I moved to New England from South Dakota when I was 15, talk about a culture shock. I loved New England weather (most of the time), the scenery, and the people but as I got older, my body started to not enjoy it. When the temperature dipped below 30 degrees, my husband Scot, a Massachusetts native, and I decided it was time to look elsewhere. We started discussions about moving once our youngest graduated from high school in 2014. We knew we’d have to wait until they were on their feet, so we would feel comfortable leaving, but we knew it was down the pike. We had recently moved to the town of Lenox, Massachusetts from the Springfield, Massachusetts area and were really enjoying a quieter lifestyle in a rural area. We are big foodies and love concerts, so Lenox with all of its great restaurants and with the Tanglewood music venue right down the street, it was almost perfect for us. We knew we wanted our Lenox vibe but in a warmer climate.
I started reading a lot of articles in Money Magazine like “Best Places to Retire”, to try to get an idea of where we could go and came up with a good list. We were looking primarily on the East Coast but quickly began to realize that we didn’t want to stay there. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with those areas, they just didn’t feel like what we were looking for. We wanted to land somewhere we could continue our careers, join a church, and build relationships all in the same place that we would retire.
There are plenty of websites, like Area Vibes, that help you figure out where you can afford to live and we learned very quickly how much cheaper it would be to live outside of New England. Cost of living was becoming a main deciding factor but our must have’s list also included an area that was rich in culture, the weather was warm but there were still seasons, a place that was wide open surrounded by peaceful nature, and ultimately a place that felt like home to us.
In 2017, I took Scot to South Dakota for the first time. He had met a few family members of mine prior to this trip but this was the time where he met all of them and saw where I grew up. While he really enjoyed the people and the feeling of South Dakota, he agreed with me that it could never be a landing spot for us because – winter. While we were visiting with my Aunt and Uncle, they invited us to visit them at their home in Arizona. By this time, we had learned that my job could shift to a remote position and Scot’s job could transfer to a couple places in the U.S. – Scottsdale, Arizona or San Antonio, Texas. We decided to go and kill two birds with one stone, visit my relatives and scope out Arizona as a possible new home. We had so much fun with my family while we were there, we even took a trip to Mexico. While we loved the sunshine, we realized if you did not live in a city in Arizona, the rural spots were very desolate. Scot said it felt like what living on the Moon must feel like. I prayed Texas would feel right to us.
I had always admired Texas’ love for Texas but had never been, so our next trip was to San Antonio. While we went through our list of must haves – San Antonio ended up not fitting the bill. We loved the city but we are just not city people anymore. While there, I remembered an article I read in USA Today about the best small towns in America – one of them being Fredericksburg, Texas. As I read about Fredericksburg, I fell in love with the thought of a community built on German ingenuity, I am part German after all, and Fredericksburg was Texas wine country, which was also intriguing. We booked it to Fredericksburg and everything finally felt right. We explored non-stop for two days taking in all of the town, the scenery, and of course the wineries. The undeniably entrepreneurial spirit that runs through Fredericksburg really struck Scot while we were visiting and unlocked a part of him that he had kept buried. He revealed to me that he hated his career and had not been happy at work for years. That cut me deep because I know that its Scot’s nature to keep his head down and plug along for the good of his family but I would do anything to see this man happy. We talked through what interested him and what he thought might be a possible new career and the answer for him was clear – he wanted to work in the wine world. Wow! After our talk, I was exhausted from our time adventuring so I passed out. When I woke up from my nap, I turned to Scot and said, “Okay, let’s do it!”
We made a plan to move to Fredericksburg in 2019 and over the next two years we would dive into preparations. We had friends that owned a winery in Massachusetts, so Scot started his research helping them with bottling, doing punch downs, and talking to them about why they loved what they did. I didn’t know what exactly was drawing Scot to wine outside of the fact that he liked to drink it so while he was learning, I continued to keep my eye on Fredericksburg. I read anything I could get my hands on about Fredericksburg and reached out to people who would tagged trips there to ask them questions. I was even so bold as to go on to a Fredericksburg locals Facebook page and ask if there was a book club I could join. A couple of women actually reached out to me and believe it or not we are still friends today.
