From San Diego To Boston's South Shore

If you’d asked me a decade ago where I’d like to live in the USA, I’d have definitely said New York City, but in 2008, I accepted a scholarship to study third world politics in California.

I grew up in Sydney, Australia and never imagined I’d stay in Australia my whole life. In my twenties, I spent time in Italy and Spain and imagined that by the time I was in my 30's, I’d be working for the UN and living in the Netherlands or New York. I never thought much about marriage. Or kids.

Life doesn’t usually stick to the game plan!

In 2008, I accepted a scholarship to study third world politics in California. My choices were Sacramento or San Diego. Friends in Orange County had taken me to San Diego years before and suggested it would be the better choice for a semester abroad.

I met my now husband, Robbie, in a karaoke bar on Valentine's Day weekend. We dated for the semester I was in San Diego, then he visited me in Australia a couple of times after I went home. I returned to San Diego for a second semester and when I got home again, I couldn’t wait to be back with Robbie. We were married in 2010 and settled in San Diego while we “figured things out.”

We had our first son in January 2012. By 2013, I was pregnant again and itching to get out of San Diego and explore the East Coast. Robbie’s Dad had a holiday house on Cape Cod and we decided to live there through the winter while we found our East Coast legs.

Farewell San Diego

We sold or gave away over half of all of our possessions. The rest we packed into an 8x5 U-Haul trailer and hitched it to my 2007 Nissan Murano. Robbie flew over with our son Finn, while I drove cross country with the trailer. 3,000 miles from California to the Cape - just me, my little baby bump, and the open road. I am eternally grateful to my poor car for not giving up on me somewhere along I-40 in Oklahoma, but the transmission will never be the same.

When I finally pulled into the circular driveway, it had been snowing. There were Christmas lights on inside and my family was there waiting for me. I sat in the car for a minute, a lump in my throat, and I knew we were going to be happy here.

Cape Cod Winters

The fantasy of living on the Cape through winter with a two year old involves snuggling by the fireplace with mugs of hot cocoa. The reality is a little different. The beauty of the place covered in snow is stunning. There’s nothing more breathtaking. But we didn’t know a soul, and cabin fever set in by mid-January. Cape Cod is a strange place in winter and the only people you meet are the locals. It was nothing like the bustling holiday town we remembered from summers spent eating lobster rolls, hanging out at ice cream stands and heading out to packed restaurants and bars every night. We were cut off from the world, in a winter wonderland. It was magical, peaceful, and completely isolated.

When we moved off the Cape in May, the first place we lived was Needham, about a half an hour drive from Boston. It was a great neighborhood with fantastic restaurants and shops just five minutes from our house. We got Finn into a Montessori school where he loved his teachers and made some great friends. We had Bennett just a couple of months after the move. Once our year lease was up, our landlords told us they wanted to sell the house, so we had to decide whether to stay in Needham or move to the south shore, closer to Robbie’s parents.

Pros & Cons

We ended up finding a great house in Norwell, MA and we love it here. The upsides of living in New England are too many to list. I love the people - for so many reasons. I love the food. Fresh Maine lobster for $7 a pound, steamers, chowder, amazing oysters. And I love the seasons. Experiencing all four is a novelty to me, even after three winters. We’re just 90 minutes to the Cape and islands in summer and the slopes are nearby in winter if we get sick of sledding in the backyard, which we don’t. The flowers are gorgeous in the spring and we go fruit picking and leaf peeping all autumn long.

The downside to New England is that winter takes up a quarter of the year. For Robbie, the magic of a white Christmas doesn’t make up for the three months of slushy trips to take the garbage out, frozen fingers and toes, and muddy boots. This is a boy who spent most of his life here and felt pretty darn proud of himself for finding a constant 72 degree climate in San Diego.

Robbie says that in San Diego, you can go skiing in Big Bear during the day and be back in time for a surf before sundown. Of course, I don't know a single person who has ever done that, but I guess the option is there.

We do miss the Mexican food in Southern California. We are still searching for a good fish taco on the south shore. And of course, Robbie misses the friends that he made over the last decade and a half there. We’ll probably move back to California in a few years.

We have a third baby boy who was due in April, so we’ll stick around so the grandparents can get to know him. I’ll try hard to revel in all of New England’s beauty before we leave for the west coast. I have a feeling I’ll long for the east coast once we move again, but there will always be opportunities to visit.

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Helen Thompson is an Aussie writer and stay at home mama who currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband Robbie, and boys Finn, Bennett, and Jules.

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