Young non-professional commiting financial suicide moving to Maine? (Portland, Brunswick: fit in, apartments)
Portland areaPortland, ME metro area
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A little about me: I was born in Lima, Peru, but grew up in Louisville, KY (which I adore as a small city). My mom is American (of German descent), my father is a Peruvian of polish and spanish decent, and I ended up being a blonde white guy who can speak fluent Spanish.
3 years ago, I made up my mind that working in a hip section of Louisville, making pretty descent money at a restaurant was a dead end, as far as a career goes. Many days, I miss that carefree time in my life. After having lived in Spain the previous year, I was left yearning for the travel I had become accustomed to while abroad and devised a delicious plan to get paid and travel.
I, therefore, moved to southern Florida to attend a maritime vocational school and proceeded to work on boats here. Now I am in the Miami area working for a very wealthy Cuban gentleman and I have a good (not great) but good paying job on his 100' motor yacht. Despite the fact that I love my work, I love being on the water, and traveling to exotic destinations. I don't think I can stand another year in Miami. The superficial, ostentatious, self-centered culture here is slowly breaking this mid-western boyís heart. I've known since the first month I moved here that it wasn't for me, but I wanted to stick out my dream of working on boats, which I have succeeded at. I've been through the Panama Canal and sailed to some of the coolest islands. Now I've reached a point where I want to further my education and get on a fast track to success as a boat captain. My options in yachting are slow and difficult; itís hard to accrue the amount of sea time I need to get the big license to make the money. Hence: I have decided to go to Maritime school. Maine was an obvious choice for me as Maine Maritime Academy is known for its standing and itís affordability for residents.
I need to come to Maine and live for a year, to A) Decide if I can handle the climate change and general change and B)To gain residency so that I may attend school for about half as much as I would otherwise. My plan, as it were, is to move to Portland (with the idea that there will be more jobs available). I wouldnít mind serving or bartending, but I would rather work in the marine industry. I donít have a lot of savings, maybe enough to hack it out for two months in a cheap rental looking for a job. And I can always dip into the olí credit cards. So the way I see it, I could probably tough it out for up to three months without employment before Iím completely bust.
My questions to you kind people are these:
Am I completely nuts? (no wait, I think I know the answer to that). Is this a viable option? Is anybody out there connected with the maritime industry who could give me specific advice? What is the job outlook right now for non-college grads and how hard is it to live in Portland on that kind of income. Mind you, my tastes are simple, but I need clean and safe. When is the best time of year to move? In reality I would like to come this fall after I make a couple of visits this summer. From everything Iíve heard, Portland is a beguiling and inviting place. Shall I continue to assume so? My political slant is to the left, do you think I would feel more at home in Portland? Does anyone have a job for a multitalented, bi-lingual (Spanish/English) guy? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Firstly, welcome to the Maine forum and if it works out for you....welcome to Maine! I cant really answer your most important questions.....but can tell you that the weather isnt really all that tough in the Portland vacinity and it is a charming and convivial small city....I think you would fit right in nicely. I think it is fair to say that employment ops are limited and by fall things are slowing down in the service sector..but you sound adaptable and multi experienced.
I know there are others with more practical knowledge for you, but responded as I wanted you to feel welcomed. Good Luck with your plans.
Yup...you will probably risk committing financial suicide but it's also possible you could be much happier with the lifestyle. I have lived in both Vermont and Maine and I found them both to have alot of similarities including the life mantra of many that it's not all about the money. It's not for everyone but it is for me and many others.
I'm not in Maine yet, Seafarer (moving there this summer) but wanted to join Elston in welcoming your questions. What a fascinating post actually. There are a number of regulars here who will respond soon I'm sure to offer you expert-level help. Keep your eye out for a regular contributor/writer here, "lrfox" who is an amazing resource for those of us considering relocations to Portland and areas throughout southern Maine.
In the meantime, I have a feeling your trek is going to be a fascinating one and I'm wishing you all the luck in the world as you pursue your passion.
I certainly understand you have many questions; but judging from reading what you've written in your post, you seem ambitious, well-grounded (in your thought process), and like you have a good gut instinct and know what is right for you. For those reasons, I have to say that you're certainly not making a poor decision in pursuing your career further in Maine. It appears that your level-headed (yet adventurous) approach to life/ your job has not lead you astray so far and I don't think a move to Maine would change that.
That being said, I'll answer what I can of your questions.
1) No. You're not nuts. Not even slightly. It's adventurous (and should be productive) and I admire that as someone who likes traveling and exploring new places as well.
