Moving 1,200 miles from home

July 4th, 2014 was the first week I spent in Dunedin, Florida with Greg and his family- it was my first time ever visiting the west coast of Florida but Greg had been here before to visit his Aunt, Uncle, and cousins. I LOVED the area from the beginning, if you have never been here I recommend you book a trip now. I told Greg I wanted us to live there one day… even though he and I didn’t even live together at the time and wouldn’t for another year and a half in New Jersey. We would continue to visit every July to celebrate the 4th of July and January to go to Gasparilla- a pirate festival held in Tampa that attracts over 300,000 people every year.

As we were planning our trip for January 2017, Greg told me he was not going to be able to get off work to go this time; working in the medical field, my schedule is very flexible as I can swap a day and work on the weekend. I remember telling Greg I still wanted to go and he was surprisingly okay with the idea. My parents ended up coming along because they knew we loved the area so much and had talked about moving one day. The trip was great, like always, filled with beach days, shopping, and hanging out, but I did something I had never done before on this tip- I contacted a realtor to “see houses”, my excuse was that houses in Florida are VERY different from houses up North so I wanted to see what they were like. My parents, the realtor, Greg’s Aunt, and I headed out to look at houses the day before we were scheduled to leave, I fell in love with the first house but continued to look at 6 others; at the end of the day I requested to go back to the first house and was still in love- it was in a great neighborhood, a reasonable price for the area, 2 miles from the Gulf of Mexico which meant THE BEACH, 2 miles from downtown Dunedin which meant we could ride our bikes, 4 bedrooms so family could visit, a huge backyard for the area, and was just completely redone from top to bottom. I called Greg and said “Hi, I love you, and I love this house I went to look at”, his response “You’re crazy”. Houses in this area tend to sell within 1-2 weeks (this one was on the market for 3 days) so I explained to him that if we put in an offer, the house would be “ours” for 2 weeks so I could come home, we could talk and decide what to do. Greg is the most easy-going, go with the flow go guy (I’m so lucky to have that trait in a husband) and agreed. I called and did it… I placed an offer on a house while I was on vacation, a house Greg hadn’t even seen (to be fair before he said yes, I sent pictures and a video walk through). The next morning, as I was boarding the plane to go back to New Jersey, I got a counter offer, literally walking on the plane I called Greg who said to go for it, called them back, and accepted the offer! Sitting on the plane I was thinking “Is this the right thing to do? Are we really going to move 1,200+ miles from 99% of our friends and family?” We are both so close to our entire families and will be starting over if we move- new jobs, new friends, new state, new temperatures, new everything!

I get back to our 750 sq ft apartment in Jersey, in the cold, with a view of a parking lot- wanting to be back in Florida already. We talked it over and the decision was a little scary but we knew if we didn’t make a move now, we would get married, have kids, and then possibly never move- there is always an excuse for why you shouldn’t make a huge life change, right? I felt that the spontaneous decision was exactly what we needed! We agreed that if we ended up not liking Florida we would move back; if 1 of us was unhappy we could not stay as it would probably cause fights and make things worse.

Buying a house in a different state is difficult and I’ll be honest, causes a lot more stress- everything is done through e mail/the phone so I recommend if you are thinking of doing this get a folder and keep everything together- we were unable to fly down from when we bought the house to when we moved in, looking back I would have made that possible. We were not able to be there during the inspection which also caused some issues, the day we moved into our house we had no electric in 1 room, our problem now as it “passed during inspection”.

