It’s my second to last day of work. I knew I’d have feelings, that I’d miss my coworkers and all that. But as I close the door on my decade-long career in San Francisco, the thing I can’t stop thinking about is something surprising. It’s Market Street. For over a decade, through multiple jobs, countless seasons of my life, day after day I have biked down Market Street to work. Even when safer or more bike-friendly routes existed to the various offices downtown where I’ve been employed, I always chose Market Street. The way it cuts right across the middle of the city grid with no respect for right angles seemed most direct to me. And week after week, Market Street felt like a story I was part of. When I got my job at Twitter in 2009, there was no question how I planned to commute to their humble Folsom Street office – I was going to bike. I’d breeze down to work with the ferry building beaming at me from the end of the road.

Every day was another adventure. There was the time my company laptop bounced out of my bike basket and into the road when I went over uneven pavement. And there was the time the gears of my hand-me-down bike seized up and I flew over the handlebars into an intersection. I still have a hole in the elbow of my favorite coat from that one and a scar on my arm. Another time I was nearly wiped from the earth by a car making an illegal turn to the Octavia freeway onramp. I rode on warm days in short sleeves. I rode in downpours so heavy I could hardly see. I rode with the wind in my hair and a smile on my face, I rode choking back tears. I rode past parades, police barricades, through protests. The evening after Trump won in 2016, I pulled over on my way home to walk my bike amid a crowd of people carrying signs and marching, similarly lost and disheartened. I rode past person after person in crisis. There was the barefoot woman pulling up her dress to pee on the curb in broad daylight. The homeless man who sat each winter morning atop the steam vent at 4th Street. The guy with the megaphone screaming about god. The drug dealers, the crackheads, the staggering and stammering mentally ill I’d passed so many times I recognized them. I’d stop at the red lights and look around. Sometimes my heart melted, other times I wanted to scream and turn away.

Tourists loved to ask directions from me as I waited at red lights. I always paused to help. Try this place for food, go that way to Union Square or that way to the Castro, have a great day. As I rode, Market street transformed. It evolved from a cyclist’s nightmare to the incredible car-free bike route it is now. The monstrous boarded up building at 10th Street was remodeled and became my new office. I was too lazy to take my bike into the basement to the bike room so I locked it right out front on Market. Once I completely forgot to lock it up. It was still there when I came out of the office at 5pm, which was either a miracle or a sign that my bike was worthless. When I got a shiny new ride years later I was much more careful, but twice I caught someone trying to cut my lock. When I got pregnant in 2017, I kept biking. We adjusted my seat and handlebars and I rode right up to my due date. And when I had Jude, I got a bike he could ride in too, dropping him at daycare and then pedaling off to work. When Slack’s offices closed in 2020 as the pandemic hit, I couldn’t fathom working from home and got a membership to WeWork downtown and kept riding. For months it felt like I was the only one pedaling down Market at 9am day after day. Yesterday I was at a red light when a motorcycle skidded out in the intersection in front of me, throwing the rider onto the pavement. I’m the kind of person who stops and I ran over to call 911. I was late for a meeting but stuck around until the police arrived. In some ways it was just another ride to work for me, albeit a more dramatic one than normal, but it made me pause and realize what this part of my day has meant to me all these years. In leaving my career in San Francisco, I am leaving this too, this connection I have had to the city all these years. Market Street isn’t pretty, but through all the offices, job titles, bosses, relationships and dramas in my life for ten years, this commute was my one constant. As I get ready to leave this whole chapter of my life, this strip of road is the most tangible thing I can grab onto. I’ve always had Market Street. And now I won’t.

After having ridden this stretch of road more than 5,000 times, tomorrow I’ll ride it one last time. I’ll shoulder my backpack and buckle my helmet. I’ll weave down the trashed alley behind Safeway and cross onto the bike lane, then switch into high gear to try and hit all the greens. I’ll cross the muni tracks at an angle and dodge the drunks at civic center. I’ll pass the slow buses and the Powell Street trolley turnaround, and I’ll hand in my laptop and get my last paycheck.

And then I’ll put on my headphones and my favorite playlist, and I guess I’ll take off from there. A different road is calling.

I've been drawing house plans since I was a kid. I dream about houses regularly. And whether I'm camping, van-tripping, or on the playa at Burning Man, I'm happiest when I have a clear home base to come back to. It's just the way I am – obsessed with dwellings.

Perhaps this is why I've been pouring myself into designing our new space whenever nerves creep in about the move. It helps to imagine the structure that is our destination.

Our actual destination for the next few years is an island where Isaac grew up, 5 hours by ferry or 30 mins by plane off the coast of Auckland. About a thousand people live there, most of the island is national parkland, and the stars at night blow your mind. When you arrive on the plane you land in a grassy field next to the beach. It all feels pretty surreal. But it also feels a little like home already. We have been going there annually for the past seven years to visit my in-laws, who still live on the sprawling piece of ridge-line property they raised Isaac on. We picked out a spot for tiny house there with them years back, and thankfully there's plenty of room in their spacious old family house (above) for us to move in while we build. I took a picture of the site last time I was there, but honestly it doesn't show much but a ton of trees. We'll literally be starting from the ground up for this project – clearing forest, digging a foundation, and all the rest. People ask if we have the skills to do this. Our answer is "yep!" I know it'll be tough, we'll probably make some mistakes, but we are up for the challenge and there are plenty of homesteaders on the island to give us advice. The island doesn't have a power, water, or sewer system. You gotta figure it out yourself, and locals all do so quite creatively. There's a lot of rainwater collection, solar power, and of course long-drop or composting toilets. Isaac is a mechanical engineer and can't wait to work on our battery and power plan; I'm most excited about our composting toilet system (but I'll get into that in a later post!).

