On August 27, 2005 I boarded up my house and my business, New Orleans Ultimate Fitness Trainers, and then loaded up the car with three days worth of clothes and headed north. Two days later in New Orleans the 17th Street Canal broke. My home situated three blocks from the canal was under water. I just had moved there four months earlier. My business, five blocks from where the waters stopped rising, suffered minimal damage.
Six weeks later I returned to New Orleans stuck with a mortgage payment, renovation payments, working in a business that was showing a negative cash flow, and no place to live. I decided to try to keep the first business going and explore that option of opening a second business outside of New Orleans. I spent months scouting out locations and decided on Austin.
A real estate agent was asked by a prospective buyer what the neighbors were like in the area where he wanted to buy. The agent replied with a question, “What were the neighbors like where you used to live?”
The buyer replied, “They were really friendly”.
The agent responded, “You will find that the neighbors are really friendly here.”
That is pretty much my experience moving to Austin from New Orleans.Much has transpired in the five years since Katrina. I am very much settled in and happy here. It seems like a long time ago.
I was one of the lucky ones. I had a place to live and a job. For five months I slept on the floor of my New Orleans business. My business returned to profitability. I did not have to do serious battle with insurance companies. I received my home owner’s insurance check within six months and was able to sell my home the same day my insurance check cleared.
My final week in New Orleans was an emotional one. I was meeting with each of my clients, friends, and fellow trainers for the last time. Most of my clients were longstanding, some as long as ten years. I realized how dear my clients, co-workers and friends are. It was an emotional week, but it was one of the more memorable weeks of my life. On February 28, 2006 I loaded all the stuff I owned and my dog Stella and set out for Austin. Three months after moving to Austin I opened a second business, Kelly’s Austin Personal Training.
I left New Orleans after 26 years contented with the past and anxious about the future. During the darkest days after Katrina I often said, "A year from now we will all be in a better situation and a better place". I know that is not true for many; I was one of the fortunate ones. Austin has proven to be a great place to live, I have made many wonderful friendships, and for that I am truly thankful.