As for moving our belongings, we used the company PODS which was the most convenient option and I would 100% recommend. Basically, they drop off a storage container at your house (you can pick from 3 sizes), you load it up, call them, they pick it up and deliver it to your destination of choice, and then you unload it. I believe it took about 3 days for it to go from New Jersey to Florida – we were on a vacation in Europe so luckily Greg’s family unloaded it for us, still thankful for them! We got the largest POD although were told the smallest could fit a small apartment and is the size of an elevator. We filled the largest POD… other than bathroom/kitchen/personal items we had: 2.5 bed room sets, a couch with 2 chairs, and a dining room table with 8 chairs- not all of this was in our apartment as we were moving to a bigger house. PODS has insurance on their containers which we also liked but some rules which caused Greg to have to drive down with a U-haul. You are unable to put anything with gas in them even if it is empty- no grills, no motorcycles, no lawn equipment, etc. Something else to make note of is rules of the town/neighborhood. Our neighborhood has an HOA and only allowed the POD to be in our driveway for 4 days which is why we had people empty it while we were on vacation.

I shipped my car so I could fly and probably used the worst company out there- I don’t remember the name but they were based out of New York, I erased it from my memory. I based my choice off website reviews and the price, don’t do that, do more research than I did because looking back every review on the website was the name of someone I talked to. If I talked with John S. on the phone then John S. had a 5/5 review on the website, if I talked to Barbara M. then she had nothing but great things to say on the website reviews and would “book them again in a heartbeat”. Doing more research, I found the terrible reviews. My car wasn’t damaged or anything but the experience was horrible- communication sucked, they tried to change the price, they were late picking up my car (again we were on vacation so a friend sat all day waiting for them to pick it up), and they were 2 days late dropping it off so I had limited ways to get around once in Florida.

Jobs. While on the vacation back in January 2017… you know, the one responsible for this move, I also reached out to a few rehabilitation centers. I basically sent e mails explaining that I was thinking of moving to Florida and if they believed they would have a job opening within the next 6 months, I would like to come take a tour/meet the staff- 1 place got back to me, how disappointing. Anyway, I set up a time to meet and fell in love with the facility; I knew I would learn so much as an Occupational Therapist working there. It was only 18 minutes from Dunedin which was also a plus. Unfortunately, the Director of Rehab said she did not foresee any job openings but if I wanted to fill out an application for PRN (as needed work) I could for when I moved, so I did. March 2017, I get an e mail that stated a full time OT job was opening up and asked if I was interested, heck yes! but we were not moving for another 4 months. I explained my situation and she said “Lets go through the interview process and if you are the right fit for the job then we will hold it for you”, is this real? This is perfect! I go on 2 phone interviews and end up getting the job which was a huge relief, I was to start July 2017. Greg worked with a recruiter and landed an Accounting job before we moved as well- all of his interviews were through Skype. We are both still at the same companies and have grown from our jobs.

It has been a year and 10 months since moving to Florida and we love it- we aren’t sure if this is our “forever” place in the states but as for now this is home. We have had visitors or either been back up North almost every month of living here which might sound like a lot but it helps with being homesick- we also have each other and so many great friends that fill our weekends with adventure.

Planning a National Park Honeymoon

Planning a trip to a National Park or planning your honeymoon, I am here to help! I have already done the work and hope you can take something from this. Be aware, this is long but can be helpful!

Greg and I have always loved to travel, especially together- we met in Europe, vacationed in the Bahamas, traveled back to Europe together, and went on many local weekend trips together. While talking about our honeymoon we realized we have seen more of Europe than the USA. We decided our honeymoon would consist of renting an RV and traveling to various National Parks out west.

I am writing this before we go on our honeymoon- this was the planning process and our itinerary, I will write another post after the honeymoon regarding tips, things I wish we knew, what I would do different, etc. (Stay tuned!)

The first part of our planning process was deciding when to visit. We knew we wanted to visit during the warmer season but also had a lot to think about: summers at the National Parks are crowded (people have said they felt like they were at Disney, not appealing to us!), some parks remain closed up until the end of May or beginning of June due to the snow not melting, traveling during a holiday probably isn’t the best idea, and deciding when we could afford to take 3 weeks off work was huge. After much talk, we decided our trip would be June 2019.

