We left California for Texas to avoid the sky high prices and COVID restrictions. We love the slower pace of life down south and will never return. (2023)

  • Jennifer and Chuck Balek moved to Texas from California in April 2021 with their family of seven.
  • The couple said high prices in California and severe COVID responses prompted them to flee.
  • The couple love the friendliness of Texans and said they would never return to California.

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This essay is based on a conversation with married couple Jennifer Balek, 38, and Chuck Balek, 43, about their experiences moving their family from Camarillo, California to Rockwall, Texas in April 2021. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Jennifer: I was born and raised in Camarillo, California. I've lived there all my life, went to school there and didn't live anywhere else until we moved.

Lining:I was born in Whittier, California. When I was 21 I moved to Ventura County where I put down roots.

We've been together for 10 years now. We've both been married before and when we got together we started our blended family, which we jokingly call the Balek Bunch.

Jennifer:Imagine the Brady Bunch and that's us, just a little crazier.

Lining:Our children are our greatest joy, even if they are a mess.

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Jennifer:We have six in total. Our youngest will soon be 11 and our oldest 24.

We lived in a really nice area in California. It was a beautiful, bourgeois city. When I was growing up it was really small. But it was very family oriented, very conservative. The neighborhood was really neat. Camarillo was 10 minutes from the beach which was great.

But prices just kept going up.

Lining:We paid $4,000 a month rent for 3,200 feet. And that's why we could never save enough to buy a house.

Jennifer:We never really tried to buy anything in California because the down payment to buy a home the size we would need for our large family is over a hundred thousand dollars. How do you save that?

$4,000 a month for rent and $6 a gallon for gas and all these other expenses just made it impossible.

There was a time when we spent at least a thousand dollars a month on gas.

Lining:The Californian dream - that was our parents' dream, it was our grandparents' dream. But it wasn't possible for us to do it alone. We do not come from families with money that could help us in this regard.

California's COVID response was the last straw that broke the camel's back for us

Lining:We'd only ever talked loosely about leaving the country, but COVID was definitely the reason we ditched the whole thing. Our kids were fine until COVID.

We saw our kids struggle with the online thing every day.

Jennifer:I was working full time from home trying to help five kids with their Zoom schools. it was crazy

It killed us. Schools went part-time again, but your child could only go there two days a week. And if someone contracted COVID in class, they shut down the whole school. It was something new every day.

And the children learned nothing. They were so behind the ball. It was just brutal.

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Lining:In December 2020 we sat down and said that we actually have to think about moving.

Jennifer:In January 2021 we had the feeling that we couldn't do it anymore.

We were pretty determined to get out of there. We can't afford that. The school thing is ridiculous. I was so fed up with the restrictions in our county. We were just so fed up with it all.

Lining:We booked our flights for the first week of February to find a house in Texas.

We left California for Texas to avoid the sky high prices and COVID restrictions. We love the slower pace of life down south and will never return. (1)

Courtesy of Jennifer Balek.

We searched all over Texas for the right place to settle

Jennifer:We had looked at other states. We were definitely looking for somewhere conservative. We wanted to move to a republican state where we had the greatest possible freedom.

We had many friends who had already moved here to Texas, people from our church, family, friends. they loved it.

But Texas is a huge state.

I wanted a family area. I didn't want a city. I didn't want it to be a college town or a small town with a lot of older people. I wanted a young community with really good schools. Every time we looked at a house, I checked the school reviews.

Rockwall wasn't even on our radar. We didn't know what it was. We hadn't heard about it.

Lining:Rockwall is the smallest county in all of Texas.

Jennifer:I just happened upon an offer from this establishment which was really sweet. And the schools in this town are really good.

So we take a look and pulled into our particular neighborhood and everyone's front door was decorated for Valentine's Day because we came in February. I was like, oh my god, I love this. Everyone is decorating for the holidays. These are my people.

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And there is hilly terrain. it's so pretty All yards are well maintained. This looks like such a nice neighborhood.

From the start we fell in love with North Texas more than any other place.

Lining:It just felt like it was meant to be.

First, we made an offer at the full asking price. They came back and said they had three more offers. Jennifer was very inclined to include a little love letter, a photo of our family stating that we are just a family looking for a home to raise our children.

That worked. They accepted our offer even though there were offers that were better than us. We paid $386,000.

We left California for Texas to avoid the sky high prices and COVID restrictions. We love the slower pace of life down south and will never return. (2)

Courtesy of Jennifer Balek.

Our family quickly fell in love with Texas

Lining:We have taken the approach of being modern pioneers. We will leave behind everything and everyone we have known and we will find a better life for our children and ourselves.

Jennifer:We had a large support network in Camarillo. My whole family was there. I've lived there all my life. We had a large church family. The kids had been in the same schools, so they all had their friends.

Apart from them and us from all of that, that was my fear of moving here: I wanted to be able to find that again.

We moved here in April 2021.

Lining:I think we ended up exactly where we should be. All have adapted very well. The children were all fine.

Jennifer:The schools here are really, really good.

Lining:They have programs that allow kids to use their hands and brains, not just sit behind a screen.

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The biggest price difference we've seen here since we moved was on petrol. When we moved, gas was about $2 less than in California. When we got here we paid $2.86, in California it was $5.

We are doing very well now. The cost of living is probably a good 15-20% lower than in Southern California.

Lo and behold, now my mother and father-in-law live three minutes away from us. And my brother and sister-in-law and our three nephews live down the street from my in-laws. And my sister-in-law's parents are now leaving Camarillo.

Jennifer:In any case, some people have followed us here.

Lining:My best friend says I have to be a spokesperson for Texas because I'm just selling people moving to Texas. I just want people to understand that this was the best decision we could have ever made.

We left California for Texas to avoid the sky high prices and COVID restrictions. We love the slower pace of life down south and will never return. (3)

Courtesy of Jennifer Balek.

There's only one thing we miss about California

Jennifer:Everyone out here is so nice. Southern hospitality is definitely there. Everyone is very respectful. They hold the door open for you. They don't interrupt you for a parking space. It's very community based.

It's slower here. Everyone will stop and talk to you. You go to the grocery store and strike up a conversation with literally everyone.

Lining:I've spent many, many years stuck in traffic on the 405 Freeway in California. And it's just not like that out here. It doesn't feel like people are getting angry because we're moving slowly. People just go along with it.

Jennifer:However, it's difficult to find good Mexican food here.

Lining:Everything is Tex Mex. They drown everything in queso. Don't get me wrong - some of it can be extremely delicious, but when you've been eating Mexican food in Los Angeles for 41 years, it's not the same.

Jennifer:In Southern California, one is really spoiled for choice when it comes to dining options.

Lining:Here you will find barbecue facilities. But beyond that, you won't find much.

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But there is no turning back. My boss recently asked me if I would ever go back to California and I said he could offer me a 4,000-square-foot house on the beach and $200,000 in income, but I still wouldn't do it.


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