There we were, driving through Las Vegas on an early spring day. At any other time, we would have hit massive traffic in both Los Angeles and Vegas. But not on this day. The highways were eerily empty. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life.
When you stopped, the only sound you could hear was wind. Only a few people — none of them wearing masks — were at gas stations.
With impeccable timing, we made an interstate move during the chaos of COVID-19. Many families would have waited for the dust to settle. But we had already committed to the move, so we chose to take the risk and continue on.
I have lived in California my whole life, so when my husband and I began discussing a potential move to Utah, it was both scary and exciting. What I didn’t know was that the entire world was going to undergo a major change just when I did.
We wanted to relocate to a new, more affordable place for two reasons: California is extremely expensive and my husband wanted a job that would allow him to be home every night. When we first met, he was out on the road for two-week spurts. More recently, he was travelling for a week at a time, which was stressful for our family.
I needed him around more following the death of my mother last year. After her passing, everything in our lives changed. I became a caregiver for my dad; he moved in with us.
Fast forward to the chaos we are living in right now. Right before the move, California got crazy. By the time the stay-at-home orders came down, we had already rented a moving van and trailer. But then someone told us Utah was closing its border and we wouldn’t be able to get in. I felt anxious and scared, because we had already turned in our apartment and put down money for the house in Utah. I felt like crying. What if all the sacrifices we were making were for nothing? What would happen next?
This was when I realized how little you can trust rumors, especially in the Covid era. When my husband called the Utah Highway Patrol and told them about our move, they said there was no problem. Utah’s rules would be the same as California’s, essentially requiring people not to leave their homes unnecessarily.
That Sunday, with our fur babies in our car and the three of us in the rental van, we said our last goodbyes to our family. At 12:48 p.m., we left. It felt surreal to me.
There were so few cars on the road that I felt like I was in some kind of post-apocalyptic movie. When we did see cars going toward California, we would jokingly yell “don’t go; it’s a trap!” The four times we stopped it was the same scenery — empty, deserted and windy.
Our new neighborhood is extremely quiet and when we began unloading the truck hardly anyone was out. Our next door neighbors did greet us and even helped us unload the truck. That was extremely nice yet surprising. One of the neighbors made us a home-cooked meal and gave us some strawberries.
The grocery store was open, with people wearing masks and keeping their distance. Other stores were closed. Many people have housewarming parties when they move into a new place, but that isn’t happening this time.
We haven’t been able to explore and go shopping the same as before the pandemic. Getting to know our new community will take time. But although I was afraid of making a big change, especially during the pandemic, everything worked out.
And the next time I watch a dystopian movie in which the world has changed and the characters are traveling deserted roads to escape to a better place, I’ll be able to nod my head and say, “Yes, I know just how that feels.”