nomad by fate | robin

Robin of Great White Appetite 

Nomad By Fate by Chuck Ragan on Grooveshark

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.


In 2009 I was making plans to move and further my education in Chicago.  I was still in Fort Wayne, Indiana, getting burned out on everything.  Reading street signs made me sick, clocking in at my job made me dread each step, and my campus grew uglier and uglier by the day.  I was single, bored, and nothing I had in Fort Wayne seemed significant enough to keep me there.  Sure, family and all is important—I knew that.  But when you’re young and the entire world is open to you, family should never be an excuse to stay in one spot.  I knew that too.

The onslaught of my Chicago move was brought on by a bad breakup and a failed attempt at moving to Denver, Colorado.  Chicago seemed like the next best step given its close proximity to Fort Wayne and I wouldn’t be all that far from family and friends pending I did cross into the woes of epic failure.  I was saving money, I was accepted to Colombia, and I seemed to have things slowly but surely getting in order for me to make my move.

It’s funny how quickly everything can change.  In July of 2009 I went to a party with a friend of mine.  It was a going away party for who I now consider a very good friend.  At the time, I didn’t know the kid.  I was just along for the ride with promises of free beer, awesome music, and I night to remember. Shortly after I started drinking, I was introduced to a character named Dean.  Turns out, I’d met and hung out with the guy several years before--funny how tough it is to convince a drunk-ass of facts like these.

Dean and I talked and talked and talked some more, getting to know each other and dropping band names like nobody’s business.  I was waiting for a person like this to walk into my life.  One last thing—he had a girlfriend.  I knew this and I was not (still not) the type to encroach on anyone’s relationship.

Months passed and Dean and I still maintained contact, speaking to each other more and more as the days went on.  It got to the point when it was strange if we went a day without speaking.  It came time for Dean to make a decision and figure out what he wanted in another human being.  He ended things with his former girlfriend and a week later we were together. 

After we started dating, I was introduced to his two best friends via stories.  He told me tales of boyhood bravery, jackal antics, and the general camaraderie that his two best friends Michull and J-Rod offered and survived by.  He also told me how crushing it was to see both of his best friends leave Fort Wayne and move to Portland, Oregon.  I was eager to meet them but nervous at the same time, considering the fact that Dean seemed the type that if you weren’t in with his friends things couldn’t possibly work out for the best.

One night we were sitting in our apartment and he said to me, “I want you to come to Portland with me.”  I needed no other explanation, no further cajoling—I was in.  We planned accordingly, saved our pennies, and flew to Portland over my spring break.

Flying over the city gave me chills.  The sun basked the lush greenery with a glow that the Midwest has never seen.  The city didn’t even look real. Our plane landed and we were greeted with open arms by Michull, his girlfriend Maggie, Flounder, J-Rod, and Lairen.  Their smiling faces and welcoming hugs made me feel at home within five minutes of being on the ground.

We spent our first few days exploring the city and drinking our livers past contentment.  On Tuesday we were slated to go spend a day in Seattle.  We parked near the Pike market, messed around there for a while, then found a shitty dive bar aptly named ‘The Funhouse.”  We settled in with a few beers and found our way to the back patio.  We looked up and staring down on us was the landmark Space Needle.  Basking in its beauty, we smoked our cigarettes and drank our beers.

I had a lot of questions for Michull.  How difficult it was to adjust, how his family reacted, what going to college may be like here, did I need a car—the basic list for anyone contemplating a move like that.  After a certain point I’d heard enough.  I found Dean and said point-blank, “Let’s move to Portland.” The response I got from him was welcome, “I’ve been waiting since we got here for you to say that.”

When we got back to Portland, Dean and I spent the next day hashing out logistics to make the move happen.  We decided on May (a mere two months later) as a tentative moving platform and would tell our families when the time was right.  We got back to Fort Wayne and started putting everything in motion.  We sold our stuff, threw out the nonsense, and figured on just loading up Dean’s car with whatever we could fit. 

Michull hooked Dean up with a job at Whole Foods Market.  I still hadn’t found employment yet, but I’ve gotten almost every job I’ve interviewed for so I really wasn’t too worried.  Dean flew back out to Portland for a week in April to work at his new job, get acclimated, and potentially find a house for Dean, myself, Michull, and J-Rod to share.  Both aspects of the trip were complete and by May 10th, we’d be on the road to Portland.

On Easter Sunday I broke the news to my family.  Some were accepting and knew that it was only a matter of time before I jumped ship, others looked at it as a personal attack and attempt at alienation.   I held steady, knowing that the initial blow would wear off and that a life in Portland was far better than a life in Fort Wayne for me.

On May 8th we threw a going away party.  We had people joined in celebration of our finally getting out, we had people who were seemingly in mourning at the loss of two of their best friends—but even those in mourning seemed to have a brief glint of happiness instilled in their tears.  Dean and I were doing it—we were finally moving on.

On May 10th we had our car packed, we said our goodbyes, and we were on the road.  We crossed through northern Indiana, passed through Illinois, stopped at the largest truck stop in the world in I-80 through Iowa, dodged tornadoes in Nebraska, stopped at a shitty hostel in Denver, endured almost every type of extreme weather in Utah, played with bats in Nevada, drank beers at a corner bar in San Francisco, and finally crossed into Oregon to find what we would soon call home.

We have been here for nearly two years now.  I had a job, got fired, worked at a portrait studio, and made my way back to the retail situation that I so dreaded before.  I took the last two years off of school and recently made the decision to return to my studies.  Dean has had his share of crossroads too, but that’s a story that’s meant for him to tell.

I don’t plan on staying in Portland forever.  I don’t know if I could stay in one place for the rest of my life, to be honest.  Living out here has made me soft, of that I’m certain.  In October I realized how much I missed the Midwest.  I’m still not ready to move back, but someday it’ll happen.  I’ll never live in Fort Wayne again, but something tells me that Chicago could be in our future.  Maybe Milwaukee will sound good in a few years.  Sometimes Minneapolis sounds good too.  Who knows?  

All I do know is that being a nomad by fate will take me to places unexpected, unknown, and my future is an open end note to a song.


Be sure to check out Robin's blog Great White Appetite to hear more stories of a nomadic existence (and life with Dean). 


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