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RANT: Into the West

I bid you greetings yet again, dear reader, from a distant land of sand and fire. As the sudden spring break last week may have called to your attention, I have uprooted myself from the peninsula'd paradise where I've spent the past quarter century and have gone off to seek my fortune in the distant land of Texas.

It's an exciting time for me personally, as I've never lived so far away from my family before, nor have I left behind such a substantial group of close friends. Leaving Central Florida has effectively ended some relationships, while it's actually strengthened many more. I've never had such a great collection of friends in my life, and I'm extremely grateful for that.

But the well-wishes of your close confidants can only carry you so far. Once the wine is all drunk and the farewells are finished, it's time to get up and go. In my case, that meant relying on myself for the coming up with the plan and then executing it. What I lacked in real-world experience, however, I supplemented with the countless lessons that video games have managed to teach me throughout the years.

Lean in close, dear reader. This rant comes from the heart.

Advice: Maintain positive relationships
Game: Mass Effect series

I decided to space out the adventure of Orlando to Austin over the course of three days. While other members of my family have done the East Texas / Florida drive in less time, I had some destinations in mind along the way. I was lucky enough not only to have friends who shared a mutual desire to meet up as I made my way toward the setting sun, but also to have friends with couches. As someone who recently lost a pretty pricey air mattress can tell you, a good couch that you can sleep on without difficulty is a wonderful thing.

How can you secure such wonderment for yourself? Commander Shepard's already laid the path out for you - you gotta do some leg work.

Shake hands. Start a conversation. Make a friend. You never know where it's gonna take you. Maybe you just met in line for the ice tray at a shitty party. Maybe in two weeks you'll wind up doing a Loyalty mission for that fella where you help him avenge his dead mercenary squad on the rat that sold them out to the competition. Life is a crazy thing. You can't go wrong with having too many friends. The friends that matter will stick with you throughout the years, no matter where you go or how much time passes. Real talk.

Advice: Collect destinations like candy
Game: World of Warcraft

I've had a lifelong love of travel. There might be something about growing up on an island that automatically makes you wonder what's beyond the horizon, and how to get there - to dream of distant lands and the exotic sights that lay just beyond your imaginings. I've been to some fun places in my life, but there's so much to see that people don't even really know about. Medium towns and small towns have their charm, too.

Having never gone on a solo road trip of this length before, I was determined to spend part of my time stopping at random places along the way. Not only is this a good idea just for health reasons - taking a break from driving, especially without a relief driver, is wise - but my years of adventuring in the far-off digital world of Azeroth have given me an instinct for flight destinations. There's nothing I liked better in World of Warcraft than just running over a hill and finding some new place that I'd never seen before. I liked it better than fighting dragons - and I fuckin' love dragons.

Stopping at random ol' places was a ton of fun, even if I didn't do much while I was there. I saw Suwannee River State Park (like from the song!), the grand Mississippi River, the bayous of Louisiana, the Frog Capital of the World, a pretty darn excellent restaurant recommended to me via Twitter in New Orleans, and a town in Texas whose name I knew since I was 7 years old thanks to a ZZ Top song. But you don't have to go on a huge trip to see this many things - you just have to pay attention to the world around you! (And maybe check on Wowhead for the coordinates.)

Advice: Talk to everyone!
Game: Final Fantasy VI and basically any other RPG ever

Believe it or not, but most people regard themselves as good people. A lot of them like talking to other people, especially if it distracts from the monotony of whatever their job is. I'm not trying to make a crack regarding service industry work, either - ALL work can get monotonous, and it's nice to have some actual human interaction take the place of whatever you might happen to do for a living. If you can pass that time off as "helping a customer" but actually enjoy it, then it works out for everyone.

What I said earlier about positive relationships? That doesn't just matter for people you might see again tomorrow, or two weeks from now, or next semester. There's no reason not to have a great conversation - even if it's just a quick exchange - with any random person you come across in your day. This is true for every day life, but it's ESPECIALLY true if you're on an adventure! Who wouldn't be excited by the fact that you're taking off from your homeland to a wild and unknown destination? That's some exciting shit!

Just the words "I'm new in town" or "I'm moving halfway across the country" can inspire some incredibly sympathetic emotions in people - and besides which, it's a great way to start a conversation. Barkeeps are barkeeps for a reason - chat 'em up! Get some information about what lies ahead! And people that aren't barkeeps usually like being talked to too! Get out there and see what sidequests people have to give you!

Advice: Perfect the art of uber micro
Game: StarCraft II

Once you actually arrive in your destination, then things are going to begin to get a little more real. The trip out was great - I know. Long stretches of driving can get really exhausting - especially if you've pretty much used up all the listenable music you have within arm's reach. Even so, the relief of being at journey's end is bittersweet. When you're on the road, the future is still open to interpretation. You can dream big and imagine what it's like. When you're there, you're there. It's real. And it's time to get to work.

