The West is the Best | Life in Portlandia

by Kaitlin on November 20, 2012 · 24 comments

I’m starting to think we should have considered a more appropriate name for this blog. Perhaps something along these lines would have been more fitting:

OnceWeLivedOutOfTwoBackpacks-AndThenWeMovedToATinyApartmentInPortland.com

I digress.

 A while ago I promised a life update. I’m finally following through.

Ready? Here goes: we moved across the country to Portland, Oregon! Brian was offered a job with Icebreaker (a New Zealand Company, oddly enough) and subsequently found an adorable studio apartment next to one of the many local breweries (coincidence? I think not).

Our kitchen

Diagram 1: Our kitchen. Despite my initial reaction, I dig the red.

Our studio divider

Diagram 2: Our attempt to divide our studio into living quarters.

I’ve been here for 18 days. Here are the few things I have noticed so far:

  1. I’m not very hip  (I knew this already, but the high concentration of hipsters in this city serves as a daily reminder. Do you think I get a few hip points now that I’ve started using Instagram? I’m probably too far behind the trend).
  2. It’s a really small world (this, too, I already knew, but when I found out that our Australian neighbor lived in the same small town as us in Western North Carolina and ran into a friend of Brian’s from college at a random bus stop on the same day, my small world belief was reconfirmed).
  3. I’m head over heels in love… with IKEA. I think the term “retail therapy” was likely coined there.
  4. I can count the men I’ve seen without beards on one hand.
  5. It really does rain quite a bit (If my memory serves me right, it has rained 17 of my 18 days here. Today is no exception, with this strange rotating pattern of moments of bright sun followed by extreme downpour. My conclusion: Mother Nature is menopausal).
The one day it didn't rain in Portland I went up to a Joseph Woodhill Park to get a view of Mount Hood

Here's a photo of the day it didn't rain. I stumbled upon Joseph Woodhill Park. Look closely, you can see Mount Hood between the trees!

My lack of hip-ness doesn’t bother me and I don’t really mind the rain too much, although my poor husband would certainly tell you differently. Sentences like “how does anyone live here?” and “I read somewhere that it isn’t going to stop until at least July…” have left my lips on multiple occasions. In actuality, however, I’m just avoiding my real underlying questions, such as “why do I live here” and “what in the world am I supposed to do with myself now?”

I think what I’m experiencing could be called a quarter-life existential crisis (no, I’m really not quite as dramatic as I sound, I just like the shock value). From what I’ve gathered, this is common phenomenon among long-term travelers after returning home.

I’m fully aware of what a fortunate conundrum this is. I’m asking myself questions like “am I ready for grad school?” and “what type of work will I find fulfilling and challenging?” instead of “where will I find my next meal?” I try hard never to take my circumstance for granted. There are so many options, I only hope to make the most of my “one wild and precious life.” I really don’t want to disappoint Mary Oliver.

Between my job/soul searching I’ve had a lot of time to read. I’ve resonated with this passage from James Kavanaugh’s “There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves” which Brian passed on to me years ago. Perhaps other’s may find some solace here as well:

“Some people do not have to search, for they find their niche early in life and rest there, seemingly contented and resigned. They do not seem to ask much of life, sometimes they do not seem to take it seriously. At times I envy them, but usually I do not understand them. Seldom do they understand me.

I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers and lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know–unless it be to share laughter.

We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we want to love and be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or to compete for love.

This is for wanderers, dreamers and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.”

For now, Brian is enjoying his new job and I’m continuing to look for work (in case you’ve seen this: no, I did not come here to retire and yes, all the hot girls wear glasses) and other ways to get involved in this new, exciting city. I have to admit, it does feel good to know we aren’t going anywhere for a while (remind me I wrote that the next time I get bit by the travel bug).

A collection of our favorite travel photos hanging on the wall of our new apartment

My remedy for the post-travel blues: a collection of a few of our favorite photos framed on the kitchen wall. It's impossible not to smile when I'm looking at these.

Have any of you visited or lived in Portland? I would love to hear your stories, tips and suggestions on what to see and do here! 


