Long Form: Reasons for and the Transition To California

When I asked what you wanted to see on the blog, someone asked to share our transition to Southern California from Oregon, and discuss if there were any regrets, differences between the two locals, and any tips for those thinking of moving. I’ve been working on this post for awhile, but was on the fence about actually posting it. But I got another request today, so I decided to move forward and publish it.

First off, I have no regrets about moving. None. I only wish we had done it sooner.

Life in Oregon and the Lure of California

Whenever someone hears I’m from Oregon (born and raised), they always ask why I moved to California. It’s a valid question, I get it, but it’s followed by something to the effect of “I’ve visited Portland, it was awesome,” and then there is always that one person who says “I was thinking of moving there.” (But seriously, if you’re a Californian and thinking of moving to Portland, prepare for a lot of hate, as showcased in this recent article from the Oregonian) There are many reasons why we moved to California. But the real reason was I was just done with Oregon and I was bored to tears. Literally. There times I would cry during the day when I was home alone and Patrick was at work. It was awful.

I grew up taking many family vacations to California. My dad is originally from LA, and we still have family here. My dad also collected mementos from LA history, and being the home of Hollywood and Disneyland, it held a lure that I could never shake.

After high school I attended the University of Oregon. One day I saw a flyer for the Disney College Program, but opted not to move far away from friends, family, and boyfriend, Patrick. The decision to stay was helped by the fact I didn’t visit California since the summer, 2006, the summer between high school and college. It had been a trip for my great-aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary. Then in October of 2009 Patrick and I became engaged, and my dad immediately began to plan a trip to Disneyland. We had so much fun and that little voice telling me California was the place to be came back. But I shuttered it away, telling myself I was about to marry a good man and one who adored Oregon.

After graduating from college, Patrick and I moved to Portland. Patrick had landed a job at a small ad firm and I became an antique dealer, with eyes on opening my own vintage shop one day. In December we got married, and decided to go to Disneyland for our honeymoon. We really wanted to go to Italy, but it was simply out of the question for two kids just six months out of college.

Once again I felt California calling. The sunshine, the palm trees, the history. I can’t remember the first time I really began in earnest talking to Pat about moving, but the boring drone of Portland wore on me. It was a continuous wheel of vintage shopping, which to some may sound like a dream, but for someone who loves, modern architecture, unique roadside Americana, history of the American west, along with film history, Portland just wasn’t cutting it, not to mention the near endless rain.

I found some respite with cosplay, and our annual trips to Disneyland, but with each trip the desire to move and to work there grew. I signed up for Curbed LA‘s e-mails, and began following LA bloggers, reading about events, the housing market, and jobs at the Disneyland Resort.

During this time Patrick was invited to join his friend’s start-up. Portland was becoming a tech hub, and the start-up was enjoying success. Great success. Something that Patrick couldn’t just walk away from, as he was key in its development. Then the start-up got bought. By a company in California no less. The company stated they wanted the start-up to become a satellite office of their company, however the acquisition meant frequent business trips to California. The transition meant once again it was something Patrick could not walk away from, especially when the acquisition meant a large signing bonus. One so large we could put a downpayment on a house.

We began house hunting and soon found an early 60s ranch style house, complete with tiki bar in the basement. We decided to make an offer on it, but later that day I was in tears. I actually had a total breakdown. To me buying the house meant that I would kiss all dreams of California goodbye, and somehow I couldn’t live with that. Deep down, I knew I was meant to be in California. We spoke with our realtor and were able to remove of offer.

As the acquisition transition of Pat’s friend’s company began to take shape, many employees were getting tired of the frequent business trips to California, and soon there was talk of a liaison position between the Portland office and the California one, and of all of the employees, Patrick was the only one really willing. He saw how my whole demeanor changed when we visited California, and after much research, and one road trip down, we secured a place to live. One month later we made the move to the adorable town of Orange. And just a couple months later I was a Cast Member at the Disneyland Resort. But under that employ, Patrick and I were not able go do, see, and visit all that had really drew me to California – the massive amount of museums, rich history, desert landscape, and much more, as we worked basically opposite schedules. While I loved my role at the Disneyland Resort, I wasn’t thriving much outside of it. So within a year I left the Disneyland Resort, and resumed what had drawn me to the Golden State.

People always ask if I miss Oregon. It is a very simple, and very quick “No.” Sure, there are a handful of things I miss, but overall, it is a resounding and certain “No.”

