Why we decided to move out-of-state without employment

Guest post by Catefish
Leaping without a net may not be something you’d do with, let’s say, acrobatics. But is it something you’d do with your living situation? (Photo by: FrankzedCC BY 2.0)

My husband and I are no strangers to the well-meant-yet-still-abrasive questions: “Aren’t you a little young to get married?” “What are you going to do with that degree?” “Aren’t you going to regret not having your own children?”

And now that we’re moving out of state, it’s, “You don’t have a job yet?”

My husband and I have spent the last three years trying to carve out a living in Southern California — an expensive, dry, and hot environment that neither of us are particularly in love with. Both sets of our parents settled here, and when we ejected from the nest, that’s where we ended up because we had jobs here.

The J word. I spent sometimes fifty-to-sixty hours every week at a low-paying, demanding job with a demonic commute. My husband drove an hour-and-a-half into the desert to teach at a poorly-funded community college whose student body often tolerated his class only because their parents told them they had to go or risk being kicked out of the house. And then we would watch our dwindling bank account every month, hands a-wringing, sometimes not sure we could afford to put gas in our car to go to work to pay our (relatively low, by SoCal standards) rent. Classic “I hate my job” sob stories, right? Everyone hates their jobs! No one has money! Get over it!

Why? We started asking in return. And the resounding answer was “that’s what it took to make it in our area,” — an area which we didn’t care for anyway. The timing was right. Our lease was ending, and so we had to commit: another six to twelve months stuck in place, or a scary leap which could wind us up skulking home to our parents, richer only in life experience.

My husband managed to teach a few extra units, and I pulled yet more overtime, so our savings grew a little. Our parents pledged their support — a luxury which we know not everyone has, and for which we are so grateful. We applied for job after job in our new area, an endeavor which has not yet yielded fruit. And then came time to quit and pack up everything we own and just go.

We’re almost to moving day, and still not much on the job front. My husband is entered into a few employment pools, and I’m still cranking out cover letters like, well, like it’s my job. And still, with every new person we mention the move to, it’s, “do you have a job yet?”

I know. I know the conventional wisdom states that you never leave a job without having another one lined up. I know that you don’t make huge life choices without a safety net. But we looked at it and we thought and cried about it a bit and made a decision between being stuck somewhere that caused us stress where we didn’t want to be and moving to where we can breathe better and hopefully find a new start. It may not be an option for everyone, but we had to grasp this for ourselves.

That won’t be easy. The dreaded employment gap rears its ugly head. But for now, for us, with a loving support system in place and a modest savings cushion, this is our choice. Safety net or no, we’re going to fly.

Comments on Why we decided to move out-of-state without employment

  1. Washington State! We left Ca for Tennessee, cost of living is less than half of our Ca bills. We looked at Washington, but cost of living was still really high, and job outlook bleak. I found more job offers and reasonable housing here near Nashville and Memphis, and it’s culturally very fun. I’m in shock at the cost of living compared to conjested, ugly So. Ca. So not worth it anymore. I would never go back.

    • Nya! Another Cali to Tennessee transfer!

      I went from Rancho Santa Margarita area to Knoxville. Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t go back either. My parents ended up finding a 5 bedroom, 2 bath house in Seymour for $110,000. Definitely can’t find that deal in Southern Cali. My house in Georgia is similar (4 bedroom, 2 bath) but located next to a lake at $120,000. Georgia is like Tennessee, but slightly warmer and a lot more job prospects.

      While I miss the nice weather sometimes (70’s year round), I do prefer the South to Cali any day. Cheaper cost of living, more jobs, actual seasons and greenery. Plus, if I ever want to see city life, I can always drive to Atlanta. =)


        I’d lived in Washington for a little while during college, so I got to experience that, but Husband just saw his first snowfall and was mesmerized.

        You kind of start to take California’s temperatures for granted, like, “Really? Another warm sunny day? I’d give my left arm for some WEATHER here.” Although when we left, it was in the high eighties, low nineties. Ugh. Not good moving truck loading weather.

