This trip started out as somewhat of a daydream. It’s one of those ideas you toy around with in your head and think wouldn’t that be fun? Then it sits with you for a while, it builds up and one day you get to a point where you have to make a life decision and suddenly the thought of living out a “fantasy” doesn’t seem so unattainable.
For me, that moment came when mine and Keith’s lease on our Astoria apartment was coming to an end this last December.
We moved into our apartment January 2020. It was our first apartment together and we chose to live in Astoria, because Keith was opening a bar with the company he worked with for five years a few blocks away. I was also starting a new job in TriBeCa. I grew up in Manhattan and Keith had been living in the city for about 7 years. We both love New York. We had no plans of leaving anytime soon.
Then COVID happened. Bars in the city shut down and I ended up working extremely long in person days. I rode my bike to and from work over the 59th street bridge 5 days/week. It was a 20 mile roundtrip ride. It was exhausting. I’d be out of the house anywhere from 12-16 hours/day. Some weeks I even lived at work, because traveling back and forth between Astoria and Manhattan every day seemed sketchy. This was back when COVID was totally new and people in the city didn’t leave their apartments for two weeks at a time and we sanitized our groceries before bringing them inside. It was when the hospitals were so overcrowded with bodies that you’d see images of body bags in city parks and uhaul trucks. We lived a few blocks away from Mt. Sinai in Astoria and the ambulance sirens were nonstop all day. At 7 PM, when the entire city would do the essential workers cheer, I would stand outside on my balcony crying and clapping. Those nights were both a mix of the saddest and most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced in the city. I’d never felt soo close to my fellow New Yorkers. It was a sad and hard time. It still is.
Then months passed and New York adapted to life in the city with COVID. People adjusted their lives and routines and kept moving just as New York always does. The problem is that some industries didn’t recover. 8 months later and Keith was still out of a job and I was burnt out. We were both stressed out in completely different ways. I was tired, overworked, cranky, stressed and to be honest probably pretty unpleasant to be around. Keith was stressed because he wasn’t working, he loved bartending in NY and that had been taken away from him. He needed a new direction in life, but had no idea what it would be.
Over Thanksgiving, we had to make the decision of whether or not to renew our lease come January 2021. Our building wanted to raise our rent $100/month and we were already paying a ridiculous amount, so we decided not to renew it. Then we were thinking well, where are we going to move? Do we really want to move to another apartment while COVID is happening and only one of us is working? Does that make sense? I made just enough money on my own to sign a new lease, but did I really want that financial burden? I didn’t want to live to work to pay rent. It didn’t make sense. So, we decided that the best thing to do was move out of the city.
We didn’t really know where we wanted to go. We toyed around with the idea of moving upstate and somehow starting a little organic farm, but that seemed expensive and overly ambitious. Then we came across a permaculture program in Costa Rica and decided it would be a cool experience. It would also be a good first step in case we did actually want to start our own farm one day. I lived in Costa Rica for a few months in 2019 and Keith had been down to visit me a few times, so it was familiar territory. It felt safe. At first the plan was to fly, but after thinking it through we realized that didn’t feel safe or responsible. So, we decided to drive. We felt it was the safest way to travel COVID wise AND we would be able to explore everything we wanted from NYC to Costa Rica. We’re both big into hiking and camping, so we figured we could adventure and maintain our distance.
So, I guess that’s why. We needed change. We needed clear heads. We needed more than our tiny space inside four walls. We needed perspective on where our lives were going and what was important to us. We needed to be reminded what life is about. Living. And I don’t mean living to buy material things that won’t mean anything to you on your death bed. I mean living to experience life, to have moments you remember forever and to be happy. If we hadn’t made this decision we’d both still be miserable. We’d be in the same situation we were in at our old apartment, but in a new one. New place same problems. We decided to act on these feelings instead of just complain about them.
While on the road now, Keith is back in school taking IT courses and I’m exploring my options. I’ll most likely be teaching English online and tutoring virtually while I figure out my next move. We’re both 31 and we figured if we didn’t do something like this now, we would never do it. Sometimes it’s easier to do nothing about something that makes you unhappy than to just get up and say fuck it and do something out of your comfort zone.