How did I make it in Seattle with 380$ in my pocket and no work permit?

Moving from Caldwell, Idaho to the big city of Seattle, Washington.

It is soon to be my one year anniversary in Seattle and all I keep thinking about is how this city changed me so much in such a short period. Coming to Seattle was never part of my plans. In fact, I used to believe that once I graduated I was going to move to Portland, Oregon. The idea of Portland seemed right at the time as I loved the city when I first visited. Portland’s hipster culture, gluten-free menus, nature, rain, and Shiba Inus were among the reasons why I liked Portland so much.

Days before I graduated college I was not sure if I was going to stay in the USA. I had applied for my one-year work permit, OPT, and I was constantly having doubts of my future. I remember having an inspirational conversation with a friend one day, she opened my eyes and presented me the advantages of having work experience in the US. Hence, I decided to stay and move to Seattle. Nonetheless, I had not prepared myself for what was going to come. I only had 380$ on my bank account and no work permit.


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A Palestinian friend of mine named Ahmed offered me a ride to Seattle for 40$. He has family living in the city so he was going to spend the summer with them and drive to their house after graduation. 40$ in comparison to the 120$ flight to Portland was way cheaper for me at that moment. I said yes right away to Ahmad’s proposal without knowing how expensive Seattle is, how hard is to find housing, the struggles of not having a work permit, and the famous “Seattle Freeze”.

I remember leaving my university on a sunny morning. It was cold and Ahmad had picked me up in his famous Mercedes (he didn’t stop talking about it for months). I was a bit anxious but the feeling of leaving Idaho was not a bittersweet feeling but instead, it was a feeling of flying away from a 4-year cage I lived in. With my college degree in hand and my adventurous spirit, we headed to Seattle thinking it was going to be easy to make it.

On our way to Seattle. Leaving Idaho and entering Washington.

As I mentioned before I did not have a place where to sleep. Well, I kind of did but it all changed once we crossed the borderline between Washington and Idaho.

Two weeks before I graduated I paid for Work Away. Work Away is a website where you exchange work/volunteer for housing and food. There is a wide range of places you can volunteer such as organic gardens, hostels, beach bars, farms, etc. I heard of Work Away during my previous solo European trip Image result for workawayso I was not scared about it. I had contacted the Tortuga Hostel in Seattle and I was supposed to start volunteering during the first week of June 2016.  It all seemed good until they reached me by email saying that they did a mistake and I was supposed to arrive in August 2016. You can only imagine my face. Out of the sudden I felt like a dead body. My face went white and my skin got cold, I looked like a zombie.  Thoughts of failure started to scatter across my brain. I kept thinking that I was soon to become homeless and that I was not going to make it back to Costa Rica as I could not afford it lol.

Although the situation at that moment seemed to be the worst something inside of me told me not to worry. Something kept me calm throughout the entire ride. There was no way I was heading back to Idaho nor that I was going home without having worked in the US.

First weeks in Seattle. The struggle is real when waiting for your work permit. 

I arrived in Seattle after a couple of hours of driving. During my first couple of days I


Lennard, Me, Andy and his cock, and Ruben.


was staying at the house of an Asian guy who hosted me through Couch Surfing. He was also gay and he liked hosting travelers from all around the world. The fear of failing in Seattle continued to increase little by little but I kept reminding myself to stay calm. I only had accommodation for three days with Andy. During that time, I was with two other couch surfers from Germany, their names were Ruben and Lenard. We got along right away and we went together to explore the city. I was amazed by how beautiful Seattle was. Even if in the back of my mind I had that anxiety of not knowing where I was going to crash in a week I still managed to appreciate the beauty of Gas Work Park and its incredible view of the Space Needle and Seattle downtown.

I had spoken to an old friend of mine who studied at my boarding school in the Bosnia and Herzegovina campus. We met in college back in 2010,  she was a senior student and I was just a freshman.  I remember that during that year I was always inspired by her and by how mature she was. We had arranged to meet up for some drinks as she has been living in the city for the past couple of years.

We met on a Wednesday if I am not mistaken at an Irish pub in downtown Seattle. I was ready to tell her that I did not make it in Seattle and that I didn’t even last a week in the city. My money was running out little by little. Indeed, paying


My room for my first 3 months in Seattle.


2.50$ for the buses back and forth seemed to me like the most expensive thing ever.  I remember being ashamed by the fact that I was going to tell my friend that my plans did not go as expected but in reality, things were going to be the opposite.I was not expecting that my friend was going to become my guardian angel for the upcoming three months. When I explained to her what happened with the hostel dropping me off she offered me her house. She explained to me that she went through similar situations when she came to Seattle and that in her case she knew nobody. She started from zero and grew to be who she is right now: an empowered, incredible, and fascinating woman. At that moment, I saw a little bit of hope. Hope that I did not have to go back to Costa Rica or that I was not going to fail.