        • You kind of start to take California’s temperatures for granted, like, “Really? Another warm sunny day? I’d give my left arm for some WEATHER here

          THIS! So much. It rained for, get this, THREE DAYS STRAIGHT recently, and it was amazing. I purposely did nothing to just sit at home and listen to the rain. It was one of the best times of my life. Living amongst weather. WOW.

          • You’re all in California like “OMG WANT SEASONS! SNOW! VARIETY!”

            And over here in Missouri we’re all like “OMG MAKE IT STOP! JUST WANT 70 DEGREE WEATHER EVERY DAY FOR REST OF LIFE PLOX!”

            Bahaha it’s gonna be 70 today and like 45 tomorrow ;___; MISSOURI, STAHP.

      • But… But… Humidity!! We can’t afford a better place than our crappy condo here in Silicon Valley, but I could NEVER live in the south because the summers are soooooo gross. I can’t live in a non-CA climate, despite the ridiculous cost of living and the lack of snow.

        • Lol I was about to click this! Because I feel the same way about the climate, also live in Silicon Valley and then I saw your name. My name is Margarita, but my family has always called me Margie.

    • The congestion. Oh, gosh. I worked in Orange County, i.e. where everybody passes through on the way to LA. I was warned about Seattle traffic and I was all ready to deal with that…not even. It’d take me two and a half hours to drive in CA what took en extra forty five here. Never going back to that (except visits).

  2. I agree it can be scary but for the best! My husband and I are living in Northern Canada right now where I’ve had a great job for 3 years and he has been able to find some work as a sub teacher. I have loved my job, but he hasn’t and we’re ready to move on.

    We’re moving to Wisconsin to be close to his family and we’re having a baby in April. In July, both of us and baby are moving to Wisconsin with no job lined up, no apartment (staying with his family temporarily while we can be there to look) and nothing set up. Scary? YES! Fun? YES!

    I have made a move like this twice in my life – once to England on a 2-year working visa and once to Taiwan where I ended up teaching English. Both of these moves worked out wonderfully and were great life experience. With a positive attitude and some planning things will work out. It will be interesting to see how it is with a newborn and being a first-time mom!

    • I love Wisconsin! Most of my family is there. Best of luck to you three, and eat some Cousin’s (it’s a sub place, not suggesting you eat family members) for me.

    • Thanks for inspiration on moving Miranda! I am in So Cal and expecting my first baby (due in Sept). I would love to move to another lower cost of living area but my husband’s argument is that we have here family support which we won’t have with the baby if we move away…I am conflicted as I am tired of traffic, congestion and high housing prices in CA but I am not sure if it is good time moving now being pregnant or with a little baby once he/she is born. Curious to hear how it worked out for you guys moving back to Wisconsin πŸ™‚

  3. My husband and I have been considering the same thing. We’re in Tampa, trying to go just about anywhere else on the planet. We need a new adventure!

    It is so scary to think about moving somewhere without a job; you’re very brave to just go for it. We’ve been trying to find jobs first, but I feel like that’s also hurting us. It’s so much easier to get interviews when you already live in an area. Sure, Skype exists, but having a face-to-face interview is still so much better.

    It’s also hard for us to leave because I’ve got a decent-paying job, but it’s not in the field of my college degrees. I want to get started in that area – but it pretty much means taking unpaid internships. Leaving a $30,000 a year job for an unpaid internship is absolutely terrifying. Especially because internships are temporary, and I have no guarantee of a paying job afterwards.

    Back to writing cover letters πŸ™‚

    • You are not kidding about the being in the same area thing. We’ve been here for the last three weeks, and already I’ve had more luck in that short amount of time than two months of job hunting while in California. Best of luck to you! It’s scary going from security to none, but sometimes so, so worth it.

      • How did you guys plan a place to lice? I am planning to move in 4 weeks when my boyfriend and I’s lease ends and we have a place to stay for free in arizonia but I’m not hooked on az. I want to go back to college and az doesn’t allow much for that. We’ve looked at Denver where I have a brother and looked at NC (Charlotte or raleigh) but know one personal slightly and she lives close the area. But I’d like nc the most and we haven’t had much job luck and I don’t know how we can move somewhere without an income when an apartment does an income check. Thats what our apartment here did at least. Help!! Email me at [email protected]

  4. This has been the story of my life since I graduated law school and took the bar. After over a year of searching, I finally landed a job that I love. My husband is finishing up school, and so once he graduates, we’ll be looking at another move with a lot of question marks left to be filled. I find that it’s during these times that we test out mettle and can really grow into the person we are, not what we’re expected to be. Good luck on your adventure!

