nomad by fate

Portland, Oregon is a city of nomads. There are natives, sure, but more than half the people in this city have come here of their own free will; have been traveling, searching, yearning for a place to call home when the place they were born no longer felt as such. 

We all came for different reasons. 

Some stay, some move on - but for however long you call it home, Portland casts a particular spell. A haven for people who love food, art, the outdoors, books, coffee, wine, beer, music, faith, love and adventure.

This series aims to tell just a handful of the stories of people who found home in our own little utopia.


"So how did you end up in Oregon?"

A penny for every time I've been asked that question since I moved to Portland. 

The truth is... I almost didn't.

But all good stories start with a little suspense, don't they?


It was 2008 and I was mere months from crossing the stage at Pepperdine University. After growing up in Napa, I headed down to Malibu, California for school and I had spent four years with that as not only my home, but also a huge part of my identity.

"My name is Lauren. I'm a student at Pepperdine. Nice to meet you."

Nothing wrong with that per se, but when you're facing impending graduation that means a huge part of your identity is about to change entirely.

I was faced with the realization that I was no longer going to be a student. Come April, I would no longer live just a few buildings down from my best friend (hell, I would no longer live with my best friend - or so I thought).

My plan for a long time had been to go to graduate school immediately after undergrad. It was always a sort of unspoken, but expected followup to my bachelor's degree. And so I began scouting out the places I wanted to go next.

New York? Boston? London?

Ah, yes, London. 

I would go to London. 

I would apply to the (now defunct, I'm pretty sure) BUNAC program, get all the paperwork needed to live and work there and attend one of the many film schools I had investigated.

But still... There was a panic. Maybe it was immaturity, maybe it was the intense sadness at knowing I would be far - very far - away from my Brigette and Blake, maybe it was just all too much too soon. Too much change, too fast. 

Who knows. 

But there was something telling me no, not London

I couldn't put my finger on it. 

Even when I went over there a few weeks after graduation to look into some areas to live and visit, something didn't feel right. I may have been headstrong about moving there because I had talked so much about living there that I had made myself practically synonymous with the city itself, but something was amiss.

I went to my old house in South Kensington. I visited with my old program director from when I studied there in 2005 and 2007. And I spent a couple of hours with Thomasina, the sweetest woman I have ever known. Our "mother" while we lived overseas. Like Mrs. Weasley and  Meryl Streep's character in "Mamma Mia" combined.  

I loved being back with them, back there, back in the city I know and love so well.

But still. 


A couple months later, with the paperwork in motion to get a work visa and the final pieces of red tape ready to be cut, I got a phone call from my friend Brad. 

Something had happened. 

Thomasina passed away.

It couldn't be true. I had just seen her, she was fine

And she was. But a complication to a routine surgery had taken her unexpectedly and I knew right then that I could not move to London.


Brigette and I had toyed with the idea of moving to Portland on and off for a long time. She was already set to go; her Aunt Lisa and Uncle Helios (who would quickly become my Aunt and Uncle as well)  live up here and had told her she could stay with them until she got her feet on the ground. She loved with city and was excited to give it a try.

And so I asked her if she still needed a roommate.


By August, we had packed our cars (and our parents' cars) and were driving north. 

We arrived smack in the middle of August - in the middle of a heat wave all Oregonians took it upon themselves to apologize for.

(note to the natives: it's fine, I don't blame you for the heat... I only blame you for not having a/c)

We spent the first few weeks of our new lives in the Pacific Northwest living in a pop-up trailer in Lisa and Helios' driveway. Then, once other company cleared out, we moved into the spare bedroom where we shared a double bed and two small closets.

(an entertaining arrangement when you consider that the jobs we found had her going to work at a bakery at 5:30 AM and me going into the restaurant at 5:30 PM)

Also coming into play was the fact that through the guy Brigette began seeing shortly after we moved, I met Jared and began spending time with this goofy kid form Indiana. Apartment hunting, working, boyfriends... A lot happened in about two short months. 

Come mid-October we had signed a lease on our first apartment ($725/month less than 10 minutes from city center - to a couple rogue Californians this was the holy grail).

And so life in Portland began to really take shape. 

We had an apartment, boyfriends, jobs we could tolerate well enough (needless to say, our degrees were just gathering dust) and life was good.

But temporary.

Because you see the plan was to only stay for a year. 

