sale sign was hammered into our rock covered front yard. That was it, no going back now. Our house that our two children grew up in was on the market. We had a shit realtor in AZ, he was the worst and made our first selling experience terrible. Adding to the stress was the weird emotion of actually selling our home and inviting strangers to walk around our floors, touching and criticizing our abode. The juxtaposition of emotions was overwhelming. Wanting buyers to buy our house [for top dollar -we had a dream to fund] but also feeling insulted when they decide they don’t love the granite you chose or lot location. Keeping the house show ready and sparkling with two kids under 5 was exhausting. We finally received good news and this dream grew legs.

An offer and one way tickets.

This story is getting quite long. I probably could have written an e-book about this huge move of ours. But to try and wrap it up, Tom received a job offer for a position he was not thrilled about but we took it. He had a start date in late January, so we planned to celebrate our last Christmas in our home in AZ and booked tickets for a one way flight to NC. Those next 6 weeks were a whirlwind. I handled the logistics of moving our stuff via POD, ship our cars, plane tickets, car rentals and a place to stay for the first week. Hotels were so very pricey, even in January so I searched for a vacation rental. I had zero interest in securing an apartment for us to rent without seeing it in person. The plan was to stay at a vacation rental for 7 nights and apartment hunt once we arrived. We decided to leave even before selling our house. Again, a crazy or risky decision? Sure yea, our house didn’t end up selling until March but it was just extra money that we lost not time.

The universe continued to guide and reward us.

I booked an inexpensive little beach bungalow a few blocks from the ocean for us. Off season prices are the best. A few days after booking, I get a call from the host/owner saying “So sorry, but we are having that house painted inside and out that week. Not to worry, I will just transfer your reservation to my other property. It is a luxury ocean front three bedroom house. Same price, same dates”. Um what?! Sure, thank you. Tell me that was not the universe/God sending a big wink to us that we are on the right path and making choices that serve our future! After that amazing upgrade, I booked our plane tickets to leave on 1/12. Another final decision, our exit plan was in place and paid for.

Our glorious exit plan was in place.

Fancy beachfront vacation rental booked. One way flights booked. Extra paci’s for the toddler. My mind raced on my endless to do list. Why did we not pack up the entire house until four days before we left is still beyond me. The POD was in the driveway for a week, sitting empty. That was PRO procrastination level. Maybe we didn’t think we had so much stuff. We did and was not an easy task to pack up an 1800 square feet home in a few days. It got done and thankfully my husband and I are not hoarders nor are indecisive. Purged, packed and cleaned before we headed out the door for the very last time.

Oh and we even threw our youngest a little 2nd Birthday party a few days before we started packing. Crazy yes, clearly we are not the most proactive, planning people. We wanted to have all of our small group of friends in the same space to say goodbye and sing Happy Birthday. That was the first party I hosted that I actually sat down and enjoyed every minute. I wanted to soak up the moment and time spent with friends we weren’t going to see again for a long time. Guests left and we realized this was it, time to get down and pack. I tried my best to keep stress and emotions in check for the sake of the kids witnessing their parents tackle a huge move. I hoped the girls would not be negatively impacted by this and see it as an adventure. We ate take out on the floor, slept on blow up mattresses and packed that POD to capacity. We left for the airport on 1/11, stayed overnight at a hotel and flew to Wilmington, NC the next day. Another sign that reinforced this move were the beach decor and wall art in the Hotel rooms and lobby. The hotel restaurant’s kid menu was ocean themed. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I’ve never seen a beach theme anywhere in all of my 7 year residency in Arizona. My desert babies were destined to become beach babes.

Welcome to North Carolina

We arrived at ILM airport at night, sat in glossy white rocking chairs waiting for luggage and then drove straight to the beach house. We immediately dropped our bags and walked out onto the deck overlooking the ocean. Though it was dark, we absorbed the smell of the salty sea air and the rhythmic sounds of the ocean. Tom and I put the girls to bed and we sat on the covered deck in white rocking chairs [in true southern style] in awe of what we just did.

“We dreamed it, then real lifed it”

Just one day shy of our vacation rental expiring, we found an apartment to move to. We signed the 8 month lease and scheduled to move in the next day on Saturday. Living on the edge is just our style I suppose. Our family of four had a place to live. We made it without any hiccups, trusting it would all work out. Our fearless move surprised many and I hope inspired others as well. If we can do it as a young family of four, anyone can!


  • Tom

    Awesome, writing my love. We sure do make a great team. I think this will inspire others. Others that may being thinking twice about doing this same thing.


  • Jazz

    Trusting the intuition and fearlessly going across the country like that…You guys are definitely the real MVPs! Love you guys xoxo..Purple Hearts every damn day!

    • beyondmamalife

      Thank you, Jazz! Yes, trusting your intuition is so helpful. We knew in our hearts and souls we needed to make the move. The many signs/winks we received just sealed the deal and kept us pushing towards accomplishing our dream and goal to live seaside. 🙂

  • Ryan K Biddulph

    Fabulous, Alaina! I love the post and your message. Dreams wait for us; we need the clarity, courage and conviction to seize the dreams, and to run with them. Fear waits too. Nudge through it, grab your dreams, and run with them. Thanks so much for the link and keep living your dreams guys!

    • beyondmamalife

      Thank you, Ryan! Love that, ‘dreams wait for us’. They sure do and so happy we chased after them all the way across the country. Keep on inspiring us and the world!

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