So, the impetus for our mobile move was largely sparked by the fact that the cost of living, and housing scarcity, in San Francisco’s Bay Area forced us to have a reality check and re-examine some of our “adulting” decisions. I will be the first to say that we LOVE San Francisco’s Bay Area. (Side note: I keep injecting “San Francisco” as a signifier, because it was brought to my attention that “Bay Area” is not singular to San Francisco. I recently learned that there are a lot of regions in the U.S. that claim a “Bay Area”, and my generic reference to such was causing confusion.) Back to the point. Our love affair aside, when paying nearly $3,000 a month in rent is considered a “steal,” to live in college-like standards, and the leap to purchase a single dwelling home is faced with a 7-digit sticker price, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate finances and life goals. Our evaluation process led us here: to move into an 11-foot camper and shop the country and explore places as potential homes. Logical right? Maybe, who knows. It seems to be working for us!
So fast forward the whole researching truck campers and mobile dwelling parts and now we are faced with D-Day (“Departure Day”), and we aren’t sure where the heck to go. We surmised that ducks seem to have this figured out pretty well, so we will head north while it is warm and go south when it is cold, but other than that, its hard to know what you don’t know. Since we decided to head north, I knew that Oregon and Washington would be our first states of exploration. So I employed my mad research skills via Internet searches, such as “cool cities in Oregon” and solicited recommendations from our friend networks on social media, and basically just stared at maps for a while. We decided that it was important to move to a metro area, with towns that offer small slices of city life, coupled with space, open air, and outdoor adventures. When people asked me “what are some key elements” that we look for when considering a place to move to, I responded: 1. an international airport nearby; 2. trees; and 3. Trader Joe’s.
The 3rd one always gets a laugh, but having just moved form a neighborhood where we lived within a 5-minute walk from a Trader Joe’s, I have come to realize that Trader Joe’s is a main source of our daily diet. We both have come to rely on the products they offer; things that I can’t seem to reproduce at other markets. And, don’t get me started at the delightful shopping experience that is Trader Joe’s. I strongly dislike grocery shopping. Particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I can never get a parking space within reasonable perishing distance from the door, and going shopping requires the foresight of a master Jedi- this street is good now, and you will need XYZ amount of reusable bags…. Trader Joe’s seems to elevate the experience above the aforementioned noise. I feel like I am on an assorted journey of discovery with every trip. The products always seem to be ahead of what is food fashionable and the free samples bring a much appreciated tapas-like intermission to my day. The entire Trader Joe’s “cultural” experience of innovation, diversity, and off-beat fun, is the type of community vibe that both Cay and I relish. It seems silly to put so much weight on a single commercial vendor, but the presence of Trader Joe’s, for us, seems to be an indicator that the surrounding community is likely to be savvy and eclectic. The workers I have encountered give off vibes of happiness and friendliness. So much so, that I have seriously considered a career change. All in all, Trader Joe’s has consistently become my favorite place to grocery shop.
Late one evening, about a week or so into our camper life, it occurred to me that Trader Joe’s probably has some mighty fine resources employed to research their store locations. And, these locations, most likely embody our desired living criteria. So, why not see where Trader Joe’s are located, and target those areas to home shop? This may seem silly, but for our purposes, it was simplistically genius, and I began to employ this strategy. Having designated metro areas that we wanted to target, it was difficult to know which surrounding cities we should visit. By studying the Trader Joe’s store directory, I was able to identify cities to visit based on store locations, and add these in to supplement our route.
In researching store locations, I learned a lot of unexpected facts about Trader Joe’s in the process; for instance, my home town of Glen Ellyn, IL was one of the first Midwest locations- it actually made their historical timeline in year 2000. In doing additional outside research, it appears that corporate info on Trader Joe’s is scattered and a bit cryptic, at best. I tried to learn the secret sauce for how they choose future store locations, but from what others before me have written, it appears that Trader Joe’s opens locations within about a day’s drive from their distribution centers. So, if you are in an area devoid of a Trader Joe’s, it is not an indication of your neighborhood’s worthiness- it appears to be your geography that’s an issue. Before you ask for a store, it seems you need to lobby for one of their distribution centers, according to this 2010 Fortune article written by Beth Kowitt.
So there you have it, a silly epiphany about our consumption preferences led me down the path of incorporating Trader Joe’s store locations into our travel trajectory, and made grocery shopping along the way a lot more pleasant!