My closet for my first 3 months in Seattle.



I believe that God simply sends people into our life in order to take care of us and help us accomplish what we are supposed to accomplish. What my friend did for me that day will never be forgotten. Opening her house to me for 3 months without having to pay for rent was simply one of the most honorable things someone has ever done for me. I will never stop being so grateful to be honest.

3 months of wondering.

I had moved to my friend’s apartment in one of the most beautiful and most expensive neighborhoods of Seattle. Her apartment was simple yet super comfortable. It had a great balcony with an incredible view of the Space Needle. The apartment was a couple of blocks away from the Seattle Center which was incredible as I would never miss the activities they have. Lower Queen Anne was amazing, perhaps one of the most beautiful locations in the entire city.



I used to walk every day by the Space Needle and imagine that one I was going to make it in Seattle and it happened just like it happens when you wish to the stars.



Even after I moved to my friend’s house I was still waiting for my work permit. The boredom and the lack of money started to give me anxiety. The only thing that kept me sane was hearing my friend’s stories about how she made it in Seattle. I remember thinking that if she made it I could also make it. She advised me to check for gigs on Craiglist to do something in my spare time, something different from cleaning and cooking every day.

I hated dogs my entire life. In fact, this perception changed when I moved to S

Muffin and Pasha

eattle and I was waiting for my work permit. I got a hobby in Upper Queen Anne which was to walk 3 doggies for fun. I was very lonely during my first months in Seattle that these 3 dogs became my only friends. I remember waking up every morning and taking the bus to Upper Queen Anne. At the beginning, I would just walk them without minding much about them but after a while I began to like them sooo much that I missed them the days I did not see them. Pasha, Muffin, and Rocket were the most beautiful office dogs ever. My OPT work permit came a month and a half after I arrived in Seattle. I gotta say that once I got it I was super happy. Something inside of woke up and told me that


My OPT work permit came a month and a half after I arrived in Seattle. I gotta say that once I got it I was super happy. Something inside of woke up and told me that finally I was going to be a productive and independent adult.

I quitted my job as a dog walker as my visa required me to get a job related to my field of study. I needed something right away as the clock was moving fast. If I did not find a job in 3 months my visa would be revoked so time was my biggest enemy. My first legal job in Seattle was as a canvasser for Green Peace. I honestly hated the job as it required me to walk 8 hrs a day and go door to door signing people as members. After a week of work I ended up quitting. But before quitting I learned a valuable lesson that kept repeating itself during my one year in Seattle —-  On my first day of work one of my coworkers was the best at what he did. I was shadowing him for my entire day. During that entire shift I remember how this guy told me that people like me do not make it in cities like Seattle, that I would never find an apartment nor a room, and that a college degree wasn’t going to make it for an immigrant. I remember how his words almost made me cry that day. My energy levels were on the floor and his voice did not leave my head until I went to sleep. He was the first person in Seattle to show me my real fears. Nonetheless, even if I found someone as negative like him I believe that there is a greater force that looks after you/me. The next day I was ready to quit but I had decided to complete the day just to give it a try. I was paired to a different coworker who saw me a bit uninterested in the job and asked me what was going on. I explained to him what happened the day before and how that guy’s comments had made loose focus. Moments after that he began to talk about God and the purpose he had for me in Seattle. He explained that evil is always looking after us and it is up to us to let it win the war. God definitely spoke through his mouth that day. The inspirational words that he gave me lifted my spirit to the next level. He told me that I was worthy and that only the STRONG survive in America.

Till today I have not forgotten what he told me that day and the inspirational words he gave me.

I left Greenpeace after a week. I remember that after quitting my boss gave me 75$ worth of bus passes. She reminded me that there was still hope, that not everyone out there was looking to do harm. Actions like the one she did showed me that I was not alone in the world and that I had some angels taking care of my back. I learned from Greenpeace that even if people try to bring you down there are those who will help you and care for you.

I was unemployed for a week until a stranger added me on Snapchat. I do not know how he got my snapchat name but he did and we began to talk. I explained to him that I was desperately looking for a job to what he responded that he was also going through the same.  He was waiting for his work permit to be renewed just like me. He provided me the information of his company and I decided to apply. I got accepted to work and began to work 10 days after the interview.

