Moving, relocating, starting over, this makes the top 10 stressful life events on a lot of lists. Moving to a whole different state, or a whole new city, makes relocating far more stressful than just switching homes. Bellingham seems to be a magnet for those of us that want different things in life, a restart shall we say. I have met a lot of people since I moved to the Bellingham area, and many of the recently relocated people came here for a fresh start.
I haven’t moved around a lot. I grew up in Hawaii, relocated to Arizona for college, then met my ex husband who is an Arizona native, and stayed. I stayed for 30 years, my entire adult life, until I moved to Bellingham.
I chose Bellingham out of all the places in the world I could have chosen. Why? The water, the mountains, the climate, the charming homes and neighborhoods, the politics. I also liked that it was a smaller city than where I lived in Arizona.
I am used to doing things on my own, but relocating to a new state is scary. You can find tons of information online, but to get a feel of the area it is really difficult. I didn’t want the bare facts, I wanted the kind of stuff that someone LIKE ME would tell me. Someone that was new to the area. Someone that had experienced the unique and interesting traits of the Bellingham area for them self.
So now I am going to try to tell you the things that surprised me this first year here in Bellingham. The things all of my research didn’t prepare me for, the things that I didn’t even know to research.
Cell phone service isn’t guaranteed. Your cell phone won’t work everywhere. I have traveled a bit, but I haven’t experienced my cell phone losing service ….ever. Here in Bellingham you might want to make sure you’re not in a contract because another provider may be necessary. I live in Sudden Valley. Where I live Verizon doesn’t work at all, but AT&T is fine. Other areas in this same neighborhood Verizon works fine. If you use GPS every time you leave the house, this might be an issue for you.
2. SLOW DOWN while driving. The speed limit is usually 25 miles an hour. Sometimes it is 15 miles an hour, and rarely it is 35 miles an hour. But mostly you will not be driving quickly unless you get on the freeway. I almost want to get a new car with less power because there is never a reason to step on the gas here.
3. Beware of the parking rules! Parking tickets happen here, A LOT. I got 5 parking tickets in my first year. 5. A couple for expired meters in the City of Bellingham. One because I forgot to hang my Discover Pass when I went to a trail that required it. One on Western’s campus because I paid for parking on the wrong car, and another for parking too close to a driveway when I went to the neighborhood bar Twin Sisters. Be extra careful that you know the parking guidelines, or you will drop a pretty penny on parking tickets!
4. The Roundabouts. There are roundabouts kind of everywhere. Be sure you understand how to navigate them, it is the only time I see Bellingham drivers get really irritated.
5. I don’t think we are in Bellingham anymore Toto. Bellingham “proper” is the actual city of Bellingham. Geneva, Sudden Valley, and lots of other neighborhoods on the perimeter of Bellingham are actually not in the city, but instead are in the county. City and county services are different, so it is important to pay attention. Bellingham’s perimeter isn’t intuitive, you will most likely need a map to identify it for some time.
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6. No street lights? One way to know if you are out of Bellingham proper is there are no more street lights. The streets are DARK outside of Bellingham, and for those of us that aren’t young anymore, seeing at night can be a real issue. The positive side of this is the night skies. Without light pollution there are a lot more stars! I haven’t seen such beautiful night skies, ever.
7. DARKNESS in the winter. Speaking of dark, I can’t slide by the early darkness that we experience in the winter. And I mean DARKNESS. In December it is pitch black outside, like it was midnight, by 4pm. That I honestly hated, but on the positive side, it is amazing how quickly that changes. Right now in April sunset on the 1st of the month is at 7:40pm, and by the end of the month it is at 8:23pm. Also the LONG summer days where it stays light until 10pm are just delightful for doing stuff, and there is SO much to do all summer.
8. There are a plethora of red haired people. I have no idea why this is the case, but I have two gingers, and in Hawaii and Arizona that is really unique. In Bellingham, not so much.
9. The gorgeous Whatcom county farms. Once you leave Bellingham proper, heading east, you will see the most story book appearing farms. Green rolling hills, red barns, silos, old wood that has so much character and age that I am constantly surprised that every photographer in the world isn’t here taking photos of the HUNDREDS of farm buildings. It is SO different that being “in town” it is actually a little disconcerting. It feels like you have taken a wrong turn and are now on the moon. If you happen to see lots of white birds in the fields, they might be trumpeter swans. Seriously. Check out this photo I took.
10. There are FEEDS. This might be a silly thing, but if there is ever a community event that involves food, they might call it a FEED. I have gone to community events in other places, when there is an event with food it is not called a CHILI FEED, or a PANCAKE FEED. To me, that sounds like we are animals that are being fed. I don’t know, this one might be just me, but I laugh every time I see signs for another feed.
11. There is something that happens to your brain when you move here. Maybe when you move anywhere that is really different than what you are used to…I don’t know. But it definitely happens here. I know that it isn’t just me, because when I mention it to people that have moved here in the last several years, I hear the “me too” cry of those of us that have been seriously worried about our brains. There is so much to learn about this place, and everything is so different than what we are used to, so it seems our brains stop processing. I mentioned this to my doctor here. He gave a sports analogy that made sense to me, (someone that knows nothing about sports). He said when quarterbacks are drafted to the pro league from college, they usually are terrible for their first year or two. Then they say the “game slows down” for them and they are able to see what needs to be done to win the game. That first year or two, when so much is new and your brain is spending time on trying to find places you need to go, wondering where one goes for certain things, and trying to make new friends and integrate into the community…it stops being able to learn. Once those things stop taking up so much brain space your brain will be freed up to learn like you’re used to….so don’t panic. It happens to all of us.
12. There is so much to do, you may never actually do it all. I know this sounds trite, but I couldn’t be more serious. It was my goal to learn the area by living the area. I have actively tried to walk all of the trails in Bellingham. I’m not even close. I have tried to see the parks, and the schools, the neighborhoods. All of them. I am not even close. When driving around town I am moved to tears probably once a week by the beauty of the area. I pull over when driving all of the time, just to grab a photo. There is ALWAYS another trail that I haven’t taken. There is always an experience that others do that I haven’t even HEARD of, and I basically made it my job to hear about and participate in as much as possible since I moved here.
What surprised YOU when you moved here? What has been the most difficult to get used to, and what has been the most pleasant surprise? Leave a comment and your experiences may be used in part 2 of this blog. HERE IS PART TWO!
If you are ready to make Bellingham your home town too, start your new home search HERE. I would love to help you out!