Maybe you call it “moving” or “transferring”; in the military, they call it a “change of station.”
No matter the term used, for the past 22 years of my 33 years on this planet (so far), I’ve been relocating – both under my own choice + (somewhat) against my will.
It all began with a mere job transfer for my Mom (promotion + a pay raise, woo!), making us leave the small town in Indiana where I was born + raised to live in the largest metro area I’d ever been to at that age.
Then, one move led to another, which led to another, and once I became a legal adult, the relocations kept happening, but now, I had only myself to thank / blame / spend the money to do it.
To put it into perspective, here’s the list of all the places I’ve lived since I was 11 (deep breath!):
- Shaker Heights (Cleveland), Ohio
- Dearborn (Detroit), Michigan
- Avon (Hartford), Connecticut
- Burnsville (Minneapolis), Minnesota
- Middletown, Connecticut
- Enfield, Connecticut
- Stamford, Connecticut
- San Francisco, California
- West Hartford, Connecticut
- Avon, Connecticut
- San Diego, California
- Oceanside, California
- Avon, Connecticut
- Brooklyn, New York
- Avon, Connecticut
- Austin, Texas
Some would call that a long list. Personally, I want my next move to be out of the USA (which I’m currently working on – hello, Japan!).
At this point, you may be wondering how I’m a) sane + b) not bankrupt.
At times, both at debatable, but living in different parts of the country has taught me more about life, love, and happiness than staying in the same place or even traveling 1-2 times a year ever could have.
When I was young, I imagined that I’d live in the same small town all my life, marry someone I went to school with, have a few kids, + be jolly happy with that.
Yeah … that didn’t happen – and I’m glad it didn’t! But all those relocations also taught me some harsh + priceless lessons that, 22 years later, I’m finally starting to grasp.
1. Home Truly Can Be Anywhere
You’ve heard the saying that “home is where the heart is?” As trite as it sounds, it’s true.
Having lived one town over from my family to across an entire continent, being close to family won’t make it feel like home. It’s a nice bonus, but if you’re unhappy, relocating can help.
Finding a location + a “home” space where you feel inspired to learn new things, explore, + grow is the most important aspect of having a home – which I like to call a home base. You always come back to it, no matter how much you set out to embrace the world.
Some people live close to their family their entire lives, and they’re quite happy. The key is they KNOW they’re happy. If you’re denying the truth to stay in your comfortable bubble, you’re sabotaging yourself. Don’t worry – we’re all pretty good at that, but I recommend you stop it right the fuck now.
YOU make a home what it is – whether it’s a van, a yurt, an apartment, a condo, a house … etc. The TYPE of structure doesn’t matter, but the location does.
Being close to things that drive you to better yourself, while at the same time loving who you are now, is the true definition of home – which CAN be anywhere, but NOT everywhere.
2. A Location Can’t Make You Happy
While the “right” location is vital in real estate, it isn’t the holy grail of life.
When my then-partner had joined the Marine Corps, he was stationed in Oceanside, California. It’s on the coast of the Pacific Ocean + about the same distance from San Diego as it is from Los Angeles. As you can imagine, the weather is spectacular, there’s good food, + lots to do.
By the time we moved there, I was an experienced relocator, so the move itself was easy, but adjusting to life in one of the most sought-after places to live in the United States was downright difficult.
The landscape was amazing, there was always something fun to do outside, but I was miserable. It was while in Southern California that I got my Yoga Teacher certifications + my ongoing deep dive into self-exploration truly began.
What I learned WHILE in Southern California still influences my life today, but the actual LOCATION depressed me. It was far too foreign from anywhere else I’d ever lived. People had an entirely different viewpoint that was very non-committal + passively lazy. (Note: that is what I experienced – not ALL people that live in Southern California are like that.)
On the positive side, it was around that time that I began to discover how much I loved being near the ocean. The salty smell still puts me at ease. Also, I began to understand more about myself in a way I never had before, and being depressed by such a jaw-droppingly-beautiful location was the spark.
I’ve been on vacation to many amazing places that still inspire me – from the photos I took to repeat trips to the same place – but it’s not the LOCATION that is making me happy. I’m happy because of the joy the location sparks inside of me + the deeper questions that arrive because of WHY that joy was sparked.
If I stayed in those joy-inducing places all the time, the awe I experience would fade over time. That’s not to say you can’t live in your version of paradise, but once you LIVE somewhere 24/7, you can forget why you thought it was so special in the first place.
3. The Only Thing You’re Running From is You
If home truly can be anywhere, but a location can’t make you happy, then what’s a human to do?
Relocate with purpose. Move with a mission.
You’ll learn more from exploring the world – whether on a trip or by living somewhere entirely new for at least a month – than you will from moving from place to place 2-3 years at a time.
It’s expensive, it’s stressful, + it’s emotionally exhausting trying to find a new community to fit in with each time. Just when you think you’ve settled in + where you’re “meant” to be, you’ll get the itch to move again.
Save yourself the time + money. Spend time finding yourself first.
Once I became a legal adult (18 in the USA), I kept moving every 2-3 years out of habit. After a while, I realized that I wasn’t JUST moving out of habit – I was moving because I thought that was who I WAS. I’m not allowed to settle down – this is who I am.
The reality was that I was a depressed, self-loathing, judgemental idiot. And I say that with the utmost kindness to myself (in my head, I started laughing because I know that is exactly how the old version of me was).
I had spent most of my middle- and high-school life trying to fit in – trying to be appreciated for those that I didn’t even care for. Now, I was in my 20s and “finding myself,” only I wasn’t actually doing that. Instead, I was so scared that I wasn’t going to fit in ANYWHERE, that I didn’t even try (the depression + anxiety was truly massive at this time in my life). Then, after 2-3 years of not trying, I’d move again + hope I’d find the right group of people / community / location that would make me happy (without having to put in any effort).
When I turned 30, my then-partner was in Afghanistan with the Marine Corps, but I wasn’t going to let such a big milestone go to waste. I booked a vacation for myself at a swanky hotel with a natural hot spring in Upstate New York. That was the first time I’d EVER taken a vacation by myself. Also, because my then-partner was overseas, that was the first time I’d ever spend such a long period of time, day in + day out, mostly by myself.
Something in me shifted + I often say my “fuck it” mode finally turned on. I was sick of trying to fit in with EVERYONE. I was me. Some people will like me + some people won’t. That’s OK. Being accepted by thousands or millions of people won’t help me appreciate who I am. It won’t make it easier for me to live in the body + mind I have.
Since then, it’s been a rapid series of self-transformation over the last 3 years, or to phrase it another way, a peeling off the layers of who I’d been taught I SHOULD or was SUPPOSED be.
While I can’t change the path I’ve taken, I can say I believe if I had traveled more (versus moving around), I may have been able to achieve the same results faster – but that’s all hindsight.
If you need a change – a BIG one – you have a huge advantage over me when I started relocating. There’s AirB&B now, there are safe community-based hostels for travelers, + the “laptop lifestyle” is growing.
So if you need a change that will help ignite your self-curiosity, save the money + travel to a different country for a month. If you can, take your work with you via telecommuting. Work half the time + explore the foreign land for the other half.
Open up. Be curious. Try new things. No worries – no one there knows you anyway, so you can be your truly goofy self 🙂
Your other (more affordable) option is to explore minimalism because replacing self-appreciation with stuff always leads to misery (more about that in a future post).
If you could visit ANYWHERE in the world for an entire month, where would you go?
Bonus: What would you hope to learn about yourself while you were there?
Photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash