Since we moved across the country, from Oregon to Virginia, in January 2020, I’ve received almost weekly messages from friends who are considering a similar move. The reasons so many of my friends want to flee Oregon vary, but, since 2020, the majority want to move because of draconian restrictions, loss of employment and/or income due to the restrictions, violence that was allowed to continue, drug laws that were passed (legalizing the possession of all previously illegal drugs), a surge in homelessness (the result of the state’s major drug problem), high taxes, expensive real estate, and a fear of what the social environment of Portland and the surrounding areas might be doing to their children.
I get it. We saw some of it in 2019, and we knew without a doubt that God was calling us to move. In fact, more than sixty of my family members and extended family members fled Oregon within less than six months. Since then, several friends have made the big leap, and I am convinced that others will be following.
Why We Left Oregon
I grew up in Oregon! Besides the first two years of our marriage, when we lived in Washington state, I had lived in Oregon my entire life. My husband grew up in Washington, so for both of us, we were leaving the Pacific Northwest, the only place we had ever known as home. It was a big deal. How could we leave our home?
- God called us to leave. It was so clear and it was painful, guys. I cried, a lot. See, we were leaving behind some foster kiddos, two little sweeties we would have happily adopted someday, but God made it super clear that it wasn’t His plan. He worked out every little detail of their transition to the most perfect family situation and all we had to do was submit. And pack. It was incredibly difficult, but we knew it was Him who was calling us. If God calls you to pack up your things and move, will you be able to do it, even if it’s hard?
- We wanted better medical care. Part of the reason we felt convicted that the little foster kids weren’t supposed to stay with us was because I had just been diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. Sometimes God uses really big, hard things to get us to do what He’s calling us to do. My maternal grandmother had died at 42, the doctor said her heart “exploded.” My maternal uncle died at 41, and all we were told was that it was “cardiac.” I was almost 42 when we learned about my aneurysm. Our medical coverage in Oregon was okay when we had “average” health concerns, but, the system was known for only treating “average” patients who have symptoms on average timelines. Average aneurysms don’t dissect (a fatal situation) until after 5 centimeters and the doctors I saw were not willing to consider preventative, life-saving surgery until that time, regardless of my family history. I am also short, which means there is less surface area on my aorta, and most research shows that earlier surgery is necessary for people of short stature. We moved so that I could see other specialists who might do surgery sooner, potentially extending my lifespan. It’s kind of a big deal.
- Housing prices in Oregon are c-r-a-z-y. As I say this, please note that housing prices have increased all over the place this past year. Many of my family members ended up in east Tennessee, and while they got deals in early 2020, others who moved in 2021 have not been able to find the same amazing deals. The home we bought in Virginia was a good deal, but increased quite a bit in just one year. (We sold it and were blessed to purchase a farm in 2021). 🙂 Many friends want to leave OR because they can’t afford the kind of home they want there. Maybe they want some land, or a bigger space for their family. I get that. While housing prices have increased all over the place, often times, you’ll still be better off, financially, if you relocate.
- Taxes are high in Oregon. While I appreciated the lack of sales tax, and items at the Dollar Tree actually costing exactly $1, property taxes and income taxes are astronomical in OR. My husband kept his same job in VA and we take home more of his paycheck. Also, our property taxes are about 1/3 of what they were in Oregon, and we currently own acreage (vs. our home that was on a neighborhood lot in Clackamas County, OR). Crazy!
- We like the color gray, but don’t love gray skies. Let’s face it, Oregon is gloomy, a lot! We moved from a city that had an average of 143 days of sunshine (which includes days that were mostly gray, with little peaks of sunshine) to a town with an average of 218 sunny days per year. I can’t even describe how delightful that is, and what a change it creates in the overall mood of the family. Since leaving, while I can’t officially diagnose anyone, I believe pretty much everyone living in the Pacific NW is deficient in Vitamin D3. I LOVE how bright our days are here in Virginia!
- Drugs were a big issue. I see people all over the internet claiming that the legalization of pot doesn’t cause any issues and that it isn’t a gateway drug. Many people who still live in OR defend the drug. Here’s what we witnessed, though: after pot was legalized, the homeless population increased. After a couple of years, our freeways were lined with tents. Regularly, people who were high on drugs were wandering across a major road or even the freeway and would be struck by a car. We went to a concert in downtown Portland, just before we moved, and could not get to our parking garage without stepping around or over sleeping bags full of people that lined the city sidewalk. The parking garage stairwell and elevator reeked of urine. The city of Portland gave several homeless people one-way bus passes to move out to a rural town where some of my family members lived. The once quiet-town suddenly had big theft, vandalism, violence and trash issues. Kids were finding drug needles on the streets they used to play on safely. I don’t say all of this to tell you that I disliked the people because they were homeless. No, I believe it’s sad, REALLY SAD, that these human lives were impacted so badly by drugs and that the government legislated the downfall of these people by allowing drug use. After we left, Oregon’s solution to the big drug problem was to legalize the possession of mostly everything. (By the way, I researched what marijuana does to an unborn fetus in the womb, and it’s incredible–this is not a benign drug. You can read what I found in my book about adoption).
