From the East to the West
February 18, 2018 4:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning to move from New Jersey to southern California by the end of the year. How do I pull this off? Advice would be much appreciated.

I recently came back from a trip to Los Angeles to visit a friend and I've decided I'd like to move out there. I'm 31, not married, no kids, my family is supportive of the decision, I have no debt and I really need to make a big change in my life. I have two friends (one is native to LA and the other is from NJ) who live there now. I'm going to be living with one of them when I get there but we'd like to find another place. I'm an artist and I'm intrigued in exploring what LA and California has to offer. I've already made my decision and I really want to make this work.

I'm planning to head out there a couple more times this year to find a place and job hunt. I'm also going to work temp jobs here to save as much as I can before I move out. Having no college degree and having no car when I'm over there worries me. I have a car now but it's definitely not going to make it over there - so I want to sell it.

How do people do this? What should I do? Am I going to have a horrible time trying to survive? I'm nervous and scared and excited. I probably sound like an idiot.

Thank you for your responses.
posted by morning_television to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How do people do this? What should I do? Am I going to have a horrible time trying to survive?

Are your concerns more about the logistics of a cross-country move in general, or more particularly about moving to Los Angeles (e.g., the car issue)? I'm assuming it's a mixture of both, but if you have some more specific questions, that might help with responses.

In terms of work: is there any type of work in particular that you're looking for? There are lots of bar/restaurant/service jobs in L.A. (like any city) that don't require a college degree.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 5:15 PM on February 18, 2018

Whoops, Sorry. A mixture of both.

What would be the smart way to job hunt? Before? After moving? Do people apply to jobs while still living on the other side of the country?

Is it possible to thrive in LA without a car? Should I plan on buying one once I'm set up there?

Is it pretty cheap to rent a truck and drive my things cross country to LA?

Are there ideal less expensive neighborhoods or cities surrounding LA that would be great for an artist who isn't making a lot of money at the moment?

What do LA people think of the public transportation? Is it good enough to rely on if I need to commute to work?

I've been working production artist/graphic design jobs for the past few years here in NJ. I have an interest in staying within the same path. Considering going to school there to a learn a trade so I can land a better paying job. But I'm not completely against working service jobs to get by.
posted by morning_television at 5:21 PM on February 18, 2018

If someone told me 17 years ago that I was giving up decent pizza, bagels, and pickles to live in LA... well, just mentioning it so you know what you're getting into.

Millions of people have done this, you can too. How much money will you have saved? Yes you need a car. Or enough money to uber or occasionally rent a car for longer trips.

Don't waste your time or money going back and forth. If you are moving, just move. It's easy to find housing if you can afford the rent. Try not to spend all of your time in one neighborhood. Get a practice going, that's a very LA thing and will give your life structure the first year.

Most jobs want to know that you have a car, but now maybe it's not as important with uber and lyft everywhere? Budget for a car. Don't work as an assistant if you want your own life.

Just save and move. You're overthinking a lot of this. No one is going to rent to you or hire you until you are physically in LA. You are going to experience culture shock, so if you are coming out here, rip the band-aid and get it over with.

The homeless situation right now is overwhelming, ditto the traffic situation. There's a lot of new construction, LA is undergoing huge changes. The homeless thing makes walking uncomfortable, sometimes it feels dangerous if you are female. I used to walk everywhere, not anymore. Never put heavy things up high, we have the potential for earthquakes. Always keep 10 days of food and water on hand. Every once in a while after it rains we get mudslides, try not to drive through canyons during the rain. Maybe it's just my neighborhood, but every once in a while a house collapses after it rains, or someone's backyard slides into the middle of the road. Major streets flood, too, I forgot about that. Also, we've had frequent wild fires the last 5 years. Good times.

Everything is very loosey goosey out here, and this gives you an edge in the job market. It will also slowly drive you bonkers. Every day is summer, tho, so you'll put up with that. And the lack of pizza, bagels, and pickles. Every Thanksgiving we go to the beach. It's not bad, just very different.
posted by jbenben at 5:29 PM on February 18, 2018

I'm planning to head out there a couple more times this year to find a place and job hunt.
Don't waste your money on multiple cross-country trips. Just move when you have a cash runway saved up. You need to be in LA to make everything else happen.
posted by missmary6 at 5:32 PM on February 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

Start visiting LA Craigslist to familiarize yourself with the area, job market, rentals, etc. Find out your future zip code and use it for searching other job sites.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:35 PM on February 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Just saw your update...

- There's a lot of crappy graphic design out here, so do whatever you need to do to brush up on your skills and portfolio. If you're decent, you can work.