I don’t know if I would’ve been able to take the giant leaps we were planning on without the relationships I had already built in Fredericksburg with my friends Lisa and Karen. We knew we needed to visit one more time, so in April of 2019 we book a trip down to Texas. To prepare for this journey we hired a consultant to take Scot’s talents and re-write his resume so that he would be appealing to potential employers in the hill country. I had a job that I could do from home but decided to apply for one job and one job only – at Hill Country Memorial as a Practice Manager.
We set up a time to meet with a realtor in Texas, Scot submitted his resume to a bunch of different wineries, and I submitted my one application and we waited. In our cover letters we let them know when we would be in Fredericksburg and would love to sit down with them and speak in person. Scot heard back from a few wineries which we were really excited about since he did not have any real experience to speak of and I was lucky enough to get a call from HCM on our flight to Texas. We spent a week as locals in Fredericksburg and each day we were there our feelings that this was our new home grew stronger and stronger. It was a lock, this is where we were going to live the rest of our lives.
The next few weeks were crazy. I had zoom interviews and was invited back to Fredericksburg to interview with some senior level people at the beginning of May. My interview went really well and as I flew back to Massachusetts, I prayed that this was supposed to be. I could have kept my other job but working at HCM would really entrench me in the community and I loved the philosophy of the hospital. It was a small local hospital built by locals only 50 years prior and had a real sense of community. Two days later I got the call with a job offer. I was sitting at my desk outside my former boss’ office and started to cry. God was the answering our prayers and it was all coming together. Scot let the manager he interviewed with at William Chris know that we were definitely coming and within hours he had a job offer – the kicker we had to be there in a month.
At the end of 2018, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. What do you do in the winter in New England and especially when you have cancer? You hunker down and you nest. You stay in your house and you clean and you don’t go outside because it’s cold. In trying to occupy my mind while dealing with a disease, I made a list of every room, closet, nook and cranny to clean out. From January to March of 2019, I Marie Kondo’d my whole house. I went through drawers, papers, cookbooks, everything I could think of and if I didn’t absolutely need it or if I hadn’t used it was gone. If it was something that could be sold we sold it, if it was something that needed to be given away, we gave it away. I consolidated everything down to the bare minimum. This gave me a sense of control over my life in a moment when I felt so out of control over what was happening to my body. It occupied my mind so I couldn’t sit and worry about the cancer that was invading my body. I was not letting cancer win, dammit, and it was not going to stop me from living my new life in Texas.
When we got our job offers in May, we planned a yard sale and then ordered a dumpster to be put in our driveway and worked on that almost every day of May. We whittled down our belongings to 39 boxes, 4 suitcases, and a handful of furniture. We hired a mover to drive down our furniture, which was not a great experience, but things that were sentimental to us that did not fit in our car, eventually made it to Texas.
Scot and I shared a car in Massachusetts so we had only one car and packed it to the brim to make our journey through Virginia and onto Tennessee. We stayed a few days in Nashville since we didn’t know if we’d ever be back there again but we were pretty impatient to get to Fredericksburg.
We finally arrived in Fredericksburg the night before we could get into our rental home, and stayed the night at a hotel. I cried myself to sleep thinking how overwhelming all of this was. I was so excited for my new life but I was also missing my home. My children were all grown, my daughter was getting ready to make a journey of her own, my oldest son is stationed in the navy and you never know where he’s going to be, and my second and fourth sons were very independent so I knew they’d be fine. There was still a small prickling of worry that questioned if we had made the right decision.
The next day we met our new landlord and got to see the inside of our house. We loved the neighborhood and had a great experience with our realtor and knew we had made the right decision. We had a weekend to get to know the area a little bit before we started work on Monday. I had to take a drug test and so after that we spent the afternoon checking out some wineries and unpacking boxes. This was our new home. We were in the right place for us and I was super excited to start this chapter.
How do you move to a new town and make friends?
I’m going to be honest, making friends as an adult stinks. It’s not easy and you have to really put yourself out there and be vulnerable. Fredericksburg is particularly unique in that generations of families that founded Fredericksburg have remained here and it’s incredibly tight knit. There’s a lot of relations – cousins, aunts, and uncles, and trying to get your way into that circle is challenging.
You get one shot at this life. If you’re always saying you want to live somewhere else or you’re stuck in a rut, make your list of places you’d like to be and spend a week there living like a local! If something is holding you back like you want to be closer to your children – it is so wonderful when they all visit you at once and FaceTime really makes you feel like you see them a lot. You will surprise yourself at how strong you can be to relocate your life in a place that makes you feel like you’re finally home.