Second. We have set the dates, now what? Where do we want to go?… or should I say where can we really go during our 18 days without being on the road every day and being able to relax… I mean this is our honeymoon. We looked at a map and realized in order to get the most out of our days, starting in California will be best.
After researching multiple parks, we decided our trip will include: Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Grand Teton while making a day stop at Horseshoe Bend (20-minute detour while traveling from Grand Canyon -> Zion). Now, if you are reading this thinking “What, why aren’t they going to (INSERT PARK HERE)?!”, listen, if we could, we would literally quit our jobs and visit every park but that is not possible right now… we will visit every park, just give us time; our 2nd trip is already in the works.
Thanks to Google Maps, we were able to see the distance between each park and plan how long we could stay to make the best out of our time. Planned is: 10 days of no driving AT ALL and 8 days that requiring driving (average of 3 hours with 2 days that have a 10-hour drive).

Third. How do we get around? Okay this process was much more stressful than anticipated mainly because we were not planning a “round trip”, we knew we wanted to start in 1 state and end in another. CRUISE AMERICA offered this option but we had to get special permission as they must keep specific inventory at each one of their rental locations (this is much more complicated than “special permission”, it required us to change our trip about 10 times… no lie, before they gave us permission). Their cheapest RV to rent was the 7 passenger RV but that was 1: way too much space for the two of us and 2: way too big of an RV for us “first time RV drivers” to drive. The rental we ended up booking was the 19-foot compact RV that holds up to 3 people (much more expensive than the 7 passenger- around $2,000)- don’t worry, it has a shower, a toilet, and a small kitchen!

Fourth. Yay, the “when and where” is booked, now time to book the flights. Let me tell you, the app SkyScanner is AMAZING. Enter your: From/To locations and your travel dates and the app will do the rest including: tell you when prices are expected to rise/go down, and give a 1-10 point rating based on details such as when you will arrive, if there is a layover, price, etc. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
For our trip, we will be flying from Tampa to San Jose and then Salt Lake City to Tampa (we got our flights for $193 each heading to San Jose and then $177 each heading home to Tampa).
Our flights also were based on where rental locations for Cruise America were located (Newark, CA and Salt Lake City, UT). 

Wait, where are we going to sleep?  Yes, we have the RV but where will we park? The fifth part was booking RV sites. If you are reading this and plan to travel within the next 6 months, book now, Yosemite National Park fills up the day they open reservations!!! For real, call or look on RECREATION.GOV for more information- we found it was way easier to call rather than look on the website (877- 444-6777), you can talk to someone who knows more about the area and they can do a search of multiple campgrounds at once. We booked our trip 6 months out and only got into 2/4 National Park Campgrounds, Lodgepole Campground at Sequoia for $22 a night and Mather Campground at Grand Canyon for $18 a night (they are much cheaper than regular RV parks and campgrounds so we would have liked to get in more- Bryce National Park and Grand Teton are “first come first serve” so we will be heading there… still unsure of where we will sleep if they are full).
** Call the number above even if it says the campground is full, especially if you are staying more than a night. We have to change campsites at one location but we are able to be in the park.
** Make sure you research the rules of the campground ahead of time and plan, most do not let you run an RV generator during the night.

Sixth. The big details are done but now, what are we going to do to fill our days? How are we doing to enjoy the parks in the time we have?
So… I am a planner, I like to do my research, and spend way too much time looking up information but can you blame me? I want to make sure we are making the most out of our time. I wrote down each park name followed by certain information including: best time to visit, average temperature in June so we know what to pack/wear, common attractions, best things to do, where to stay, tips, things to remember, etc. (Greg and I also bought a National Park Adventure Guide off of Amazon that has the “Top 10 Things to Do” in each park, find it here -> NATIONAL PARK GUIDE BOOK).
Here is what we have planned at each park knowing this will not take up our entire time but will allow for free time to explore and get recommendations from locals:

  1. Yosemite National Park- Mirror Lake Trail, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Loop, Tunnel View
  2. Sequoia National Park- Moro Rock Trail, Congress Trail, Big Tree Trail, Tunnel Log, Topokah Trail
  3. Grand Canyon National Park- Ooh Aah Point/Cedar Ridge, Bright Angel Trailhead, Mule Barn, Grandview Point Lookout
  4. Horseshoe Bend- Sightseeing
  5. Zion National Park- Narrows Hike, Angels Landing, Emerald Pool Hiking Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail
  6. Bryce National Park- Navajo/Queens Garden Loop, Sunset Point, Tower Bridge Hike
  7. Grand Teton National Park – SNAKE RIVER LUNCH RAFT TRIP, Colter Bay Village Marine kayak/boat rental, 42 Mile Scenic Route.

** Greg and I have done some leisure hikes while we lived in NJ so all of these listed above are at most considered “moderate”, like I said I will be writing another blog about our trip/hikes once we return.
** Some hikes in the park require a permit, do some research before you go… none of these require a permit.

Seventh, packing list. I think this is the worst part, right? Each park has a different average temperature listed in June so I know I am going to over pack, not like anyone ever does. Other than clothes, here are some essentials: backpack (preferably one with a water bag to stay hydrated), hiking shoes, bug spray, flashlight, copy of you license, rain jacket, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, portable battery pack, medication (you don’t want to get a headache or feel sick while you are on a 6 mile hike), National Park annual pass (worth it if you plan on going to 3 or more parks in a 1 year period), snacks, first aid kit., etc.

Eighth. RELAX BECAUSE YOUR TRIP IS PLANNED AND START A COUNTDOWN!

Things to remember: make sure someone has a copy of your exact itinerary, you’ll want to plan on checking in but be aware you may not have service everywhere you plan to go, let them know!   

Our tri-pawed pup Nash

Follow his journey on IG @not.so.ordinary.nash

Greg and I are so lucky to have Nash in our family. Many people say we saved him but we believe he saved us.

Last October was just a normal day scrolling through Instagram, I know you’ve gotten stuck in this situation before… I came across a picture of a 3 week old black lab puppy, Nashville or Nash for short, featured by @talesofalab. The picture was posted in search of a home for Nash who was living in Las Vegas, Nevada at the time. Nash was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his paw which resulted in a club paw, making him function on 3 legs. As you can remember, October 2017 was the Route 91 shooting in Las Vegas, where 58 people lost their lives and many more were injured. The community came together to help the victims and their families so little was available to help local animals during this time… including Nash who veterinarians said would have to undergo an amputation of his front right leg, estimated at $2,500. Because of the estimated costs of current and future vet bills, Nash was having trouble finding a home… until I saw his post. I immediately contacted the page who put me in contact with his owner, from there we had 2 phone interviews. I explained how not only were Greg and I looking to expand our family but how I am an Occupational Therapist and will provide the best life by loving and working with him and his “disability” (I really hate that term and use it loosely because if you ever met Nash you would see he is a 100% fully able dog). Greg was on board from the beginning and booked a round trip flight for the following Saturday (yes, out and back from Florida in 1 day); on November 5, 2017 Nash came to his “furever home”.

A year and a half later, Nash has proven to be the most energetic, loving, caring, and goofy dog we could have ever imagined; he is the best addition to our family and goes everywhere with us- some of his favorite activities are going to the dog beach and the dog bar- perks of living in a dog friendly town!

Nash helps with anxiety issues I have dealt with after being involved in a serious car accident and is a certified Emotional Support Animal. One day we would like to get him certified as a Therapy Dog because he also loves to visit my patients at work, some who are just like him- working with a “disability” but not letting it stop them.

** After meeting with an orthopedic surgeon in Florida when he was a few months old, it was determined Nash does not have to have his leg amputated unless issues arise later in life. He will stay with his club paw which makes him who he is today.

