Ashley, the blogger behind Eights on the Move and a new sponsor of My Traveling Troop, was born and raised in Missouri. But thanks to her husband’s job in the U.S. Navy, she packed up her belongings a year ago and headed west. The destination: Whidbey Island, Washington. If you want to learn what it’s like living on an island that provides stunning mountain views, but is a bit of a haul to the mainland, keep reading! Ashley has kindly agreed to share what it’s like living there. She also gives us a sneak peak into her life and blog.
Q: Tell us about you & your husband.
A: My husband & I both grew up in St. Louis, Mo. We met during summer break in college and were married exactly 4 years after our first date. We love sports, especially baseball. Most of our traveling tends to be inspired by seeing a game at a particular arena or stadium. We have a Weimaraner named Gunner, the closest thing we'll have to a child anytime in the near future. While I teach preschoolers who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, M works as a Logistics Specialist for an air squadron.
Q: You blog at Eights on the Move. What inspired you to launch the blog? And what kinds of topics do you cover there?
A: When M joined the Navy, we geared up for our first big move away from our families. When he left for bootcamp, our friends and families had SO many questions about our new journey. I decided to start to blog to keep everyone up to date on our current situation, where we'd be moving, etc. I also wanted to connect with military spouses to learn more about the adventure we'd signed up for! So while I try to post photos and fun happenings of our daily live, I also try to provide potentially helpful information for someone who might just be starting out (like I was a year and a half ago).
Q: Describe Whidbey Island for people about to move there.
A: Whidbey is the second largest island in the continental U.S. (second to Long Island). It has a pretty squiggly shape, so sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you're heading east, north, etc.! We're in what locals call the 'Banana Belt', which is a rain shadow that blocks most of the rain thanks to the mountain ranges. We were shocked on our first day moving in, when we noticed NO air conditioning or central heat. It’s just so temperate that you really don't find extreme weather there. On a clear day, we enjoy the sights of Mt. Baker AND Mt. Rainier. There's quite a bit of farming on the island, as most of the restaurants and groceries maintain sustainability locally. It’s also quite a vacation island for metropolitans. Most weekend ferries from May to September are jam packed for hours with visitors or people staying in their weekend homes. There's only one main highway, and each of the towns along the way are right off of it. They all have quirky stores, delicious local food and eclectic sights to see (varying from a massive meteor rock to whale skeletons and pirate ships).
Q: How long have you lived on the island?
A: We just marked a year of living on Whidbey!
Q: This was your first move as a military family. How did the move go? Did you learn any lessons on the way?
A: I posted the heck out of our move, mostly because our friends and family wanted to know how we were doing :) I also didn't want to forget all the memories we were making at the time. We decided to move ourselves, and make a bit of money without getting the Navy involved. Because M was in A School for most of the time, my mom helped me pack up our home in St. Louis. I bought a million tubs from Target and labeled the heck out of everything in as orderly of a fashion as possible. It really helped us prioritize what needed to be unpacked first, etc.
Q: Do you live in military or off-post housing? What is that like?
A: Because of my commute, we do not live in military housing. The base is located at the top of the island, and the ferry to the mainland is at the bottom. We chose to rent a home smack dab in the middle of the island so we could have access to everything in a more efficient way. I've seen some of the military housing and I don't think we'd be opposed to living in the nicer parts if life lent itself someday! They just built some gorgeous subdivisions that we've had our eyes on if our situation changes :)
Q: Are there jobs on the island? Or do folks have to ferry or drive to the mainland for work?
A: I can only speak for my line of work (teaching) about jobs on the island. There are three main school districts on the island, set up geographically from top to bottom. Unfortunately, just like most of the country, the districts are experiencing budget cuts, which equals staffing cuts. I've applied for several positions, but I'm pretty sure most of them are hired internally. I have a huge group of commuters that travel with me each morning and evening. Most of them work for Boeing, Microsoft or Amazon. The island has an amazing FREE transit system that we all take advantage of. It makes stops just about everywhere on the island each day and night, so I use the heck out of it. There are plenty of people who drive on and off the ferry to work each day - but it’s pretty pricey. Instead, I pay to keep my car parked on the mainland and travel the island for free.
