Or perhaps this would be more appropriately called, "Part 0," as this post is dedicated to impressions formed before I'd moved, when I was looking online for a place to live.
In New Jersey, I looked for housing on campus Roommates Classified ads, a school-sponsored Off-Campus Housing website, and Craigslist. Housing ads in New Jersey, even roommate want ads, were very simple.
$740 Roommate Needed (Morristown)
Roommate wanted for house in Morristown with young professionals (male and female). Large bedroom with 1 window and a skylight. House has large driveway, large yard, ample parking, washer/dryer.
This was taken from an actual ad. Note that the monthly rent for a housing share with two other people is $740. This exceeds the norm for Portland rent (excluding expensive fancy downtown areas) by about $300/month.
Shortly after exploring the rental listings in Portland, I knew the city was different. To compare, when I started writing this post, I did a search in both the Portland, Oregon, and the Northern NJ Craigslist listings for "chickens."
Here's what came up when I entered the same search in the North Jersey listings.
Another difference is the way roommates describe themselves. In Jersey, all of the roommates wanted ads I answered were pretty brief. It wasn't until we started e-mailing back and forth or even meeting in person that we began to discuss our interests. Note that in the Morristown ad, the roommates describe themselves as "male" and "female" and "professionals." This is pretty normal. A little more detail wouldn't out of line, such as the existing housemates' ages and perhaps what their respective professions are. Also note that the only requirements they list for their prospective housemate is that he or she exist.
In Portland, on the other hand, it's much more likely that you will get the life story of the current residents laid out for all of Craigslist to see, along with a suggestion for your life story. Consider the following, copied and pasted from an actual Portland Craigslist ad.
Do you like to garden? Interested in permaculture? Are you involved in the healing arts? Interested in co-creating a sacred arts space? Want to stay for a while? Our intention here is to create a supportive and nurturing home in which we can be inspired and inspire others to live their dream. We seek to create balance between our individual lives, that of our household community, and of our surrounding community. We are interested in learning how to be an 'urban homestead', i.e. growing our own food, keeping chickens, canning, buying local... We enjoy such things as hiking, biking, herbalism, heirloom tomatoes, poetry, eating meals together, and birds.
I did not make up a single word of that.
I responded to several ads resembling this while still in New Jersey, packing up my life and possessions for my westward journey. I was surprised to receive such cold responses from those who had written such warm (yet in some cases, demanding) classified ads. No one would agree to even consider a roommate whom they could not meet in person first. Even on a month-to-month lease. (I wanted to say, "But you can kick me out!") Even if we could e-mail, talk on the phone, "meet" on Skype, and even when I could provide references dating back to 2003.
But eventually I did find a place, and when I set out on I-80 on June 28, 2009, there was a home waiting for me on the other side of the country.