During the month that I worked in the call center I worked 12 hours’ shifts. I was doing so much over time to be able to afford a place in the city. Life in Seattle isn’t cheap and my time at my friend’s house was starting to be quite long. I began to apply for real jobs as I knew I did not want to do customer service during my one year work period in Seattle. Hence, I applied for jobs related to my career. I ended up getting an interview for a fraud analyst job in the airline industry. Traveling has always been one of my passions and working to uncover flight fraud sounded amazing at that moment.

Settling down. The beginning of a comfortable living. 

Getting my job as a Fraud Analyst was the beginning of a comfortable time in Seattle. It was kind of the introduction to the job market and adulthood.

My first step was done – I had  a real good paying job

Walking my best friend in the neighborhood. First days of Fall.


Now it was time for me to find my own room.

Getting rooms in Seattle can be a hustle and can be expensive so I started to look for roommates in Craigslist and I got a nice one. My favorite thing about my ex-apartment in North Beacon Hill was making a friendship with Marley, the Kerry Blue Terrier dog of my roommate. Marley gave me company when I did not have friends to go out. He was simply the best buddy one can ask for. 9 years of age and Marley behaved like a puppy. His energy never ran out and he was always the most popular dog at the dog park.









The second house I lived in Seattle. North Beacon Hill area.




View from the dog park in North Beacon Hill.



I was supposed to stay at that place until my work visa expired but I had to leave two months earlier. I moved to one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Bellevue, Washington called Bridal Trails. I still find it funny how in a year I went from 380$ in my pocket to live in one of the nicest areas of the city. Indeed, living in this place does not make me rich whatsoever but it shows that no matter what your circumstances are you can always make it to the top. Many people believe that to climb to the top you gotta do so much but in fact, you do not have to. As long as you are nice, have the right mindset, set goals, and do things towards achieving your goals the universe will pamper you. My life has taught me that. It is all about cycles and their continuous repetition across our lives. Many people would have chosen not to go through what I went through in order to make it in Seattle to what I can only advice is to envision your success and the success will come by.



Third and last place I lived in Seattle – Bridal Trails, Bellevue, Wa. View from my backyard porch.



Now that my one year visa is about to expire and I must leave the country I see back and I do not regret anything I went through. I do not regret getting in that car and just ride along. I do not regret coming with no money and no work permit. I do not regret having a spirit that feeds me and took me where I am right now. I do not regret meeting those people that tried to do harm to me as they taught me the most valuable lessons a person can learn in a short period of time. I am grateful to see that I am blessed and that I always attract goodness as I try to give it back.

To anyone trying to move to Seattle just do it! It is a great city to live and to meet smart people. If I did it with my conditions then you can make it!



14 thoughts on “How did I make it in Seattle with 380$ in my pocket and no work permit?

  1. Isn’t this sad/obscure/expected that dozens/hundreds of OPT holders go through the same shit every year? And the weird thing is that we feel “thankful” for these experiences of not being able to pay for rent/food, having anxiety…


    1. hahah I totally agree, the amount of anxiety I ate over a year was greater than I have ever experience, nonetheless, the experience was really cool and I feel I totally gained more from the experiences and the harships I went thru. Wishing you a good OPT year Anne, kisses from Seattle/Costa Rica


  2. Thank for the inspirational story! I’ve always loved dogs, so I’m glad you discovered how wonderful they are 🙂


  3. This is great and inspirational story. And right now I am in seattle, just came before 3 weeks. I am also on OPT. Facing the same problem. But now I am confident, i will survive 🙌🏻😊


  4. What spoke to me was how cruel and negative people can be when they hear your story. I’ve had people straight up tell me that i need to give up and go home and even call me names (online and never meeting me of course). What’s even worse is that these are people that are familiar with the immigration processes themselves but may not have been so lucky, and are people i chose to reach out to in forums for guidance and optimism. I appreciate having realists in my life but there’s no reason to belittle anyone or tear down dreams. Some people will never know the fight some people have and why. So good for you and thank you for being a reminder that evil only wins it you let it and that there are always kind souls out there who have been where I have.


    1. Shelli your words just touched my heart, I swear to god that your words came on the right moment. I was telling my friend how interesting was to see people’s positive or negative reactions to my blogs post and to be honest I keep my same approach as I know it works “keep attaching positivism cus it will come as cycles” it’s all in the Cycles and I will explain better about what I mean with cycle later on but thanks so much. I appreciate your comment and I am glad it helped you.


  5. Such an awesome story, Omar! And such a great reminder that if we just trust and live in the flow of life, things start to happen for us. I’m so glad you had a great experience this past year!


  6. Your story is really inspiring, Omar! I’m glad that you could see the glory and purposes of God through your experiences. God bless you and keep you!

    Love from India.


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