Q: You work in Seattle. What is your commute like? Any tips for people who have to make the same trek?
A: I won't sugar coat it. My commute is less than ideal. But if it weren't worth it, I wouldn't do it. I guess that's an individual choice for someone moving here! I cried for the first week or so, and then pulled up my bootstraps and focused on the pleasure of having a job and an income. :) So here it is: M takes me to the (free) transit stop about a mile from our house on the main highway around 5:30am. I catch the bus and ride it down the island to catch the 6:30am ferry (I buy a monthly pass around $55). That takes me to the mainland in Mukilteo where I keep my car safely parked in someone's drive way (that costs $75 a month). I walk to my car and then make the drive into Seattle to arrive at school around 7:45am. Then I do all of that in reverse on my way home :) M picks me up at the same stop 12 hours later at 5:30pm. (I should mention that when he's away, I drive his car and park it at the bus stop so I don't have to walk to and from our home...mostly for convenience, safety, etc.)
Q: Now that you've been there for a little while, what are your top three favorite things to do on the island?
A: We are spoiled rotten with amazing dog parks for Gunner. There's one on the beach, where we stroll along the waves and chat with vacationers, one right in our neck of the woods (literally) where we walk the trails with neighbors and several others throughout the island (I've posted about some on the blog). We also live only a mile from the beach, so we really enjoy taking leisurely strolls - or sometimes brisk jogs - to the beach and back. And I really love going out to eat in our town of Coupeville. The downtown area has such great cuisine (everything from Italian to Thai, ice cream to pubs) that I adore.
Q: You two are sports fans. Are there opportunities to catch games out there?
A: Other than little league, high school or squadron sports, there are not any professional sports teams on the island. But I commute to Seattle each day, so a visit to the city isn't much for us. We've been to Safeco Field to see the Mariners play a few times this past season. We're looking forward to seeing the Seahawks at Qwest Field and hopefully catching a Seattle Sounders game (soccer) too!
Q: Have you taken day or weekend trips to neighboring cities? If so, what are some of your favorite places to go? Attractions to see?
A: It requires a bit of planning to get off the island and scope other places out. We have fun in Seattle, although it’s a huge metropolis - paying to park, fighting heavy traffic, etc. We've also visited the mountains, which again, requires planning. It takes a bit of time to get anywhere in Washington because it’s so BIG. We've really enjoyed snow tubing in Snoqualmie, feeding wild animals out of our car in Sequim and visiting our hometown hockey team while they played in Vancouver, Canada (about an hour and half or so drive).
Q: Anything else you think is important to add or share with families who might move Whidbey Island?
A: I'm too Type A not to have a plan. I insisted we knew what we were doing, where we were living, how I was earning income, etc. before we left. It was crucial to have everything set up before we headed out so that we could unpack and start living right away. I didn't want to be living in a hotel or unsure of how I'd get to work each day. I scoured the Internet before we left to make sure I knew everything possible so I wasn't shocked with something unexpected when we arrived. Each town on the island is so adorable and diverse, with (according to M, not me because I don't like seafood) seafood - the island is known for mussels from Penn Cove, fun shops, and incredibly friendly neighbors always willing to give you directions or recommend a great hiking trail.
Q: Are there any helpful websites, Facebook pages, etc., for people about to move there?
A: Because Whidbey is such a tourist location, they have a great website with information about each town, what to do, etc. that I read up on when we found out we'd be living there. I also 'liked' some local restaurants and shops, as well as a whale watching organization that posts about where they spot whales along the island so I could catch them if we were nearby.
Q: Thanks, Ashley!
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