10 Things I Learned From Living in Michigan for 12 Months

August 25, 2014


You guys, you guys, you guys.

It’s my one-year Michiganniversary!

(What? Michiganniversary is totally a word. Stop looking at me like that.)

That’s right, twelve months ago, I piled everything I owned (and a few things I’d pilfered from my parent’s house) into my grandmother’s hand-me-down Oldsmobile and moved myself to a town in Michigan I’d never ever been to before.

Me & all my stuff one year ago.

Moving selfie!

This may not have been the most dramatic move I’d ever made. It’s not like I packed it all in and moved to the Amazon (done that) or quit my well-paying job in Japan to take up cat-sitting in a jungle in Thailand by myself (been there). And Michigan is certainly a fair cry from the chaos, smoggy skies and street food of China.

But that’s not to say I haven’t learned a whole lot from my almost-twelve-months here.

You ALL know what’s coming, right?

Prepare yourself.

Because it’s a list.


10 Things I Learned From Living in Michigan for 12 Months

1. Things are good.


I know the kids these days are all about the minimalism.

But, man, oh man, I love me some stuff.

I mean, not that I’m a hoarder or anything, but it’s just nice once again to have a place that is filled with all my own stuff. Including my collection of novelty beer bottle openers.

This is a beer bottle opener. SERIOUSLY.

This is a beer bottle opener. SERIOUSLY.

Okay, maybe I am a little bit a hoarder.

But can you blame me?

2. All states should be shaped like a body part.


Seriously, you guys, is there some kind of Constitutional Amendment we can pass to make this happen?

It’s just so much easier to explain to someone where you live or where you’re going over the weekend when you have a map of the state right on your very own hand.

3. You can find foreign culture no matter where you live.


I live in a small college town in the Midwest, so you wouldn’t think the place would be teeming with foreign foodstuffs and exotic cultures.

But yet on my one-mile walk to work each day I pass by a mosque, a Middle Eastern deli, an Italian restaurant, two Chinese restaurants, and one of those gaming shops where guys with chin-length hair sit around playing Dungeons and Dragons in the middle of the afternoon. Okay, so that last one may not sound all that foreign to you, but, every time I pass by it, I have to stop and stare because, honestly, you guys, I just don’t get it.

Also, since moving here I’ve been to a Greek Festival, a Dutch festival, a Scottish festival, a German village, a Renaissance fair and an asparagus festival. Again that last one may not sound all that foreign, but the parade featured a Hispanic Heritage Queen and they served everything from Korean hotdogs to asparagus burritos.

I was, of course, too full from deep-fried asparagus to try either.

Deep-fried asparagus awesomeness.

Deep-fried asparagus awesomeness.

But can you blame me?

4. “Doing work you like with people you don’t hate is more important than earning and growth potential.”


Okay, so actually I didn’t learn that from Michigan at all but from this article on Huffington Post. (In fact, I kind of plagiarized it, but I put quotes around it, so hopefully no one will sue me.)

The truth is that I could be making a lot more money doing what I do overseas than I currently am making in the States. I could also be getting a free apartment and free flights home and all the super cheap street food my super-cheap-street-food-loving-heart desires.

But, the one thing keeping me from running back overseas at the moment is that I like teaching in the States more than I ever did overseas. I get to work with students who, for the most part, need and want to learn English and aren’t just being forced to learn it against their will, which was the case with most of my students in China.

I also currently don’t want to strangle any of my coworkers.

And I’m pretty sure none of them want to strangle me.

Money can’t buy that, you guys.

5. I can cook. And bake. And pie-crust-make.


It’s not that I didn’t cook or bake before I moved to Michigan.

I did.

But not really because I liked to cook or bake. Simply because I liked to eat. And I really liked to not have to put on pants. So cooking and baking for me was just a means to an end. Or, more accurately, a means to no pants.

But, over the past twelve months, I’ve actually started enjoying cooking and baking.

I have an entire cupboard full of ingredients, including corn starch and quinoa and a whole bunch of other stuff I’m not entirely sure what to do with.

I’ve discovered you can drizzle pretty much anything in olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and stick it in the oven for a while and you’ll be good.

And I’ve made three pies from scratch so far. THREE! I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of world record.

6. Making friends outside of college/work/we-both-live-overseas-so-let’s-be-friends-situations is hard work.


How many times have I said this on my blog? Like a million times, right?

And how many times have I promised to you that I was totally going to start making more friends outside of work? Like a million times, too, right?

And how many times have I actually done that? Like absolutely no times. Because talking to strangers is SCARY, okay?

But I promise to you this fall I’m totally going to make more friends.


(P.S. Anyone wanna move to Michigan and be my friend?)