There is always something going on here in Southern California, and when we aren’t at an event, we are off to a museum, bizarre old tourist trap, abandoned location, or amusement park. Since moving I have made countless new friends, co-planned events, seen amazing things, visited places that have made me feel incredible, and inspired me to really find myself, and just last weekend I was in a friend’s wedding – a friend I made within just days of moving.

California isn’t for everyone. But nor is Portland. If you love the outdoors – hiking, snow and river sports – are a foodie, or a beer or coffee lover, and don’t mind the near constant rain (in fact after we left, Portland set a new second longest stretch of rain record, with 25 days, and when it’s not raining, it’s often just cloudy. And while I hate Portlandia, this sketch is right on the nose), then Portland is your city. But I’m not into any of those things. Only recently have I begun to like the outdoors, but it is because of California’s unique, bright, and varied landscape. For some, the dark evergreen woods and cloudy skies inspire them, but for me, it is the stark, rocky, and otherworldly  landscape of the desert and blue skies with shining sun. Some don’t care for the film industry, but to me it has become a beacon of inspiration and brought me close to so many, and the ability to visit filming locations beings me such joy. I’ve always been fascinated by roadside Americana, and it is something that Oregon lacks, but which California has an abundance of. Not to mention the multiple amusement parks. It’s the home of eccentric stars, bizarre cult history, rock musicians, and pioneers who first came seeking gold in 1849, where Spaniards put down missions, and where great saber tooth cats once roamed (in fact it is the official state fossil of California). California really appreciates its rich and vast history, from the La Brea Tar Pits to Spanish Missions to the Gold Rush to Hollywood, it is an incredibly unique place that I love.

Differences between Portland and Southern California

There are some interesting differences between Portland (as well as most of the more populated areas of Oregon, such as Eugene and Salem) and Southern California.

The first really being the outlook on the environment. While California’s Governor, Jerry Brown has taken an amazing stand about the environment, and climate change, there is still a horrible lack of recycling access and understanding of recycling. I’ve visited multiple friends who live in apartments that offer no recycling. At our apartment, so many people were treating the community recycling bin as a trash dumpster, that our manager had to issue a guide on how to use it, and moved the bin to a more isolated area. Now more than ever people are putting cardboard, cans, plastics, etc. in the trash, instead of walking over to the recycling receptacle. Oregon and recycling are almost synonymous, in fact it was the first state to have a “Bottle Bill” adding the deposit to the item to encourage people to recycle, and get that deposit back. When you walk around Portland there are trash cans on sidewalks that also feature a recycling receptacle, but this isn’t common place in many of the cities and towns down here. Additionally when Oregon decided to “ban the bag”, they outlawed all plastic shopping bags. Which meant that stores had to switch to paper bags, or ditch bags altogether, which some stores in fact did. When California decided to “ban the bag” they only banned “single use” plastic bags. This meant that stores could still offer plastic bags, as long as they were deemed “reusable”. These new plastic bags are much thicker, and typically cost five cents. I would say that the attitude toward environmentalism was the biggest culture shock for us.

On another environmental note, Portland often boasts itself on being the most bike friendly city in the US. It’s arguable for sure. I personally felt Eugene was more bike friendly, however the bicycle culture is huge in Portland. Not so much in Southern California. A bit in the beach cities, but it’s more leisurely, and many of the cyclists are just idiots. Seriously. Cyclists in Portland are often intelligent about their rights, using bike lanes properly, having helmets, lights, and even reflective material. While in beach cities they are people who ride without proper gear, and ride the wrong way on the streets.

Driving is a topic many talk about, because they just think California is one big traffic jam, and Portland is open lanes all the way. When we lived in Portland, it was easy to go from one end of the Portland Metropolitan Area to the other relatively quickly, and there really wasn’t such thing as bad traffic. However, it should be noted Patrick and I didn’t deal with traffic all that much, because we lived four years in Portland without a car. But since our move we constantly hear that Portland’s traffic has gotten worse. You know those lighted signs on freeways telling you how long it is to get to certain places? Portland didn’t have those until about a month before we moved away, a reflection of the changing times. As for California traffic, to put it simply, traffic down here is pretty bad. It can take over two hours to go just 30 miles, especially when going in and out of LA. But to me, the destination is always worth the time it takes to get there.

Another difference is the outlook on shopping. In Portland shopping small and local is almost the norm. Shopping from small, local businesses, as well as shopping from resale shops is almost expected. Many people focus greatly on where their dollar goes. When I lived in Oregon I knew very few people who shopped at Wal-Mart. And the city of Portland was active about not wanting a Wal-Mart within its city limits, as showcased in this 2014 article from The New Yorker. Here in Southern California most people are either concerned about designer goods or getting the best deal possible, meaning that areas like Rodeo Drive are still thriving and Wal-Mart is the place many go to get everyday goods. Having the attitude about caring who your money goes to is not as common here as it was in Portland.

