“Do something and do it big.” My daughters said. “You are unhappy, so you need to just do something.” My throat tightened as it always did when it seemed I needed to cry, but really, I needed to speak.
That was the beginning of the scariest decision I have made in a very long time. In 2017, I was going to leave my home in the San Francisco Bay Area, my work and friends of 30+ years, and return to my childhood home, Illinois. A state I had not lived in for over 30 years.
I packed to vacate the house that I had shared with Airbnb renters, dwindled all down to a 10×10 storage unit, load up my Prius C, the very smallest of the Prius line, settle my chocolate Labrador in the back seat and head out.
We traveled through parts of the South that showed me exactly why our politics were in the state they were in, and because my dog is an ambassador, I met and talked to people I would never have spoken to, thinking we had nothing in common. But soon into a conversation with a complete stranger, I learned we had much in common, though I will still never wear camouflage pants or hats. I don’t find that I need to hide.
My decision to trust, believe in not knowing, and put one foot in front of the other, opened doors I knew were there, but I was too afraid to open.
My dog and I lived in a room at an Airbnb in the Chicago area for about one year, where we worked in a therapeutic elementary school and a hospice giving comfort to those there. And then, with the idea that I had collected necessary memories and done what I needed there, I bought a Trail Vail for my hatchback, met some friends from a distant past, comforted Henry in the backseat, and started camping our way out to Oregon.
We, Henry, my dog and I, have lived in Oregon a year at another Airbnb, and I am leaving again. For now, we will return to the Bay Area for the holidays, and then I don’t know what is next for Henry and me.
Thank you @BEunsettled for making a life unsettled a bit more of a thing, crazy but doable.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Ellen, What an adventure – and I love your openness in allowing it to continue. Wishing you all the best! Beth & Jo.

    1. Ellen S. says:

      Thank you!

  2. betseyc says:

    How very interesting! I look forward to seeing you while you’re hear and mulling on all this together. In the meantime, I’ve moved into an apartment in Larkspur.

    Love, Betsey


    1. Ellen S. says:

      It would be very nice to see you. I’ll be there mid November.

  3. Janet says:

    Ellen, how interesting that you volunteered at a therapeutic elementary school and hospice with Henry! That’s a great partnership. Your Portland friends will miss you.

    1. Ellen S. says:

      I will miss you, Janet!

  4. Diana says:

    Many of your words could have come from me, from the crying to the traveling to the wondering. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Ellen S. says:

      Thank you, it is always good to connect with a fellow traveler.

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