About the author: Kaitlin

Kaitlin is one of the two backpacks currently galavanting her way around the globe with her husband Brian. She loves adventures of any kind (especially if they involve getting into the wilderness), exploring vegetarian foods in different cultures, and meeting people from around the globe. Her goal in writing for this site is to inspire people to take risks, define their own life rules, and be happy and healthy while doing it.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Kurt November 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm

The west coast is a totally different vibe from the Far East of NY. If Portland is anything like Seattle it will never, ever stop raining. Except, as you correctly said after around end of July or beginning of August then follow by two months of sheer beautiful weather.

Best of luck with the job market.

Reply

Kaitlin November 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Thanks, Kurt! I knew the rain rumors I’ve heard were true. Right after I posted this I left the coffee shop where I’d been working and there was a huge rainbow in the sky. I’m trying to find as many perks of the rain as possible, but that’s the only one I have so far. Let us know if you make it out this way!

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Zoe November 21, 2012 at 1:59 am

I love Portland. I went to school at Reedand then lived there for three years after I graduated. I must say, Portland summers are MUCH better than Seattle’s. It actually gets warm, even hot in Portland…sometimes for months at a time. In my experience, Portland summers are in the 80′s, with a week of 90′s to 100. And the summer will actually last for three months, but you’ll get a nice spring and fall, too. Seattle summers are 70′s if you’re lucky, with maybe a month of 80′s. It does rain a lot in Portland, but you also get more changeable weather, and it’s overcast less often than Seattle. I don’t have facts to back this up, but in my experience (and I am definitely a sun-loving girl) Portland beats Seattle, hands down. Cool stuff to do: check out the Hawthorne and Belmont districts near SE 39th, visit the Japanese gardens, check out the view of Mt Hood from the Lewis and Clark campus, hike around Forest Park and catch the Rose Gardens…great year round, but they start getting fabulous in June, catch a show at the Crystal Ballroom or the Aladdin, try the beer at McMenamins, get a pile of very good, cheap Mexican food at Cha Cha Cha, wander around the artsy Pearl district on a First Thursday, stop in for tea on a rainy day at Tea Chai Te or the Tao of Tea, ride your bike along the Willamette River, go out for breakfast to Jam on SE Hawthorne or Mother’s Bistro in SW, check out Portland’s Taiko group, get sushi at Saburo’s in Sellwood, go antiquing in Sellwood, take a day or weekend trip to Mt Hood or the ocean…the list goes on. Hmm, maybe I should write a blog post :) Enjoy!

Reply

Kaitlin November 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Hey Zoe! Those are some great recommendations! I’m glad you mentioned Cha Cha Cha. We’ve been faced with an unfortunate scenario in which the gas company and our landlord had a bit of a miscommunication which resulted in our inability to cook dinner. I think we’ll take your suggestion because there is nothing better than good, cheap Mexican food (side note: if you ever make it to Asheville, NC, you must go to Papas and Beer!). Let us know if you write a Portland blog post, I would love to read it! Best of luck in your travels!

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Molly November 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm

We’re right there with you! (Not physically with you of course but mentally :) )

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Kyle Kranz January 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I work for a Portland based brand (SKORA Running) but have yet to move to out there since my wife is in a teaching contract in South Dakota. We are just waiting and hoping she gets hired in PDX next year.

However, in preparation for that day…I’ve been watching Portlandia and trying to dress as hipster as possible. Coastal.com was doing a promotion where your first pair of glasses was free, so I got the largest framed most hipster looking glasses I could find.

Kyle @ SkoraRunning.com

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Dan December 20, 2013 at 2:16 am

Hey there! I liked reading about the hipster overwhelmness (that’s a word now!), haha… I lived up north closer to Seattle but I’ve been to Portland a few times and it truly is a city that grows on you … I understand you’ve been there awhile now, but it was fun reading about your first impressions. I’m in China TEFLing currently so I loved the post “There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves” … I related a lot to it… Happy travels and good luck with warding the travel bug away!

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