2) It's viable if you know what you're doing (seeing as you've moved before, you know what you're doing).
3) I don't know anyone in the maritime industry in Maine. I have friends who attended Mass. Maritime and followed career plans similar to what you did out of Miami, but not contacts that are old enough/established enough to be able to offer you anything that you probably don't already know (they're all well under 30). If there's anything specific that those contacts could help you with, I'd be happy to ask and even put you in contact with them, but I don't know what more they could offer you than what you already know/ have experienced.
4) This is a difficult question. First, there are jobs out there for non-college grads. Serving/Bartending is the best bet. Portland has a decent restaurant scene for such a small city. There are a lot more restaurants than a typical city its size. That being the case, there are a good number of jobs for experienced servers and you can make decent pay. There are no super exclusive/ pricey restaurants. Portland's dining scene is very casual and even at the best restaurants people (with decent wine, entrees and appetizers) seldom spend more than $100/person on dinner. The result for a server is that there is nowhere where you're going to make a killing (I have an ex pulling in $80,000/ year serving at a restaurant in Boston), but there are places where you can make enough to get by and live comfortably if you're willing to live simply (which you've state that you are). As for straight up bartending, it's a little less of safe bet. Portland is not a nightlife town. The vast majority of the nightlife revolves around 7 or so small bars on a nicely converted cobblestone alley called, Wharf Street. Like the retaurant scene, the bars are very casual and do not serve pricey beverages and exotic mixed drinks that will bring in the tips. There are no upscale lounges or elite bars/clubs (in fact, there are no night clubs in the big city sense) that will serve an clientelle that dishes out the money (people go to Boston for that). You're looking at a pub scene and those aren't very lucrative in terms of bartending. If you want to bartend, your best bet is to do it at one of the better restaurants and combine it with serving because bartending the nightspots along isn't going to be a great source of income. If you do come in the fall (or on a visit in the summer) and bartending/serving is something that interests you, let me know and I'll see if I can get you an interview at a restaurant that a friend of mine is head chef. It's a decent place and even if it's not an interview (if nothing's available), you could make a local contact in the industry.
Another idea is city jobs. Portland's municipal employees tend to get paid well (I worked for the city while in college) and get pretty good benefits which can cover a lot of your healthcare costs. If you can find something interesting in Aquatics (which I don't know if you have or are willing to get the certifications), I have some very close friends who do hiring there and would be willing to help out. You can also see if there's any position for you on one of the year-round ferry lines that travels from Portland to the islands in the harbor. Your experience may be a big help in that regard. For seasonal employment, check the Cat which travels from Portland to Nova Scotia regularly. Again, I don't know much about the local maritime industry, but maybe that's somewhere to look.
Rents in Portland are reasonable (at least, I found them to be). It wasn't too hard to live in town before I had my degree. First, there are no bad neighborhoods. There is no ghetto, unsafe street or area to avoid (day or night). You may find that some areas look old and not necessarily visually appealing, but nothing ghetto or forboding. If you find a strangely low rent while looking, don't feel like it's because the neighborhood is a bad one... that's never the case (more likely, it's a crappy building or unit). Within walking distance to downtown, you can expect to find efficiencies and studios between $500/mo and $700/mo for something a bit larger. I've seen efficiencies as low as $400 in downtown Portland. You can find a 1 bedrom from about $650-950 and 2 beds for $800 and up. If you are willing to commute from a place like Biddeford or Saco (about 1/2 hour away) you'll pay less. A great deal for a short-term rental is a "winter rental" at a summertime beach community like Pine Point, Old Orchard Beach, Higgins Beach, etc (they'll advertise on craigslist).
Sometimes it's hard to get a job (particularly restaurant or bar tending) while living away so it can be difficult to line something up beforehand but at the same time it's hard to make a move without having something lined up before. That's something you're going to have to work to balance out.
5) If you're renting, the fall can be rough as college students make a mad rush for all of the available apartments. It can be tough to find something at the end of August and through September and prices are marked up a bit, but usually by October it's easy enough. As far as moving your stuff up, any season works it's just that in the winter you have the chance of getting snowed on (there will likely be snow on the ground as there is from December through the end of March), the spring runs the risk of rain and the summer you deal with tourist traffic ("traffic" in Maine is sort of an oxymoron, but there are more people in the area from June-August).
6) Portland's a cool little city. People are friendly (you heard correctly) and it's VERY safe. Given the presence of the maritime industry (mainly commercial shipping, fishing, transport, etc), you will likely find yourself among persons with similar interests.