- Public transportation is not going to get you anywhere meaningful or on time and it will crush your soul. Avoid.

- Live near where jobs are, so production houses and studios. Glendale might be cheaper and is on the edge of commutable to most of the places you might work. Burbank, Los Feliz, Frog Town, Atwater Village, Echo Park, SilverLake. WeHo still has some ok deals on apartments. Hollywood proper has a lot of congestion, but it might work for you. The subway is in Hollywood. DTLA is an artists hub! I almost forgot about that!!

You'll be fine if this is really what you want.
posted by jbenben at 5:40 PM on February 18, 2018

Not to be a downer but do be sure to save up as much $$ as you can before heading out there if you won’t have a job lined up first. I know a few people now who have moved from the east coast to west coast and failed miserably. One was my sister - she moved from NJ also to LA for a time, and did not save up nearly enough and had no solid plan other than to arrive in LA and stay with a buddy. She then spent 2 years trying to find work, living on and off with friends, before finally selling a bunch of her possessions just to move away again.

The point is - make a solid plan, and save up enough money. I think you can do this, just spend time planning and saving. I second using LA Craigslist now, start to get a feel for the area, jobs, and rentals.

You asked about truck...when I moved from PA to OR, we looked into all the moving options and eventually settled on ABF U-Pack. This was several years ago now, but that ended up being our cheapest and best option (we looked into truck rental too, and traditional moving companies). They were pretty awesome. Things may have changed so be sure to compare all your options and ask about hidden fees, etc.

Good luck!
posted by FireFountain at 5:46 PM on February 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who worked her way through college as an adult who did really, really well working in the restaurant industry as a server, working nights. She made as much as me working four days a week in high end restaurants (and I had a degree and F/T work) . The work was really hard, but she was good at it and did insanely well with tips. If that's an option for you, might want to consider that while you get the artistic job you want.

You're lucky to know people out here - that makes a huge difference. You have automatic access to networking in person and meeting more people when you get here.

I can't agree with jbenben more about living near where you work. LA traffic is absolute hell - that's not an understatement - and you must be prepared for that. Public transportation is not an option.
posted by onecircleaday at 5:46 PM on February 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Gas, mileage, food, and lodging needed for driving a U-haul 3,000 miles costs about the same as hiring a U-haul pod to haul your stuff for you and taking a plane to LA and letting the pod follow you. If you have a car, you have to sell it and buy a new one on the other side, or ship it (costs $1500-$2000), or tow it behind the U-haul, or drive yourself. You should work out the logistics in terms of time and money for a variety of strategies: pod, buy car in LA, plane? drive Uhaul possibly towing a car? Sell car, buy better car, drive it across the country with only what fits inside? Ballpark the costs and see what seems reasonable to you.

I strongly suggest getting a job first. People do get jobs across the country-- that is why I am in NY and not SF right now. Landlords prefer employed tenants. When they ask you in the interview why you're looking, you have a really easy answer-- "I just can't handle another winter!"

Either way, time is currently on your side-- you are currently employed and housed, so you can save up money and job-search simultaneously. If you get a great opportunity and you can afford to move to take it, go for it. If you don't get a great opportunity, but you saved up a chunk of money, great, you can move with that OR just enjoy having a chunk of money.

I grew up in Pasadena and it's a really nice place, but you can't live there without a car, which is one reason I left when I was 18 and never went back. An hour or more in commuting in the car one-way is normal. Everyone has a car and everyone assumes you have a car, and everything is 45 minutes in the car from everything else, which everyone thinks is normal. They will literally ask you if you own a reliable car in the job interview.

What jbenben says about earthquakes and mudslides is true; in some places you have to worry about the Santa Ana winds and wildfires, too-- not so much in LA itself, but in the outer limits, yeah. The food is better if you like fresh produce. Having had both, I don't think there's a significant difference between the pizza and bagels on either coast, but if you do, console yourself with some avocados!
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:38 PM on February 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

My preferred yoga studio is under 5 miles from my house and it takes me between 25 to 45 min to drive there. I budget for 45 min. I have been asked in job interviews if I have a car, absolutely.
posted by jbenben at 7:19 PM on February 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Penske truck. $499 five days unlimited mileage. That wasnfor a 22 foot truck, I ended up with a 26 footer because of a defect in the one I leased. You can get a tow platform and drag your car over behind the truck.
posted by Oyéah at 7:31 PM on February 18, 2018

Please check out the cost of housing. It's mind boggling. I don't know what it's like where you are but the rents out here are off the scale. You will almost certainly by sharing your digs because you probably won't be able to afford anything by yourself.
posted by charlesminus at 9:51 PM on February 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

jbenben has a really great download for a newcomer to LA, so review that first! I often forget how big a shock to the system it can be to experience your first earthquake. :)

It's great that you have a friend to stay with at first, and a couple a friends to turn to for help making the transition and answering questions on the day to day stuff, so I highly doubt you will have a horrible time trying to survive. If you're committed to this move, you can make this move work and be glad you did!