  5. Actually, my parents did a similar thing as you. We were living in California when my dad lost his very nice paying job. No warnings nor severance pay. So we tried living off mom’s much smaller income for a bit, but it was pretty hard. Ended up deciding randomly to leave California for Tennessee. Very little family there, and no job prospects for each of my parents but they were fed up with California and the hellish commute/high expense of living.

    It ended up working for the best! Dad found a job within a month of living there and my mom found a job within a month and half. Sometimes it takes having a local address to find a job in a new state.

    Oddly enough, I ended up doing the same thing after I graduated college. Left my parents house in Tennessee, for my boyfriend’s house in Georgia (no job). Ended up finding a job a short while later, moving out on my own, marrying the boy, and living pretty happily ever after. =)

    Also keep in mind job wise, that the first job that hires you may not be your dream job. However, it can pay the bills while you look for your dream job. I started out as a receptionist at a car dealership. Ended up switching to a consultant position, and then onto my current career path as executive assistant. So while I didn’t like the pay of the receptionist, nor the travel of the consultant job, it still allowed me to pay the bills until I got the job I was looking for all along (decent pay, low stress, no travel).

    Good luck with your move and job hunt!!! <3

    • Oh, for sure. We’re looking at eeeeeeverything. I’ve already had some…shall we say- experiences in my working life, and so I don’t discount any jobs, because even the weird/dull/low paying/stressful are experiences. Though if whatever I get could be less on the stressful side, I would be really grateful.

  6. Thank you for this. I find it at a time in my life where I am very much in limbo. After being dumped by a long-term boyfriend I’m stuck in my parents’ house again and finding myself really weighed down by my surroundings. I’m desperate to move to a nearby city so that I can have better networking opportunities than in my hometown. I was lucky enough to find a seasonal job in said city and a couple of friends willing to let me house-sit for them rent-free for the summer, but the last thing I want to do is head back to my parents’ house once September rolls around and that job is over. At some point, I think I have to take a risk and trust my savings will keep me afloat enough to cover my expenses between jobs. Hearing about others’ experiences doing that is very encouraging.

    • I had a professor once who told me that eighty percent of the time I spent anywhere doing anything was not about what I was doing, but with whom I was connecting. Networking is one of the most valuable things you can do in pursuit of a job (at least in my limited experience), so keep at it. No matter what you decide, best of luck. πŸ™‚

  7. I moved from Washington State to NYC with no job, very few friends, and an apartment I had never seen in person lined up. I found a job after a few weeks- it’s so much easier to find a job once you’re actually in the place you’re going to live and able to go to interview and such! I felt like employers were hesitant to consider anyone who didn’t already live there- so personally I think you’re smart to move prior to finding a job because you’ll have more options (or atleast the options will be more visible) once you’re there.
    I definitely sometimes think about going back to WA though, it’s an awesome, amazing state, lucky lucky you for getting to move there!

    • Thanks! We really are lucky. NYC! That’s a big move. You are totally right- we’ve had much more success now that we can put a local address on things. The catch-22- can’t get a job until you’ve moved, can’t move until you get a job. Have to break the cycle somehow. >.<

    • I’m in the same boat as everyone else. I have a good paying job, nice apartment etc…all my family lives here. HOWEVER…I have this urge that I need to just move and go…I’ve lived in a variety of states all moving because of my parents. My main question is how is everyone finding an apartment when they have no proof of income? that’s the problem I run into.

      • How did you guys plan a place to lice? I am planning to move in 4 weeks when my boyfriend and I’s lease ends and we have a place to stay for free in arizonia but I’m not hooked on az. I want to go back to college and az doesn’t allow much for that. We’ve looked at Denver where I have a brother and looked at NC (Charlotte or raleigh) but know one personal slightly and she lives close the area. But I’d like nc the most and we haven’t had much job luck and I don’t know how we can move somewhere without an income when an apartment does an income check. Thats what our apartment here did at least. Help!! Email me at [email protected]

      • I’d love to know the answer to this too.