Now this may sound strange, but it’s true. Portland, and Oregon in general, is very, very white. In fact in 1844 Oregon outright ban blacks from the state, and had a large Ku Klux Klan presence (you can read more on the subject in this recent Washington Post article) and as a result, the state remains pretty white. While Portland has a Chinatown, it is nothing compared to the Chinatown of LA or San Francisco. There was not as high of a demand for Chinese labor in Oregon as there was in California. Oregon was one of the states affected by Executive Order 8802, removing Japanese Americans from the area and into camps, an act that I think had a lasting impression on the state. While portions of Oregon were part of the Spanish Territory in the 1800s, little of the culture is left within the state. There is a Native American presence in Oregon, with seven reservations within the state, and for the most part they are the most non-white people I interacted with during my childhood, especially during my years living in Lincoln City, the location of one of the several Indian casinos in Oregon. I would also say that their culture is the one most focused on within Oregon, with many museums and cultural centers. So, I will say that it was a refreshing change to see so many different cultures represented in California. From K-Town to Olvera Street, there are many authentic cultural places to visit and learn about.

Then there are the vintage scenes. In Southern California there are so many different types of vintage scenes. There is the Art Deco Society of California, there is a large reenactment community, which is supported by having events such as Old Fort MacArthur Days and the Great LA Air Raid, there is a a heavy rockabilly and psychobilly presence, massive tiki scene (with a couple different monthly tiki marketplaces and Tiki Oasis), and many more historical societies that focus on the Victorian and Edwardian eras, as well as a Renaissance scene as there is the annual Renaissance Faire every spring. Some people overlap across the various groups, while others just stick to one thing. But you are constantly meeting new people at every event, which is the total opposite as to what it was like in Portland. In Portland basically if you were into vintage, you already knew everyone else who was into vintage. And if you were into tiki you were into vintage, and the two didn’t really act all that independent of each other. Where as down here there is an entire tiki scene that can exist separate from the vintage community. Portland just isn’t large enough to be home to so many different varieties of societies and groups.


I’ve been asked to give advice and tips for those looking to move to Southern California, or as some often just say, LA. It should be noted that we do not live in LA proper. As mentioned earlier, we live in Orange, about 30 miles southeast of LA. So I cannot give any specific advice on those wishing to maybe live in downtown LA, or Hollywood. But I will say the first place to start looking, no matter where you want to live, is Pad Mapper.  It’s an amazing site that can help you locate apartments within certain areas, and you can customize the search if you need a certain number of bedrooms or places that allow pets. If you are wanting to buy, I recommend Redfin. Next, look around the areas you find places you want to live. See if they are within a reasonable distance to places you know you’re going to be going often – such as grocery stories. We lived across the street from a Trader Joe’s when in Portland, so I needed to be close to one of those again. If you can minimize the time you’re driving to the grocery store, the better. If you are thinking of applying for a job at a specific place, such as Disneyland or a studio, I highly suggest talking with people who already work there. There are the typical questions you may ask about any job, but in California, you may also want to ask where they live and about their commute. When I worked at Disneyland I knew people who lived everywhere from Riverside (over 40 miles away), to Long Beach (about 25 miles), to Diamond Bar (about 20 miles). I know people who work at Knott’s Berry Farm who live in cities 20 to over 40 miles away. This sort of thing is pretty unheard of in Portland. Even if you lived in Tigard (one of Portland’s suburbs) and worked in Portland, it is only eight miles between the two. Patrick’s commute was a distance of about four miles when we lived in Portland. The antique mall I had a space at was just three blocks from where we lived, and the vintage clothing store I worked at was just under two miles. Like I said, Portland is small.

Know that no matter where you move, if it’s LA proper, a beach city, the valley, or somewhere in Orange County, know you are going to have to drive, and drive a lot. And if you visit Hollywood or LA, know your route to anywhere can be altered at the drop of a hat due to filming, movie premieres, and other large scale events.

Don’t be afraid to communicate with like-minded people who live in the area you are interested in. And think about maybe attending an event in the area, and asking to meet up with those who know from maybe Instagram or other blogs.

While I feel like I’ve covered most everything, there is bound to be something I forgot. But please, feel free to ask questions in the comment section and I’ll respond!

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