My biggest piece of advice is make sure you have a healthy chunk of savings to put towards this move and to give you a safe financial cushion for the first few months. General financial advice about emergency savings applies, in addition to moving out here and getting settled will almost certainly cost you more than you're expecting, especially if you don't have prior experience with making a big move. There's the cost of getting you and your stuff out here, plus the deposit and first month's rent on your apartment, perhaps a car, car insurance, furniture, a buffer in case you don't find a stable job right away, you lose your phone or some other unexpected bill(s) or expense(s) pops up... the list goes on. Everyone's different, but likely your standard of comfort at age 31 is higher than it was at age 21 and you'll want to budget for that accordingly. Also: buy stuff used. Craigslist, garage sales, and thrift stores will be your friend for your furnishing needs.

There is a chance you may want a car eventually, but I will provide a counter viewpoint that you can have a life without a car in LA these days, depending on where you live and work and what your interests are. I know quite a few people who get by without a car. A bunch of them moved here from another part of the country sans children. My partner is one of them. He's lived here for over a decade and has never had a car. It takes forethought, and being okay with turning down activities some of the time, but it's certainly doable to live car-free between public transport and services like Zipcar and WaiveCar.

With that said, yes, you'll want to live within the vicinity of where you work or to public transportation that services where you work. You will find your social circle and activities will be influenced in no small part by where you live, so you'll want to take your time and choose wisely, if you can. Traffic is as bad as they say, and to maintain your sanity and sense of well-being, you want to avoid spending hours in traffic each day. Take a look at Los Angeles in Google Maps at almost any given hour of the day with the traffic feature turned and you'll see what I mean.

However, LA is expensive and there's a general correlation with "fun" areas/places with a high Walk Score and paying high rents. I can't think of anyplace inexpensive in LA these days (see here and here), and rents in downtown LA are among the highest in the greater LA area. Definitely peruse Craigslist so you have a good idea how much typical rent will be as this will be your highest fixed expense by far. This will provide a baseline for the minimum income you need to earn each month.

This isn't meant to scare you away but to prepare you for the reality of living in LA, because living in an expensive city with dwindling/meager funds is a recipe for misery (ask me how I know!) and hopefully by being prepared you can avoid that fate and enjoy the fresh change of pace in a vibrant, arts-heavy city that you're looking for.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 11:04 PM on February 18, 2018

When I moved from New York to SF and was looking for design jobs, I sent out resumes with my local friend's address on them and lined up interviews so that I had 3+ the first week I landed. If you look for design jobs with tech firms, they are also the most likely to pay some relocation.

Also, in terms of stuff, I had my things packed up in storage in NY and didn't send for them till I had a place in SF. The pro of this approach is that if for some reason things don't work out, you don't have to pay for two moves. (My upacks ran ~$1500 each way, plus some more cash for movers to carry my things upstairs.)

Moving cross-country is a pain, but with enough money, it's fine.
posted by dame at 5:42 AM on February 19, 2018

When my boyfriend and I moved across the country to LA after college, we rented a Uhaul, but if I were to do it again, I would ship a couple of boxes of clothes/books/kitchen things and fly, and just get new furniture cheaply/free on Craigslist. I did this when I moved the opposite direction to NYC, and it is so much easier. As long as you're not deeply attached to your furniture, I recommend it. You can ship a Tuft and Needle mattress to your friend's place if they don't already have an extra bed. I would actually start applying for jobs (using your friend's address) now, if you have the flexibility to fly out on short notice. (The bf and I moved out there without jobs or savings, and it ended up working out fine, but it's obviously better to do this in advance). I know the general advice is that you have to be local to job hunt, but I don't think this is the case). We lived on the border of Los Feliz and Silverlake and walked to do errands, took the subway to our jobs downtown, and only drove to parties and that sort of thing. I agree that you should pick an apartment near your job, but if it's possible to work and live near some of the (few) subway stops, that's ideal. Even short drives can take a long time. A car is also a pain- we got countless parking tickets because we couldn't keep track of street cleaning days. We moved there more than a decade ago, so now it's possible to take Uber/Lyft when needed. I have friends there that have given up their cars because of the existence of Uber/Lyft (they bike and take public transit most of the time).
posted by pinochiette at 8:07 AM on February 19, 2018

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