        How do you find housing without proof of employment?

        And how do you find employment out of state in order to get the housing when you can’t first get the housing…? It’s a catch 22! What is the answer to this? Is it only those who are lucky enough to be able to bunk with family who can move out of state, or what am I missing here?

        • If it’s just you or possibly you and a significant other, Craigslist roommate ads are a good place to go. It’s what I did initially when I moved. I don’t have a family, so I don’t have as much to offer there if you do.

          The person I ended up rooming with asked me about my job situation; I told him I had money saved, but he didn’t seem too concerned when I told him I didn’t have a job yet.

          I hope you’re able to make your move happen.

        • By best friend and her husband have moved from CA to OR about 6 months ago without either of them having a job lined up and without knowing anybody there. They were doing airbnb first to get situated and to get to know specific area where they wanted to be. Airbnb or short term rentals through Craigslist usually do not ask for income and such proof. It is a different market. I think the main thing is to be honest as people look at character and it comes out in conversations.

          My friend’s husband found a job shortly after they moved there, maybe about a month after. They just bought a house and moved in a few weeks ago…based only on one person’s income…and he is making less than what he made in CA.

          I wanted to share this story to encourage those who are thinking of moving to go ahead and follow their dreams even though you don’t have “everything lined up”. There’s no guarantee in life for anything. Even if you have a job lined up, unpredictable things happen (I was laid off from two jobs in the last 9 years due to companies sudden changes/reorganizations)

          Look at the fear, accept it and still go ahead and act!!

  8. My ex-husband and I did the “we’ll find jobs when we get there” plan. Unfortunately, it coincided with the economic downturn – the week we were driving from Florida to Montana, the stock market crashed.

    Took us seven months to find work, while our landlords kept a running tab of our rent. I’m surprised we managed to last during the Great Depression – excuse me, “recession”.

    Lesson: it’s hard, but awesome when you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

  9. I am the master of this. Sometimes it’s hard, always it’s exciting.

    – Temping is amazing, apply at all of the temping places there is! This gives you the freedom to be picky.
    – Substitute teaching is often an option for temporary work too, many places you only have to have your Bachelor’s degree and they are desperate for teachers.
    – Volunteer for organizations whose fields interest you professionally! It will feel good, introduce you to like-minded folks, and it’s way more effective than traditional networking.

    You guys are doing the right thing, you’ll kick this transition’s ass!

    • Thank you! (Insert war cry here.) Volunteering is a must for me at least. I’m giving the job apps all I’ve got, and in that lovely waiting period, I’m for sure going to go volunteer. So far, I’ve got libraries and literacy programs saved in my browser. πŸ™‚

  10. My husband and I did this, we were fed up of the constant BS politics and economy in Northern Ireland so we quit our (rather good jobs) sold our house, packed up our 3 dogs and cat and moved to Canada with no jobs. You can do it! Good luck!!

  11. Thanks so much for this! It’s encouraging, as I’m making a big, scary move for my career and I don’t have a job lined up yet. I’m leaving Seattle, even though I love it, because there are very few jobs in my field, for London, which is crazy expensive, but has much more opportunity (if I’m lucky.) It’s a big thing, and I could crash and burn and end up going back to my parents, but I figure I should try it while I can. You’ll love Washington, the best of luck to you!

  12. I love reading stories like this! My husband and I have been looking to move from Chicago to Milwaukee for similar reasons. I’ll be able to work remotely, but he’s been looking for jobs for a few months with no offers just yet. Sometimes I wonder if it’s partly the non-local address. We’re close enough to Milwaukee that he can get up there for interviews, but the time off starts to add up after a while! We’ve talked about just moving, but have both been really hesitant about it.

  13. Just celebrated our second year after making this SAME move from upstate NY to Atlanta- SO WORTH IT! Weather is overrated when you’ve gotta start shoveling at the door after you’ve just reached the street so you can keep up with the snow….