Portland is small. I was sort of concerned when reading about your feelings on Louisville, KY being a "small" city (I've spent a grand total of 4 days in Louisville, but I did enjoy it- it's a LOT bigger than Portland... it's tough to compare the two). Louisville has a population of nearly 700,000 with a metro of about 1.3 Million. Portland has 63,000 people and 230,000 in the metro (470,000 in the entire Southwestern part of the state from Brunswick to Kittery... very sparsely settled by Northeastern standards). Like you, before going to Portland I lived in mostly larger metropolitan areas (DC, Providence RI and Boston) so Portland had the feel of a small to mid sized town as opposed to a real city. Don't get me wrong, there are decent restaurants, bars, shopping, etc... but just not on par with even a mid-sized metro. If you felt Louisville was small, you'll think Portland is miniscule. That comes with it's benefits. Portland has little to no crime (no "bad" neighborhoods), a great community feel (in a year, you'll feel like you know the town in and out), and a lot of people that care about the city as a whole (as opposed to their little neighborhood).
Portland is a progressive town in a mostly liberal state (though there are more conservatives in Maine than much of New England with the exception of New Hampshire). I think you'll find that you fit in just fine by leaning to the left. Even if you didn't lean that way, Portland's a pretty accepting and laid back town. You will do fine in Portland.
I don't blame you for wanting to leave Miami. Don't get me wrong, I love visiting (especially during the winter), but I couldn't deal with such a materialistic culture on a daily basis. However, there are snobs everywhere. In New England, we have the stuffy, old money snobs. They may not be walking around in brightly colored Zegna or Armani suits or driving Italian luxury sports cars (mostly because it's WILDLY impractical up here), but they do exist. Maine doesn't have the crusty elites that you'll find in and around Boston or throughout Southern CT, but they do find their way to Maine seasonally on occasion and can be as irritating (if not more so sometimes) than what you've got in Miami. I still think it won't be NEARLY as bad as what you're used to and you'll find it a breath of fresh air.
If you find that Portland is a bit too small for your tastes, but enjoy New England and still want to pursue that maritime education AND want a larger city (but not as big as Boston) I would look into living in Providence RI and attending Mass. Maritime (45 minutes East in Wareham, MA). Providence is similarly sized to Louisville (only 180,000 within the city limits but 1.6 Million in the metro-- Providence's city limits cover 18.1 square miles of land as opposed to Louisville's 385.9 square miles which make the city proper population of Prov. seem smaller when they're really close). I still think you should go with your gut and give Portland a good shot, but this could be an alternative should you not enjoy Portland (though I think you will).
In the end, I like your approach and I think you'll succeed. MMA is a good school. If you can get used to the weather and the smallness of Portland (and Maine), you'll do fine. You have the right idea of scouting it out and are asking all of the right questions. I hope this post was helpful, if there are any more specific questions, feel free to ask away. Portland's a lovely little city and I hope you enjoy it.
Welcome, Seafarer! I don't think you're nuts at all. At least, not a lot crazier than I am! I pretty much have done the same thing recently. I moved to Portland without ever having visited recently and thus far I truly love it. I worried that perhaps the people of Portland wouldn't be as welcoming as the ones in this forum but I was very pleasantly surprised. The rent isn't bad at all and I myself was able to find a cute place in a few hours in a great neighborhood.
I've lived in Kentucky and visited Louisville and it isn't very similar at all (to my memory) but everyone has thus far seemed rather down to earth and perfectly accepting. Which also works with my political left leanings!
Can't say anything about the job hunt just yet. I'm planning the same as you, just getting something, anything to start and then hopefully find something in my fields of study. Good luck! I hope they have use for bilingual spanish/english speakers as I too would fit that mold...
Don't hesitate to ask any questions in the forums. Most of my resources and research came from the people here and they were unbelievably helpful and kind; Lrfox and Elston in particular. If you have any questions you could always try to ask them! Sorry I couldn't be more helpful but welcome to the forums!
Hyakurin: I am so glad to read that your move has happened and that it is going well for you.
Good luck in the Job Hunt. I am sure it can be done.......step by step......the way you are doing it.
I think Seafarer will "fare well" here....considering his flexibility, experience and realistic goals....people do move to and survive in Maine!
Anyway......glad to hear you are doing ok and that your "leap" has been positive thus far.
Wow, lrfox. I knew you'd hit this one out of the park, but that was a grand slam.
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