Goodbye LA, hello Nashville! Ethan Hethcote and his partner Mark Miller were definitely ready to spread their wings across America after graduating from college in the Midwest. First they went to Los Angeles, where they found their own version of entertainment success by building a production company and a loyal following on YouTube. Recently, they made the trek back East, this time to Nashville, with Olive, their yellow Labrador retriever, along for the ride.  

How did they manage to make not one, but two cross-country moves in less than three years — and still have fun along the way? Ethan says one of the keys was using a 7-foot PODS moving container for both moves. Their other secret? A strong sense of adventure and discovery. We caught up with Ethan soon after they arrived in Nashville. Here’s their story, edited for length.

Moving from LA to Nashville
@visitmusiccity via Instagram

Why Nashville?

Like LA, it’s a really creative city. That was important to us, to still be in a very creatively driven place. And we also have some of our best friends who made their way in this direction from Indiana. (Both Ethan and Mark went to college in Bloomington.) After visiting a few times, we seemed to be picking up on the same things that attracted us to Los Angeles and moving west. And we said, “Wow. It seems like this is checking all the boxes without having to be in all that noise.” So we just decided, why not? And I think our dog will like the backyard, actually having grass.

How did you find a place to live in Nashville while still living in LA?

I’m a pretty proactive person. Looking at the logistics, I said, “What’s our exit strategy here?” We found listings online, and from the pictures, picked what looked good to us. And then we would send our friends to check it out, and they would give their stamp of approval.

Luckily, one of our favorite places worked out and the property manager was really, really helpful. She worked with us to get the start date of our lease not too overlapping so we weren’t paying for two places at once, which was a huge help.

Using a PODS Container for long distance moves

Why did you choose a moving container service for your first cross-country move?

We both had cars. So we looked at the preliminary logistics. How do we get all of our things across the country — and ourselves? My sister was living in Denver at the time. If you map from Bloomington, Indiana to Los Angeles, California, it takes I-60 right through Denver. So as we were planning this epic trip across the country, we decided — let’s just make it an adventure and visit the Rocky Mountains!

So that was one of the main reasons that we wanted to do some type of moving container service, where the transportation of the container is handled for us, so we could take our time and enjoy the trip. It just made sense as the natural option. I did my preliminary searching (I do pride myself on my research ability,) and PODS just seemed to be the best choice. I really was a fan of the customer service and it felt like to put all of our things in a box and not see it for a week and a half, just gave me some good peace of mind. We just had a one-bedroom apartment, and not a lot of stuff, so we went with the 7-foot container.

What about moving from LA to Nashville?

My thought process was, “Now we’ve got to get this stuff back.” And again, we both had cars. In this case, we mapped an interstate route that took us directly through Flagstaff, which is really close to the Grand Canyon. My partner, Mark, had never been to the Grand Canyon. So again, we thought, “How often are we going to be driving across country right next to the Grand Canyon? We should go.”

And of course, PODS came right to my mind first because we had such a great experience in the past.

Were you really able to fit all your stuff in a 7-foot container?

At this point, we were still in a one bedroom apartment, but we had accumulated a little bit more stuff. So we were looking at whether we wanted to do the 7-foot or the 16-foot.

We decided we wanted to downsize a little bit and just trim the fat. So we had a little yard sale about a month before we moved. It did really well … we were out there slinging all our used goods, having a good time.  And then we had just enough things that would fit.

PODS moving calculator

How did you know all your stuff would fit?

Because I used the moving calculator on the PODS website, where you check the boxes for what you have. You have a king bed, a coffee table, etc.

The truth is, I didn’t think it would work at first. I didn’t expect it to. I kept clicking boxes and it kept saying, “You only need a 7-foot container.” And I was like, are you kidding? How much stuff can fit in here? But we said, “We have to make a decision here, and I think we should just go with the 7-footer. And whatever doesn’t fit — we don’t want anyway. We don’t need to lug this across the country.” So it ended up being kind of a blessing in disguise that we just made a decision and ran with it.

And everything actually fit into that small little 7-foot container. But I shouldn’t say “small or little,” because there’s really much more space in there than you think. You’ve just got to finesse it a little bit. I will also confess that I have some amazing Tetris skills. I am a very good packer…it was filled to the brim, all the nooks and crannies.

What kind of stuff did you load?

We had a king-size bed, mattress, and box-spring, and a queen-size mattress only. Plus a lot of other stuff. We also had four bikes – not just two bikes – four bikes! We had two regular bikes and two electric bikes we’d just gotten.

