Ever since Costa was born, Andre and I had always talked about one day moving somewhere else, moving our family to a place where we could have a less stressful life. Maybe a smaller city or town, where the public schools were better, where there was more nature, where the cost of living wasn’t so insanely high. I was born and raised in LA and had never lived anywhere else, and Andre had moved from NYC years ago. While LA is a city we love dearly, it’s also a city that can be challenging, especially with kids and the high cost of living. As Valleybrink Road grew, we regularly discussed the idea of trying to expand our services into another city, where we might also want to live. So, many of the places where Valleybrink Road does well, like San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, were not places that could offer us a lower cost of living, but there were a few options. The two that made the most sense to us were Austin and Denver.
In August of last year, after a great trip to see friends in Denver and a tumultuous few weeks of Costa starting TK at a new school in LA, we decided to move to Denver. Our initial hope was to expand our business and give the boys a different type of childhood experience. It all happened so fast because we had to move before the Valleybrink Road holiday season, our busiest time. In addition to that, we were also dealing with Costa’s school schedule and wanting to make sure we could apply to all the schools in time in Denver for the following year. My memory of the move is so foggy, but by October 15th, 2019, we had rented out our LA home, prepared Valleybrink Road operations to deal with us not physically being there, and moved our entire life to Denver. It was insane.
We rented a place in Denver that we had never seen in person until the day we arrived, and it was a disaster. It was not kid-friendly, and after one too many Paolo tumbles down stairs, into a sunken bathtub, and into the kitchen doorway jam, we decided to move again three days before Christmas. So, crazy. I was also away from the kids more than ever before, traveling back and forth to LA for work. While I did enjoy finally having a little alone time, it became clear that this was not going to be a sustainable option. The boys were having a tough time with the change. Their entire life, I had always been home for dinner, there for bathtime, made breakfast in the mornings, and read to them before bed. Now, I was gone a lot. Andre was overwhelmed dealing with the kids 24/7, something we had always done together. I could see he was getting depressed as the months progressed. It was taking its toll on everyone.
We explored business opportunities for several months and almost opened up a Valleybrink Road brick and mortar in Denver, and we were even looking at real estate. It took us a while to come to terms with the fact that this formula just wasn’t going to work for our family. While there were some things we loved, like Costa’s elementary school, going on road trips to the mountains, all the great kids’ activities in Denver and Boulder, and spending time with old friends, it just wasn’t sustainable. It was too hard to have me traveling 2-3 weeks at a time and, as the food snobs that we are, we missed the California produce and restaurants, and the ocean and sunfilled days. We missed the families we’d been raising kids with and the local community we’d been a part of for so many years.
By February, after being in LA to deal with Valentine’s Day gifts, Andre and I decided we would move back to LA by the end of the summer, so Costa could start school and be on track in LA. And then, Covid. Our business was hit very hard, and we needed to get back to LA to deal with everything and keep our company afloat. So, we started packing, and by the end of April, we were back in Los Angeles. As Andre likes to say, “We took our furniture on vacation for 6 months.” Now we are back in LA, but not home yet, as our kitchen is being renovated, and we are in an Airbnb until it’s finished.
This year’s intensity and chaos are no doubt part of the reason I have shingles right now. The stress of everything in 2020 has been like no other, especially while trying to keep it together for our two kids. I’ve talked to so many moms and parents about moving, getting out of LA, and trying to find a slower pace of life. My best advice would be that you need to spend some time in the place you want to move to first. Outside of obvious draws like affordable housing or having good schools, does it have the other things that bring you joy in life? For us, that is food, produce and ingredients, restaurants, the beach, and our friends. We realized all of this after we moved our life, so just something to consider. If you have your own company, think about the type of business you have and if you can work remotely. We initially thought we could, but when there were large orders to deal with or a worldwide pandemic hit, it was impossible.
While there is still a lot about LA that can feel overwhelming and impossible, there is also so much that is amazing. Even amid Covid, we’ve had a summer filled with sunny beach days and delicious homemade pesto pasta and a fall filled with morning walks around Silver Lake reservoir and warm sourdough bread from incredible local home bakers. We still have fantasies about moving to Italy one day but, for now, we will be here in LA, taking Italian lessons, cooking in our kitchen, celebrating the local produce with our recipes, raising our babies, and feeling grateful we made it back home.