How does one accomplish a cross country move when 2020 has easily been one of the most horrendous years in the history of the United States? I was thinking about how drastically and quickly things had changed on my drive home the other day. Specifically, I was thinking about how the term “social distancing” so quickly became a commonplace. It feels like it was forever ago when I thought, “What is social distancing?” But that was just a wee 7 months ago when I was introduced to that term!

In May, I graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Veterinary Medicine. My college did the best that they could under the circumstances to give us some semblance of graduation. If you had told 5 -year-old me that I would graduate from vet school in my living room… I would have laughed you to shame. I decided not to throw myself a pity party because being able to graduate at all was a blessing. If nothing else, I think many of us found a new appreciation for the lives that we led and the need for social interaction. Considering there was a novel virus spreading across the world wreaking havoc and taking countless lives; not having real graduation was the least of my worries.

Dr. Laria J Herod, DVM

Where do we go from here?

Since July of 2019, I had been working on figuring out where we would be continuing our story post-graduation. It was such an intimidating time because the companies were pretty much like, “pick where you want to go”. Certainly, a wonderful problem to have, but one I was not at all prepared for. Tennesse is the only place I have ever lived! Never had I ever truly considered living anywhere other than Tennessee. I was born on one end of the state and then spent 7 years across the state furthering my education. Ironically, I have always joked about living in Texas because everybody from Memphis either moved to Georgia or Texas. As a wife, mother, and almost veterinarian, I knew that I had to do some real research into this decision.

My husband and I were easily in agreement on several things:

  • No places that get super cold with a ton of snow.
  • Nowhere that doesn’t have a large city in close proximity.
  • No places known for natural disasters.

Other than these things, there was lots of flexibility. In implementation, this helped to rule out lots of places! After talking to several regional recruiters, we narrowed it down to two metro areas in 2 states: Arlington/Forthworth, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona. What’s crazy about us coming to this conclusion is that neither of us had been to either of these places! I had been to Texas, but not Arlington. And my husband had never been to either! With these things in mind, I scheduled my externships during my clinical year in both of these locations so that I could check them out. Each externship was 2 weeks, so we planned to have my family fly out each trip so that we could explore.

Fun in the Arlington, TX sun before going to the pool!

The Verdict

After several stressful months and many monkey wrenches thrown in our plans, we decided to take our talents to Arizona! In retrospect, choosing where we wanted to go turned out to be the easiest part of our journey getting here. Now, we have to navigate a cross country move!

We ended up doing a weekend trip to AZ 3 weeks before my externship in Arlington, Texas. I wouldn’t go back to AZ until after I had already accepted my position.

We purchased our home in Knoxville, TN right before I started my 1st year of veterinary school. While we always knew in our hearts that it wasn’t our forever home, we had a hard time deciding if we wanted to sell it or keep it as a rental property. Maintaining a rental property from 27 hours away would be difficult, but certainly not impossible! We got a few quotes from property management companies to weigh our options. We also went back and forth about whether being able to purchase a home in Arizona would be a deal-breaker for us. What do I mean?

9 months, 22, & 24 year old us buying our 1st house in Knoxville, TN

Well, I am opposed to the concept of renting when buying is feasible. I prefer to invest in myself and my family rather than pay someone else’s mortgage. We were mortified at the prospect of moving into a rental property temporarily and then having to move into a house once we found one. We also were uncomfortable with the idea of renting somewhere while still paying the mortgage for a house we would not be occupying until we could sell it (or rent it). I could have found a job in Knoxville and kept our house for all that trouble! These things in mind, we decided that we would not move if we could not close on a house.

The House Hunt Begins!

Fortunately, getting approved for a loan wasn’t an issue. The problem was finding a house that met our goals. I looked at several houses while I was in Arizona for my externship. Despite working 40 hours in a foreign place, I made sure to look at 5-8 houses each day depending on how much sunlight we had to get it done! There was also the caveat of being unsure of how the timing of purchasing a house would play out since we were still a few months out from graduation.

Because we were unable to find a house during my externship that we were willing to commit to, when I returned home, we were faced with the reality of purchasing a house in a new state sight-unseen. Because of my rigorous clinic schedule, finances, and then COVID-19, flying to AZ to look at potential houses was 100% out of the question if we wanted to be able to afford the house and move to it!

Sorely discouraged, we stopped looking at houses for a while. What was the point? Are we really going to buy a house we’ve never seen in person? During this time, we were under the impression that we had to rely on images and video tours to get a feel for these houses. Thankfully, a real estate agent who showed me several houses while I was there for my externship offered to do FaceTime tours with us! Obviously, it was not a perfect solution, but it was the best we could do while pushing forward with our plans!

Running Out of Time!

I don’t think I have the mental capacity to quantify how many houses we looked at. We even put in an offer on one just to receive a very insulting counteroffer before walking away. With my start date quickly approaching and still no place to stay, we continue searching. Patiently waiting for the perfect buy to come onto the market. FINALLY! 4 weeks before my start date, a house that checked all of our major boxes came onto the market right in our price range. It was a little farther than we were comfortable with, but over the course of this house hunt, we accepted that we would have to go farther out to get the size we wanted in our price point.

I don’t know how familiar you are with the Arizona housing market, but houses that are priced well usually get several offers within a day or 2. This house was no exception! We put in an offer, as did 4 others. Everything about this transaction was.. odd. Yes, odd is the word I’m going to use.. BUT after a million-odd situations, we finally closed on the house! In the midst of this pandemic, I pushed my start date back another month to accommodate closing and moving. I packed up enough to keep my daughter and myself entertained and I drove 27 hours to Arizona to close on our new house!

Everything that could have gone wrong during closing did, but that is all irrelevant because we did indeed close!

Facing Fear Head on!

A couple of weeks later, my husband stepped out on faith, quit his job, and drove 27 hours to be with us in Arizona. His drive was a bit more stressful than mine because he was tasked with bringing the rest of our belongings. While I had my doubts, I can admit when I was wrong. He did a great job with the huge task I had given him! We were 1000% uncomfortable with the idea of him having to quit his job without already having another job lined up, but it was the only way to be together. I’m sure you’ve heard to saying good things come to those who wait for it? In our case, good things came to us because we were willing to bet on each other!

Mutual trust and respect are a pillar in our marriage. Since I had been in school for the majority of our marriage, Brad had always been the breadwinner. When we realized that we were actually going to close on this house, we had to have a serious conversation about our moving plan. Naturally, Brad wanted to come with us for closing and we would all move into together; you know, in an ideal world. Because of our unique situation, that wasn’t the best move. We agreed to have him stay behind for a couple of weeks to minimize the amount of time that both of us would be without an income. I’ll be frank: it sucked. But I 100% would do it the same way again if I had to.

Reunited in front of our new home!

In Spite

In spite of fear, in spite of worry, in spite of uncertainty, and in spite the pandemic, we managed to purchase our second home 27 hours away from our first! At 26 and 28 years old! Little did we know, our next challenges would be even more daunting than this: dealing with damages to our new home, job hunting for hubby, and selling our first home all while starting a new job for me, finding new schools for Muffin, and getting to know a new city for all of us!

If anybody could do all of these things, it would definitely be the SquallyMuffin Fam! If you want to hear more about our next obstacles, leave a comment below!

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