@agoldphoto

How We Met/ How He Asked

I believe everything happens for a reason. When I was 10 years old my Uncle taught me how to how to recite the numbers 1 through 10 in French. From that point on, I loved France and the idea of visiting someday. Naturally, by the time I reached high school, I picked French as my foreign language class. Being in French class had the benefit of hosting short-term exchange students. These opportunities continued to heighten my love for the foreign country and my hopes of visiting someday. Senior year of high school was difficult as I was determined to find a college that offered 4 important things: Occupational Therapy, cheerleading, a specific scholarship opportunity, and a study abroad opportunity in France. All of my searching paid off when I found Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA. I was so eager to take advantage of the study abroad trip I signed up for the Semester in France program which would take place during my 2nd semester of college. I was advised by many people to enjoy my first year of college and go my sophomore year but I was ready for the adventure.

January 20, 2011 finally came, the day I would start my semester abroad. Upon arriving in France, we all had to put our emergency contact numbers on a sign in sheet. Not knowing anyone else on the trip, I noticed there was someone else with the same zip code as mine. I was shy but I went up to Jake and introduced myself. After talking for a few minutes about common places we have both been, I saw this handsome guy with an amazing smile walking toward us; at that point Jake introduced me to his roommate Greg. I was instantly hooked. We clicked from the beginning and found ourselves having fun during the bus rides to and from and even during the field trips that took us around Spain and France. Greg was always my bus buddy and I looked forward to the drives because it meant more time with him. Classes were also a blast together, I eagerly offered to help him with his French homework (… do his homework). Fine arts class also provided us with time together working on assignments. My favorite assignment was when we were sent to The Louvre to find pieces of art work from our artists, Cézanne and Salvador Dalí. We found them instantly so we spent the remaining time exploring The Louvre and Paris together.

The 4 months in France went entirely too quick but I was able to spend them with Greg and really get to know him. At the end of the semester, we were faced with summer and a 3 hour distance between our homes- I am from Pennsylvania and Greg is from New Jersey.

We agreed to be friends but couldn’t stay apart. Greg came to visit me during the summer after I had surgery and we continued talking. We were lucky enough to go back to Saint Francis University together in the fall and began dating in January 2012. We had 2 amazing years together at school before beginning a long-distance relationship for 2 more years (I’ll touch on how to handle a long distance relationship later).

After graduating college and locking down a job, I moved to New Jersey to be with Greg in January 2016.

______________________________________________________________

My family and Greg were invited to the wedding of a former exchange student we had hosted back in 2009. With the wedding being held in France, we decided it would be the perfect opportunity to go back to where we met while studying abroad in 2011. It had been 6 years since we had been to the renovated 10th century Monastery where it all began. In May/June 2017, we spent a total of 17 days between Ireland and France and ended our vacation in Ambialet, France (where we met). This tiny town amid the Midi Pyrenees mountains is simply breathtaking. While studying abroad, Greg and I would often hike to a lookout where you could sit and take in the amazing views of the town. We both agreed that during our visit, we would take a few nice pictures in this spot because of the memories it holds. The morning of the proposal started out like any other day and around 6pm we made our way to the lookout where we enjoyed the scenic views, talked about old memories, and took some pictures. Before we decided to head back, Greg asked for one more photo. It was at this moment that Greg got down on 1 knee and asked me to marry him with the most beautiful ring I have ever seen.

Meet Meg and Greg


Hi! My name is Meg. I am a 28 year-old, wine/dog/adventure loving, Florida living girl. I have been an Occupational Therapist for 4 years and love what I do, 90% of the time (…does anyone like excessive amounts of paperwork?!). I married my best friend, Greg, in 2018 after being together for almost 7 years. In November of 2017, Greg and I adopted our tri-pawed pup, Nash, who has been a great addition to our family.  

We welcomed our first baby into this world, Cade, on February, 29, 2020 and cannot wait to show him the world! (His entire life has been spent in quarantine so far so you can only imagine how much we want to get him out there… when the timing is right)

I am not exactly sure why I decided to start a blog, but I did, so here we go! I want to educate, provide advice, and help with what I can through experiences these past 27 years- while also having fun.