Micromanagement? You're going to need submicromanagement for this kinda thing. This is the real work that intimidates people into not thinking about moving in the first place. But you know what? You just have to do it. There's no other real way to say it. You think about what you need to do, and then execute it as quickly and efficiently as you can. Sure, some Korean guy on the other side of the library is reading Tolstoy and still doing it better than you. You're not him - don't fucking worry about it. Just do your thing the best that you can do.

Here's a quick list of what you should expect to do when you're making a move as big as this.
-Clean out your old place
-Say goodbye to friends and family
-Schedule social obligations: last visits to particular local hotspots, dinners with close friends, farewell parties
-Get your old place rerented / sold / burned down
-Build a Vespene Refinery
-Pack your essentials for the road
-Throw out as much as you can (see next piece of advice)
-Pack everything else
-Get someone to transport your goods
-Secure a destination in your new home (friend's house, hotel, park bench)
-Look for a new place to live (local ads, online postings, For Lease signs in front of people's houses)
-Fend off Zealot Rush
-Do the initial grocery store run, restocking on things you need but don't have - toilet paper, hand soap, trash bags, cabernet sauvignon
-Move yourself and your gear into the new place

Sound oversimplified? Maybe. But it's true. (This is skipping whether or not you already have a job in your new destination. I strongly suggest taking care of that factoid before uprooting yourself, as constant cashflow is nearly essential to maintaining a certain degree of happiness. WE REQUIRE MORE DOLLAR BILLS.)

Advice: Clean out your goddamn inventory
Game: Elder Scrolls V: Dat Skyrim

I had people moving my stuff into my apartment this past Sunday-- okay, backing up, let me give you a little more of an idea of what I had going on. I had planned on staying in an Extended Stay for a while and taking my time to find a place to live that I really wanted. I secured a Public Storage unit and planned on moving all of my stuff into that unit while I searched. I landed in Austin on Thursday. My stuff was supposed to show up on Sunday (and my movers, who were actually pretty pro, did indeed show up when they said that they would.)

Thing is, I got kinda stir-crazy in my hotel, and I had almost nothing to do but go find a place to live. The Austin housing market is pretty different from Orlando's, though, and I was unable to find a 2/2 home that was comparable to Harrenhal - my ghost-ridden domain in Central Florida. However, I did manage to find (yet again, with the help of a friend) an apartment that suited my needs very well. Even better, the apartment was on top of a massive hill, immediately inspiring me to preemptively name my home the Eyrie. (These are all Game of Thrones references, guys. I'm not going to tell you a second time. My MOM gets them, for Chrissake.)

So. Over the course of this past Sunday, I had to receive my extensive inventory of furniture and boxes, oversee its installation into a 10x10 storage unit (which was literally filled to bursting - a computer desk and chair didn't make it in), pick up my keys, pack my not-small collection of items (including my personal computer) from my hotel room, check out, pick up my keys to my new place, activate gas and utilities, schedule cable installation, meet a NEW set of movers, get them to load all of my gear back into ANOTHER truck, oversee them unloading everything into the new apartment, and somewhere in there find time to finish signing all the documents that I needed to have ready for work the next day.

This is all information that fits well into the previous bullet of "uber micromanagement skills." Why do I bring it up here? Because this entire experience would have been alleviated by one simple rule: get rid of your things. Seriously. Throw them out. Put them at the curb.

I say this knowing that if you could see my apartment - full of furniture that clearly the space was not built to support - you'd be snorting "Well, of COURSE you're saying to get rid of stuff." I'm not talking about that. Still others are saying, "lol, well, some of this has sentimental value." I understand. I really do.

But look. It's just STUFF. That's not what's important. Items come and go. You will get other things. Even sentimental things. Trinkets? Tiny things? Sure. Keep them. If you really think they still hold value, anyway. If you think that you don't now but might still someday in the future? Fine. Hold onto it.

Everything else? Unload that shit. You don't need it. It's holding you down. It is an amazing thing to purge away what is unnecessary - and think, really think! about whether or not some of this stuff that you're lugging around is necessary. I don't even mean this in a deep Tyler Durden-esque level of "don't let your possessions own you" way. I just mean that it's flat out easier to live your life with less shit to worry about. I'm one of the most materialistic people I know! I would never give up some of the cool shit that I have.

But if you're making a choice that means leaving behind the people that you love, and heading off a thousand miles towards the sunset in the hopes of a better life - seriously take a look at that Right Eye of the Thalmor in your inventory and ask what it's done for you lately. Toss it into a river and watch it float away. You'll be better off for it.

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