- Oregon felt dark to us. The gray skies are not the only darkness in Oregon. It’s hard to explain, unless you’ve been there for a while. We are believers in Jesus Christ and a conservative, homeschool family. The Portland area has quickly become a place where blatant sin is accepted as right, and what is righteous is seen as wrong. Just before we moved, we went on a tour of the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland. Our tour guide (whose tour was, disappointingly, mostly above ground), pointed out every sexual fact he knew about the city, on a “family tour” that included our children. Others on the tour seemed to enjoy his humor, when he showed the first place people could legally see naked women in the city of Portland “and, you still can, today.” Thanks, dude. Wow. We should have been given a refund, that was awful. Also, we have been foster parents, off and on, for seventeen years. Over time, we saw much persecution towards those who were Christians, and especially homeschoolers. I sat in courtrooms, multiple times, and could not believe my ears. State employees and attorneys went to extremes to try to prove that good people should not have their children because of their religious beliefs. These people had not done anything wrong and did not deserve to have their children in foster care. In contrast, we saw other kiddos go back to a horrendous home environment where alcohol, weapons and abuse were present. Isaiah 5:20 says: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” We experienced this, not only as foster parents, but in many environments in OR. We knew we had to leave.
There were, of course, more reasons to move, but these were the major issues that prompted us to sell or pack everything we owned and drive our motorhome across the country in January 2020.
Why we chose Virginia
Some wonder how in the world we ended up in VA? Isn’t Governor Northam pretty much like Governor Brown’s cousin? I have wondered if their genetics are somehow connected. 😉 Here’s why we chose VA:
- We moved where my husband could work. My husband’s company has offices in several states, and we were able to move to any of those states. That did not include Tennessee, where my family was moving. We wanted to be in close driving distance of them. Our two options were Virginia and Georgia.
- We are raising a multiracial family and wanted to be in a diverse area. We lived in a town in OR where 1.2% of the population was black, and my black kids would say “Oh look! There’s a black person!” when they saw one, because it was rare. In every class and club we enrolled our kids in, they were some of the only black children, or possibly the only ones. We knew we had to change that. We purposely moved to a town that is about 30% black, for our kids. Before we moved, I took a train from Portland to Memphis, TN with three of my kiddos, and we got a rental car and drove from place to place. As we scoped out northern Georgia, we saw the rich Civil War history and the division that still exists. There were definite white parts of town and black parts of town. We visited a library, and all of the white people turned and stared at my beautiful adopted daughter. We didn’t want to move anywhere where she would be stared at like that. I asked a man who worked at our hotel, who was black, if he felt safe there. He said there were definitely parts of town that he would not go to. We didn’t want our family, our beautiful mix of people, to feel divided or unsafe in the place we lived. When we got to our town, I saw people of different races talking and laughing on the street, and then dining together in the restaurants. It felt like home right away.
- We thought Virginia was beautiful. In 2018, we took a cross-country road trip and drove through some parts of VA. I look up real estate everywhere I go, out of curiosity (I love houses), but I was especially interested in real estate in VA. The rolling hills in Virginia are gorgeous!!! Also, our kids were in Christian Youth Theater in OR, and some of the friendliest kids they met, at a CYT conference in San Diego, were from Fredericksburg, VA. We didn’t end up moving near Fredericksburg, after-all, but, back in 2018, I was looking up real estate there. I’d say, those nice kids from CYT and then the beautiful landscape in 2018 definitely put Virginia on our mind.
- Our son wanted to go to college in VA. A year before we knew for sure we were moving, our son decided on the college he wanted to attend. He is a musician and plans to study audio engineering next fall. When he told me about the college, I looked up the college and happened to see a job listing in my husband’s field. I also saw that employees’ kids got free tuition. Since we have five kids, all in a row, free college seemed like a great idea. We didn’t know anything about the town, but we still knew that we liked the state of Virginia. On a whim, my husband applied! They loved his resume, but it was a lower ranking position than he was qualified for and therefore, would mean less pay. During that period, I researched the town and loved what I was reading. It’s a foodie town, with lots of history and old brick buildings, and brick streets downtown, and a waterfront. There were giant, old homes for pretty amazing deals, compared to the housing prices in OR. Swoon! I started following several hashtags on Instagram and prayed that maybe, someday, God would move us to this town. A year later, He opened the door and moved us.
I Researched All.The.States.
I still have so many spreadsheets, guys. When my extended family talked about moving, we researched every possible state. I loved doing this kind of research and comparing the taxes, crime, weather, etc.
I’d Love to Share My Research
Since I keep getting the same kinds of questions from friends, I was thinking, I should probably just post what I’ve found. So, that’s my plan. Starting today, I will begin sharing with you everything I know about all of the states, so that you can make an informed decision about where to live, if God calls you to move.
Prayer was the biggest factor in our move! We prayed daily, sometimes multiple times throughout the day, about where God would lead us and IF He was leading us. We prayed for an entire year about moving to this town, without evidence of what His plan was. We just knew we needed to pray.
Watch for More!
I’ll be sharing more posts, keep your eye out! Comment and let me know what you’re hoping to learn.