    Strangely when I gave my notice at my job people I’d barely interacted with at work came and had long talks about how I was making an amazing decision, when I cancelled service with some local businesses it was the same thing- “you’re smart to get out of here ‘this is a dying place”. It was super weird that it KEPT happening but it really bolstered my confidence in our decision- the UNIVERSE WAS ON OUR SIDE!

    I have to say the first 6 months were pretty scary. Then everything seemingly fell like a waterfall with multiple amazing job opportunities for both of us that have put us into work and social circles we could never have enjoyed or imagined in NY! I’ll also say that I changed my Linkedin headline to read in all CAPS- “SEEKING JOB OPPORTUNITIES IN ATLANTA” and my city to ATL as well, and wound up getting contacted by a few recruiters-one of which brought me into my current awesome job!

    It’s a super scary time but hang in there and I’ll reiterate another commenters post, don’t be afraid to apply for entry level/low wage “fun” jobs. I went from a state job to working in a surprisingly fancy craft beer section of a grocery store for a few months. I got to slow down eating into my savings, get out and be sociable and had no job stress. Plus they were used to flakey teenagers, so it was super easy to call out because I got an interview, take a call in the break room, and quit by asking to just not be put on the schedule the following week. Wishing you so much luck! VIVA ADVENTURE!

  14. This may be a really dumb question, but a few people have said that they felt having a non-local address on their resume may have put off potential employers. Would it be acceptable (legally speaking) for someone to temporarily use a friend or relatives address that’s in the area where they are looking for work? Especially if they may actually stay at that address before getting a place of their own? I have no idea if this is okay or not, but it seems like it could help in some cases :/

    • I have no idea if it is legal or not but on the logistical end it could be problematic during the interview process. If I am currently living in California but applying for jobs in Chicago I wouldn’t want to put a Chicago (or suburban) address on my resume because getting to Chicago for an interview would be difficult if not impossible.

      That being said if I was already living in Illinois and applying for a position in Chicago that would probably go unnoticed because I could get to Chicago for an interview with relative ease.

      Also on another level if it gets found out that doesn’t make you sound terribly trustworthy to an employer and usually there is a 3-6 month probationary term where they can decide to fire you with little reason.

    • My husband’s company is moving him up to the Bay Area from our current location in So. Cal., which is super exciting for him, but I don’t have a job lined up yet. I’ve definitely been considering using his work address on my resume until we find a place up there. It would never have occurred to me that it WOULDN’T be okay – my only concern was that it isn’t a residential address!

    • One thing that I do is mention in the cover letter that I am planning to move to the area on x date, and if possible mention when you will be available to interview (like if you are visiting before you move to go house-hunting).

    • That’s what I did. I came to LA for two weeks, stayed with my Aunt in Seal Beach and used her address on job applications.
      I got a job during those two weeks, went back to Portland for 10 days, moved to LA and started two days later. It was a scary time, but I did it.

    • This has really been a concern to me I have heard people say “use a friend or family members address, or put on your resume that you are relocating”. I don’t have a friend or relatives address so I was just thinking of doing a resume and put relocating also I thought about just packing up and leaving.

  15. The hubs and I did this exact thing about eight months ago. He had just finished grad school, and I was working a job that I hated. We were living in Kentucky and not loving it, but the job fairy just hadn’t graced us with her presence. He had a few hopeful interviews, but none of them panned out. So, we decided that we could sit around and be unemployed in a place where we weren’t happy, or we could move to a place that we loved and take it from there. Oh, we got all the shocked “But you don’t have jobs yet!” comments. But you know what? Eight months later, we’re living in downtown Seattle and we’re happier than we ever have been. We both have jobs, and we’re having a blast. Take the leap. It took us a couple of months to get jobs here, but we got them. I’ve never been sorry about the decision we made to come here for even a second.

  16. Good luck! My husband and I decided to make the move back to the Detroit area (where we were originally from) without jobs in line and it worked out for us! He ended up with a job right away and I’m substitute teaching to make ends meet. It’s worth it, though, because we love this area so much! I may not be enjoying my work, but I’m still much more emotionally stable because of the move. πŸ˜‰

  17. Welcome to WA! Didn’t read all the comments so I’m not sure if you said where in the state you are going. I’m in SW WA (cowlitz co) and have found it much easier to find employment here because there simply are not as many well qualified candidates in areas far from 4 year universities. Quality of life is definitely different than Seattle or even Bellingham, but cost of living is cheap! Best of luck!