Did you use any other PODS tools besides the moving calculator?

We used the PODS Moving Checklist. That was pretty helpful. It’s a downloadable moving checklist and guide right on the website. I did other research, too. It can be such a daunting task, but there’s so many resources out there; if you just do your research, you can really make it as easy as you can.

How much stuff fits in a PODS container

After two cross-country moves, Ethan and Mark have loads of advice that can help others making a similar trek. Here’s what they have to share:

Packing and loading tips for long-distance moving

Pack for your trip and arrival

  • Keep travel needs handy. “That’s something we learned on the way out to LA. We kind of forgot, and I think we had a couple of tank tops each,” Ethan recalled with a laugh. “We packed all of our things away and they were in the box making its way across the country.” This time around, they started with packing travel bags for what they’d need on their trip.
  • Bring home essentials with you. Don’t forget to pack bedding, kitchen, and bathroom basics in your car, so you’ll have what you need for your first few days at your new home. You may arrive before your container, and even if you don’t, you’ll be too tired from the trip to unload everything right away. Here are some items for your list:
    • Air mattress, sleeping bags or bedding, and pillows
    • Towels, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, and even a shower curtain, rings, and possibly a shower rod (find out what’s there ahead of time)
    • Silverware, your favorite pan, and spatula for making breakfast, a few dishes, dish towel, and dish soap. (If you prefer, you could pack disposable dishes, bowls, and utensils.)
    • Portable camp chairs

Get creative with loading to maximize container space

  • To protect their 55-inch flat screen TV, Ethan placed it between their two mattresses and tied it down. “We didn’t feel comfortable bringing something like that in our car. This was perfect,” he said.
  • Use the natural shapes of everything, starting with your biggest things and stacking the boxes. “We had some coffee tables that slid in between the boxes long-ways,” he recalled.
  • Use the full height of the container. “Once everything was stacked up, we had some canvas photo frames and stuff that we just slid over the top,” he said.

Tips for planning a cross-country road trip

Whether you have sightseeing goals, more than one car, or a dog that needs to be walked, it takes a little bit of pre-planning to make it all work. Here’s how Ethan and Mark did it:

Coordinate travel plans

  • Set sightseeing goals. “Of course for us, the big attraction was the Grand Canyon. And that was only seven hours from L.A.,” said Ethan. “So we drove there the first night and then woke up there, and went in right to the canyon in the morning. We stayed in Tusayan, which is the little tourist town right outside the rim.”
  • Plan for stops. “I’m a planner when it comes to road trips like this. So I planned out all our stops and about how far we would want to drive each day and when we’d each need gas, so we could stay close,” Ethan said.
Eating healthy on long moves
@wholefoods via Instagram

Find budget-friendly options when moving cross country

  • Use an app to find hotel deals. Ethan used the Hotel Tonight app to plan the rest of the tripeach day.“It gives you cheap hotel rooms around the area where you’re looking. We would search the day before and look at our options based on how long we wanted to drive,” he said. For example, they could choose a $60 hotel room six hours away, or one a bit further that was closer to an urban area with better food options.
  • Explore healthy food options along the way. “Trying to survive on something besides fast food on a road trip across the country is tough,” he pointed out.  So they’d look for hotel locations close to grocery stores where they could run in and get a salad mix, graze the hot food counter, or get “grab and go” items at the deli. “We still got our fair share of Taco Bell,” Ethan admitted. “But you can only have that so much and then you’re like, ‘I need some vegetables, I need things that are green.’ “
Couple after successfully moving cross-country

Make extra stops for pets

  • Give your dog breaks. As much as dogs love car trips, they still need time to get out and run around.             
  • Visit pet superstores. Places like PetSmart and other pet stores are Ethan’s perfect solution for walking your dog if it’s extra hot, cold, or raining outside. “We just walk Olive in laps around the store for about 20 minutes,” he said.

Thanks for all those great tips! Any last bit of advice for others making a long-distance move?

Make it fun. “Moving is already stressful enough. One of the best things about the PODS service to me was that it takes away that stress of worrying about the logistics of transporting your things, so you get to make it like a vacation,” said Ethan. “Sure, there’s a clear goal to this vacation, it’s moving from point A to point B, a one-way trip. But it did feel like a trip. We got to take our time with it and not be in such a rush.”

Good advice indeed.

You can follow Ethan on his future journeys @ethanhethcote via Instagram.

Liz Taylor is a freelance writer who keeps up with moving and storage trends while managing the PODS Containing the Chaos blog.