And of course, I am stoked about our house.

The idea for the house has evolved over time, and as of now we've settled on a plan that looks a lot like most tiny houses on wheels – long and narrow like a train car. It's roughly 3 meters by 10 meters (about 300 square feet), with one side of the house opening to a big deck that looks out at the view. We plan to live there a few years, and then it may become a vacation home for us or any of Isaac's brothers when they return home to visit. With that, here are a few other things I thought about in the design. Easy access to outdoor space

I imagine us spending most of our time outside, so we wanted the house to open at multiple places to the deck. Think big glass french doors that swing wide open for an indoor-outdoor vibe. Parents and kids at opposite ends of the house Our current apartment has us sleeping with a baby in our adjacent walk-in closet, and a toddler in a "bedroom" that opens right into the kitchen. Suffice it to say that naptime at our house is quiet time for everyone. And we have to watch movies with headphone on after the kids go to bed so we don't wake them up. I wanted the luxury of some space between our side of the house and the kids. Oh, and I wanted to fit our king sized bed in. Separate sleeping nooks for each kid I hope our kids can share a room someday, but with different bedtimes and a baby who likes to make noise at night, I want the kids to have some space. Plus, two small sleeping nooks makes it more flexible for future guests who might use the house. We designed one end of the house to have a lower room that fits a twin bed, with storage stairs that go up to a private sleeping loft above it.

A full-sized tub

We have kids, enough said. I also have dreams of an outdoor shower, but that's low on the priority list. Flexible sleeping arrangements

I wanted the space to work for a variety of configurations, and even sleep up to two families if more of Isaac's family need a place to crash when visiting the grandparents. We put a storage loft that fits a twin bed in the master bedroom for that reason. The lower kids sleeping loft could fit bunks, and the upper loft could fit a double. We're pretty set on this design, I've even picked out and sketched in appliances already. I've gotta measure up the windows so we can get those ordered, and I'm trying to decide if we want to do timber framing or order SIPs (pre-cut structural insulated panels) to save time. Lots of decisions to make! It's a work in progress.

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

"People don't understand, you can't just pick up and move to another country," Isaac said. It was just before the 2016 election, a very common time to hear disheartened Americans threatening to peace-out and move to Canada or New Zealand or wherever-else they dreamed of escaping to. And he was right, most Americans actually can't just choose to go live permanently in another country if they get sick of their homeland. Immigration is hard. Yet here I am, with visas, passports, and a one-way ticket to Auckland in hand. In this post, I'll walk through exactly what it took to get my whole family to this place. Step 1: Get married First things first: I'm American by birth. Isaac is Kiwi by birth. We got engaged when Isaac was here in San Francisco on a tourist visa (love at first sight, we had met just a few months before), which put us in a sticky situation. We could either have him leave the country and apply for a fiancé visa, which could take up to a year of being apart. Or, we could simply get married ASAP at City Hall before his tourist visa expired and then apply right away for his green card. We did that. Step 2: Apply for citizenship When we began thinking about moving overseas, there was one problem. If we left the country for any sgnificant amount of time, Isaac would lose his green card. We wanted the freedom to be able to move back to the US at any point, what with beloved family and friends here, which meant we needed Isaac to get citizenship. We weighed the pros (a US passport!) and cons (always gotta file taxes ugh) and decided in the end that he should apply for it. We would always have ties to the US and very likely may move back someday.

Step 3: Apply for a partner visa While waiting on Isaac's citizenship, I had to work on my partner resident visa application, which would give me all the rights I needed in NZ in order to go work, live, and raise our kids there. New Zealand's online application system was seamless, and the paperwork was straightforward. The worst part was having to provide monthly utility bills in both our names going back YEARS. Thank god for online billing history. I got pregnant right around when we had started thinking about this, which meant I couldn't do the necessary chest X-ray for the visa's medical exam. I'd have to wait until after the baby was born. With this timeline, the soonest we expected to get my visa would have been near the end of 2021. But miraculously, around Christmas I got a call from immigration saying they were missing one piece of paperwork and then I'd have my visa. Hooray! Step 4: Get the kids' passports If you've ever tried to take a passport picture of a baby or toddler, you will understand when I say: that was the hardest part of this step. But, we managed to get surly-looking pictured of both our kids, with white backgrounds and non-patterned shirts, and sent them off with the basic paperwork required. Ta-da, both our kids are now officially New Zealanders! Step 5: Get a spot in MIQ (the hardest step!) Because of Covid, New Zealand is making everyone go into managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) for two entire weeks upon arrival. When we started investigating this step early in 2021, we realized it was nearly impossible to get a spot. NZ news had stories of people writing bots and scripts that would comb the site and scoop up any openings when they happened. It seemed impossible to get one, and without it there was no chance we'd get in. One evening Isaac was up later than usual and checked the MIQ site. For a second the whole month of July showed up, then went away. He got me out of bed and said "I think MIQ is being released for July, should I get us a spot?!" We managed to catch them right as they released all the July dates and we snagged one, booked tickets, and that was that.

There is a ton of other stuff on our list now that all the official tasks are done. Find movers, for instance. Figure out where to buy a car when we get there. Transfer my prescriptions over to a whole new medical system, rent out our house, forward our mail– the list of "life admin" (as Isaac calls it) goes on and on. But I always remind myself we aren't the only ones who've done this. If other families can figure it out, we will too.

Now, how on earth will we keep our energetic 2-year-old occupied for two weeks of quarantine in a hotel room...

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