  18. So happy to read this!! The pre-husband and I are outside Baltimore, and lord is it expensive here! But we both grew up here and our family is here. We want to get OUT but have been wondering how much savings do we need, do we have to have a job first, lots of logistic stuff…super stressful. Add in some health issues, it’s super scary. But considering the options – move to PA for a LONG commute and nothing to do but cheap housing, stay here for crazy expensive housing or get the hell out to somewhere we both would like. I guess it’s just intimidating at 36 and 39! But I thank all of you for your stories. Am inspired to get the hell outta dodge even more!

  19. I second the substitute teaching thing, I did that for awhile and loved it…though the process to get signed up can sometimes take awhile (fingerprinting, etc). And I don’t think the Seattle school district takes non-teacher certified subs, but places south (like the Highline School District) do.

    And while it’s not fun to do fast food, places like Dicks Drive In are really good to their employees and pay over minimum wage. After 6 months I think they even give part-time employees benefits and tuition vouchers and childcare vouchers, too.

    And the YMCA of Greater Seattle always seems to have jobs open on their job board.

    You might also want to pop by one of the community colleges (I know Edmonds CC and Bellevue College) offer free career counseling services to anyone in the community regardless of student-status!

  20. This is exactly our plan when my husband gets out of the Air Force. We could have them shlep all of our stuff back to our home state (where we really don’t want to settle down in) and have the security of parents and family and a low cost of living OR we could have the United States Air Force ship all of our stuff to Colorado where my husband is planning on going to school to be a national park ranger (thanks for that idea Offbeat Home, you guys seriously make my life). But he will have no employment, just a prayer that six years of military service, an associates degree (working towards a bachelor’s) in environmental sciences and a park ranger certification will land him a job at one of the many parks in the state.
    Add to that terror the fact that we have two children and I don’t even want to think about the eyebrows we’ll raise. But such is the life of a recently separated airman I suppose. And we’d rather be somewhere we want to be, working towards a wonderful goal than stuck somewhere we’re not happy. Our main concern is that if we move back to TX to be close to family while he goes to school, it’ll only be that much harder to uproot again to get to Colorado (or equally awesome and beautiful state) and we’re far more likely to just settle where we are.
    Best of luck you guys!

  21. Just over four years ago, my now husband (boyfriend at the time) and I packed a UHaul, pulled all of our money of of savings (what little that we had at the time), and drove cross country from Michigan to Austin, TX. He had visited the city once a few months before we moved, and I had never been to Austin before we moved. Talk about scary! Also, neither of us had a job lined up or even an apartment to stay in when we moved. I landed a retail job at the same company I worked at in school immediately and it took another 6 months to land a job in my field. It took him about 8 weeks to get a job (and it was an internship at that), as he was just entering his field after college. We scraped by with our meager savings and minute income. Now four + years later, we are both gainfully employed and have even bought a house. It was the best decision we have ever made. It is scary but you can totally do it too.

  22. Ironically to some of the other posters, I’m planning a big, scary, jobless move in the next few months FROM Nashville TO Seattle. Nashville is a nice enough town but I’ve lived here since middle school and I’m ready for something different. Anyway, while doing my taxes this year I discovered something interesting:

    I knew that you could deduct moving expenses if you found a job before you moved, but you can also potentially deduct them if you find a job AFTER you move. Based on my research, as long as you find a job within a year of moving, you can deduct ALL your moving expenses on your taxes (although I would do your own research just in case you find differing information).

    Hope this helps! Good luck in Seattle!

  23. what a timely article. my husband lost his job literally yesterday. we live in the bay area which is crazy crazy crazy expensive. we were already living paycheck to paycheck and have plenty of bills. one of our kids just got into a school that’s doing wonders for her and it’s the only thing holding us back from leaving this expensive city. right now we are still definitely in triage mode but moving to a new area has to be a possibility.

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