7. You shouldn’t let your lack of friends/partners/random-people-you-can-sucker-into-doing-stuff-with-you stop you from doing stuff.


If you know me, you know I’ve always been a huge fan of traveling solo. Mostly because I don’t want anyone else to know that I ate two breakfasts and spent my day lounging in my hotel room watching Netflix in my pajamas.

But I’ve always been a bit nervous about doing other things solo — especially things that I think are going to be really couple-y or groups-of-friends-y.

In the past year, though, I’ve gone to a whole bunch of things I probably wouldn’t have gone to alone before — from male strip shows to hockey games to camping.

Sometimes it’s awkward.

Sometimes it’s fun.

And sometimes, like in the case of camping, it makes me feel like a superhero. An awkward superhero who took forever to make a fire.

But a superhero, nonetheless.

8. Pets make life better. And bloodier. And ruin-all-your-furniture-ier. But mostly better.


I don’t really know how it’s possible to love something that regularly attempts to suffocate me by sleeping on top of my face and shreds both my skin and my couch with its razor-like claws.

It doesn’t make any kind of sense.

But, man oh man, I love my cat more than is really recommended. And I have to say I’m a whole lot happier with that little fur-face in my life. Even if my back has started to resemble that of a torture victim’s from all the times she’s clawed her way up it.

9. The best way to remember why you love where you live is to show other people why you love where you live.

kzoo beer exchange

Last weekend my parents came to visit me and I toured them around town and then took them to my favorite downtown cinema, where they serve microbrew beer and fancypants food and boozy milkshakes.

They loved it.

Seeing how much they loved my new hometown made me love my new hometown even more. Because, seriously, who wouldn’t love a town where you can get boozed up on beer and milkshakes while watching movies?

10. It’s entirely possible to be happy with the life choice you’ve made but still not be sure if it’s the right life choice for you.
When my parents were visiting, they asked me if I liked Kalamazoo enough to live here long-term.

They asked it in that hopeful way — the way other parents might ask their daughter if that new boy she’s seeing just might the someone special she wants to settle down with.

I didn’t really know what to say.

I mean, I like it here. I really do.

But I’m still not sure if here is The One, you know?

Or if there even is a One for me.

Maybe I’ll settle down here. Or maybe I’ll move on.

Who knows?

All I know is my collection of novelty beer bottle openers are staying with me.

 What have you learned this past year?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On August 25, 2014 at 8:13 pm Jeff said:

    Happy Michiganniversary,

    It has been great following your adventures and reading more about my birthplace. I only spent the first three months of my life.

    I did visit there for the first time about 10 years ago for a couple of days but other than that I do not know much about it.

    Now I know more because of you. Thanks.
    Jeff recently posted..How Traveling in Europe has Changed in 20 Years

  2. On August 25, 2014 at 9:11 pm Gail proctor said:

    New York wants you back ! ,

  3. On August 25, 2014 at 10:53 pm Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    “It’s entirely possible to be happy with the life choice you’ve made but still not be sure if it’s the right life choice for you.”

    YES. ALL THE YESES TO THAT. That’s how I feel about Taipei. I’m so happy that I moved here, but is it somewhere I’ll stay forever? I don’t know, but right now, it’s right for me.

    Oh, and I laughed out loud several times while reading this. One of the times was about your cat attempting to suffocate you. I feel kind of bad for laughing about that.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Sunday Night Word Vomit

    • On September 6, 2014 at 1:29 pm Sally said:

      Glad to hear you’re feeling good about Taipei. Of course, I’m sure some of that feeling has to do with the hunkity hunk-hunk you’ve been hanging out with. Wish I could say the same!

  4. On August 26, 2014 at 2:53 am Sofia said:

    Your beer bottle opener looks awesome! Where did you get it?
    And I can’t agree with you enough with letting our cats ruin our skin or furniture.. my cat loves to bite me, especially when I’m preparing his food.. but I don’t know, I just love him so much! more than anything in this world!
    By the way, Happy Michiganniversary! 🙂

    • On September 6, 2014 at 1:24 pm Sally said:

      I actually got the bottle opener from a friend in Japan. I have a cool tribal mask like one from a friend in Cameroon and a Tsingtao beer one and Peking opera face ones from China.

  5. On August 26, 2014 at 11:07 am janice said:

    I love #10! Applicable to so many areas of my life right now. Thinking hard about jobs, cities, and monies…which ice cream flavor I’m making next.
    janice recently posted..My Mei

  6. On August 26, 2014 at 4:07 pm Nat said:

    Good job on the peach pie! It looks great. BTW I live in MI and we can be friends if you want. Thanks for all the great posts.