Though Brigette's original plan was to stay indefinitely, after the winter of 2008 (affectionately known 'round these parts as Snowpocalypse because it snowed for two weeks and the city didn't know what to do - maddening for Jared who, bring from Indiana, was about ready to go on a spree with the already bad Oregon drivers trying to navigate snow... snow that would have been cleared up overnight in Indiana but here just continued to accumulate because Multnomah County only has two snowplows and doesn't salt the roads). And my plan was to move back to Los Angeles and go to grad school.

As summer grew closer, the thought of leaving became almost unbearable to me. I didn't want to leave the city I was falling in love with, I didn't want to leave the man I was already in love with, and I wasn't ready to leave the life I had been unwittingly building into something beautiful. 

Once again, I was putting a major life choice in motion even though I could hear that voice, that same voice that warned me against London, telling me no
But I am stubborn and headstrong and kept plowing. Because that was what I was supposed to do. I was only going to stay a year, I was going to grad school, I was following my plan.

I got into grad school. I signed a lease on an apartment in Calabasas. The moving van was ordered. Our bags were packed. 

I couldn't believe it. 

I felt like I was dying inside.

And saying goodbye to Jared was one of the worst things I have ever experienced. 


My first night of graduate classes I thought I was going to pass out.

I was so intensely unhappy I didn't know what to do. 

I wrote about it, hoping the catharsis would do me some good.

I called Jared and tried to hold onto that incredible happiness I had in my Portland life.

Michull (Mike) talked me off a ledge multiple times, reassuring me with his signature kindness and humor.

Though Blake was once again right down the road and Brigette was just a hop, skip and a jump away, I spent most of my time sobbing alone on my apartment floor. 

I missed my life in Portland.

What had I just done?

Why had I walked away from it?

I flew back twice to visit Jared and Michull (Jared's roommate at the time). The second time, as we were falling asleep one night, I told Jared my decision:

"Are you sure?"

I was. 

It was a a huge blow to undo all I had set in motion back in California. My dad was not pleased. Some of my professors were disappointed in me. My friends were a little hurt that I was leaving.

But my heart didn't think twice. 

There was that voice again, screaming this time: YES!
The night after I made my decision, my friend Allen and I went to Tom's first class of the semester (because he was always thrilled when people sat in, coming by to join the "school of happiness"). 

When he saw me there was at once a huge smile on his face and a look of sheer confusion.

"Aren't you supposed to be in Portland, setting the world on fire?"

"Uh, yeah. Funny you should say that..."

I told him my new plan.

He gave me a huge hug.

That night he said something that, though it was to the class as a whole, felt like something spoken for me alone:

"If a person is going to grow, they must rethink everything."


I withdrew from the MFA program. I broke the lease on my apartment. I packed up another moving van.

And drove north. 


When I arrived back in Portland, the veil of sadness blew away from me. 

The people I had missed so much - Jared, Mike, Lisa & Helios, Laura, Ashley - solidified my decision. These were people whose stories had become inextricably linked to my own and we were not done writing them.

I had found a sweet little studio apartment, been offered my old job back and was ready to start my own life here in Portland.

I was home.

And it wasn't until that first night back that Jared finally, for the first time since I'd left, told me,

"I'm really glad you came back."

Me too. 


Much has changed since that first night home back in 2009. 

Friends have moved to Portland, friends have left Portland.

Friends have been made, relationships have changed dramatically.

Boyfriends have become friends. Coworkers have become sisters. 

New jobs, new apartments, new babies.

I am not the same person I was four years ago. I arrived in Portland when I was twenty-one years old with only an inkling of the person I wanted to become. I had no idea how to do it, but my arsenal was stocked with faith, hope and a "ready, fire, aim" philosophy.

The truth is, my entire existence in this city has been guided by happenstance. And wanderlust

And I know now, more than ever, that those two forces have in themselves been driven by God himself. 

Though He is the ultimate author, a few years ago He trusted me enough to hand me the pen and see what kind of story I could write with His guidance.

I like to think I'm doing well enough.

Of course, I'm nowhere near done yet.

So stay tuned...


  1. I love this post. Thanks for sharing and being so honest and open. Beautiful writing. :)

  2. what an awesome sorry. So glad you followed your heart and I can't wait to see what else is waiting for you!

  3. We love you Lauren and are glad you are "home."

  4. I'll be writing mine either today or tomorrow morning :) Loved this!!