  7. On August 27, 2014 at 1:50 am HotMamaTravel said:

    A male strip show solo? Snaps girl! I am cracking up right now!
    HotMamaTravel recently posted..Anaheim Packing House

  8. On August 27, 2014 at 12:04 pm Alana - Paper Planes said:

    Numbers 8, 9 and 10! Agree!
    Alana – Paper Planes recently posted..Coming home…and the Questions People Ask

  9. On August 27, 2014 at 3:32 pm Daina said:

    Number 6 and number 9 – amen, sister!
    Daina recently posted..GVV Golden Anniversary (or: How I Partied in Michigan)

  10. On August 28, 2014 at 11:30 am Laura said:

    Making friends in real life as an adult is such hard work! Happy one year anniversary in Michigan! I totally get where you’re coming from with not being sure if it’s “the One.” It’s so nice to have options in life but it can be a lot of pressure too, when you wonder if the grass is greener somewhere else!
    Laura recently posted..Friday Roundup: August 8, 2014

  11. On August 29, 2014 at 3:33 pm zoe said:

    “It’s entirely possible to be happy with the life choice you’ve made but still not be sure if it’s the right life choice for you.”
    Unlurking to say YES and I think you’re right about maybe there’s not The One True Life Direction. Though I think a choice that allows you to drink boozy milkshakes at the cinema is a pretty good one for now.
    zoe recently posted..Zagreb: my kind of city

    • On September 6, 2014 at 1:05 pm Sally said:

      So glad you unlurked, Zoe. And I’m thinking I agree with you on the no One True Life Direction — although that won’t stop me from keeping on trying to find it.

  12. On September 3, 2014 at 12:23 am Ed said:

    Nice lists. I like point 9 where it forces you to be the tour guide of your own town. Sometimes you find things you haven’t even done in your own town just because you were searching for things to do with guests. I am in Portland, OR. We invented the drinking-beer-while-watching-movies. We have brew pubs EVERYWHERE. They just did a list of best states for brew and Oregon came up number 1. We have grade schools converted to brew pubs (not kidding). Oh, and point 4, very good, totally true!
    Ed recently posted..Can I get double miles if the plane engine is on fire?

    • On September 6, 2014 at 1:02 pm Sally said:

      I know what list you’re talking about — I think Michigan was #4 on that list. And what’s this thing about grade schools converted into pubs? MUST. GO. TO. PORTLAND.

  13. On September 3, 2014 at 3:06 pm Sara @ The Let's Go Ladies said:

    I love me some deep-fried asparagus.

    I also really agree with #9. In general, the city I live in isn’t really anything to write home about but when people come to visit I always find a way to make it shine. I’ll make fun of it all I want to local friends but defend it like crazy when a not-from-around-here is concerned.
    Sara @ The Let’s Go Ladies recently posted..Kelowna: A Tale of Two Attractions (That Are Perfect For Thrill-Seekers!)

  14. On September 5, 2014 at 10:10 pm Priya said:

    Happy Michiganniversary, Sally! I know what you mean about making friends in a new place. It’s not easy!
    Priya recently posted..How To Awkwardly Go To A Male Striptease Show In Australia In 14 Easy Steps

  15. On September 7, 2014 at 8:30 am Joanne said:

    Move to Ann Arbor! It’s part NYC, part MI. More fun, more to do, very intelligent/smart/funny college town, still with parks, near tons of camping and rec sites. Close to uber cool Detroit. See the DIA before it’s sold. Visit Toledo art museum (not much else there.)

  16. On September 8, 2014 at 12:07 am jan said:

    Is it possible to enjoy reading your readers comments nearly as much as your awesome blog posts. Nah, but they are pretty entertaining. I know… I do need to get out more.
    p.s. I know what you mean about money not being everything when it comes to a job.
    jan recently posted..Cunda or Alibey a Turkish Agean Island

  17. On March 3, 2015 at 9:28 pm Ceri said:

    Okay, you’re actually closer to your 2nd year anniversary than now that I’m 7 months late in commenting.

    I love how much you’re enjoying it there. Of course, I loved reading about your adventures in Thailand and China and Japan too but I’m still really enjoying every one of your posts about life in the US (even if I tend to read them a little too late),

    Btw, I only just realised why it’s called The Mitten State. Literally without that picture, I wouldn’t have realised, I just assumed it was because Michigan was ,,, cold? And sold a lot of mittens. ;/
    Ceri recently posted..My Five Favourite Things in February

  18. On May 15, 2015 at 12:42 pm Ron said:

    I’ve been doing a series of blog posts about living in Michigan. If ever, can I use this blog post of yours as one of our sources/materials? Proper credits will be given for sure. Thanks!
    Ron recently posted..If This Video Is Not Enough To Convince You To Move in Michigan, I Don’t Know What Else Will!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge