Since I left my parents house at nineteen, I’ve never stayed in a city or town for longer than three years. First, I left the suburbs I grew up in to live in the city of Chicago for three years. Then I moved back a different suburb (it was a halfway point for me and my boyfriend at the time) and then moved to the country in a small college town in the interim. Next up was Portland, Oregon for another three years, and for the past three years I’ve been in a rural tourist town on the Oregon Coast. If you did the math, yes, that makes me 29 going on 30.
In Chicago I went out dancing and spent hours on end sweating to hip hop, reggaeton, and house music. I rode my bike in all four seasons, sang in small bands, and closed out 4AM bars more times than I care to admit. I witnessed enough public masturbation to last me a lifetime, and shudder when I smell stale urine and think of the Chicago Transit Authority.
I helped teach in Chicago public schools, waited tables while I went to school, and rode on the back of strangers motorcycles. I fell in love with a man fourteen years older than me who broke my heart because he didn’t want to marry my college debt, and then fell in love again with a French musician who spoke ok English at best. I dated many interesting people in between.
In Chicago, on a normal day, I’d drink an entire pot of french press coffee to myself, a Red Bull, an afternoon cup of coffee, and in the evening, green tea. Sometimes I was too exhausted (more often, hungover) to buy groceries, and lived for days off of coffee, tortilla chips, hot sauce, and cigarettes. I joined my first community garden.
I lived alone for the first time in a tiny studio, quit smoking, and started working out regularly.
I got healthier when I moved to the country. I started seriously working out, and making an effort to heal some lingering body image issues. I started my own garden, and was working for a boutique garden center and diving into learning about plants. I went for long walks, started running, and was relieved by the limited choices when deciding to go out to eat with my then- boyfriend.
After a few wild years in the city, the slow down was greatly appreciated. But I started to miss cities. So we condensed all our belongings in a 10×6 Uhaul pod, and took off for Portland, Oregon.
In Portland I continued to learn about gardening, hiked to enormous waterfalls and made friends within a year. I got naked and soaked in hot springs, and in a boss’s hot tub (with girl friends) when I was invited to “help” house sit. I bought my own motorcycle and rode in a motorcycle girl gang. I planted flowers at each apartment or house I lived in, and still drive by when I’m in the city sometimes, happy to see they still bloom.
In Seaside I crashed my car driving back from Portland one night and had to walk and hitchhike with a stranger at 2AM since I had no cell service in the Coastal mountains. I learned to surf. I learned first hand about the supposed localism, as a man physically and emotionally smaller than me screamed at my face and told me to get the fuck out of there. I kept showing up anyways. I got so bored living in a small town that I dived into my writing and painting more than I had in years, rarely to using colors outside of the ocean. I took mushrooms alone for the first time and saw beautiful parts of myself and of life I had never seen before. I cried in deep gratitude. I sort of learned to cruise on a skateboard, and took up roller skating. I met surfers, skaters, artists, dancers, and made some true friendships I will never forget. I surfed with dolphins and whales and sharks and watched myself age in real time from all the sun exposure. I experienced some of the most mind blowing seasonal depression ever (with a mere 129 sunny days per year) and realized I desperately need more sun in my life. I took a road trip down the entire coast of Oregon to LA and back. And now I have severe cabin fever, small town style.
A lot of people think I’m crazy for moving somewhere where I don’t know anyone, simply because it sounded fun and felt like the right thing to do in my gut. I saw a picture of the Oregon Coast in a magazine when I was seventeen, decided I needed to live there one day, and ten years later, I did, and I have no regrets, even though it’s coming up on it’s expiration date.
It’s hard to make a big move. Moving across town is exhausting enough, but packing up and condensing your life to move away from family, friends, and people who have known you your whole life is scary and it will break your heart, but the pain is relatively quick in the grand scheme of things, and definitely worth the pay off. Your heart will mend in a way you didn’t know it could, and it will break open again, but you will be stronger and know how to put it together again. Your heart will fill with new experiences, fresh perspective, and new friends if you allow yourself to remain open.
When you stay where you grew up, around your family members and childhood friends, you are constantly reminded of who you were and where you came from, and this is constantly being reflected back at you by people who have known you forever and have an idea of who you are deeply etched in their brain.
There’s something comforting about being known, and knowing, but there is something deeply thrilling about heading into the unknown, and trust falling into the arms of the universe.
The beauty of this life, is that we can create who we are. Sure, there are genetic limitations and personality traits embedded in our DNA, and some things will always be the same, but when you step away from the environment you grew up in, and step away from the people who’ve known you forever, you can more easily transform into who you really want to be, without feeling married to who you were.
You take yourself with you wherever you go, and moving isn’t a cure-all for your problems, but the newnesss of environment can be an excellent catalyst for radical change. When our brains are taking in new information and surroundings, and learning to survive in a new place, we’re activating different parts of our brains, and it makes it a little easier to form new habits and break old ones while we’re at it.
There’s nature vs. nurture to consider. When you stay in one place, not only is your nature decided, but oftentimes your nurture is as well. Taking a leap into the unknown offers a fresh start. Who are you without the “nurture,” or who your environment wants you to be.
This isn’t to stay you’re doomed to a life of complacency if you choose to live in the same place for your entire life. You can travel and make new friends and learn and evolve exactly where you are, always. The internet allows us access to world wide culture, and is a great tool to use (and even meet foreigners!) if you are glued to your location.
This is to say, though, if you’re thinking about moving to a new city, and feel that drive to pack up and start somewhere new without knowing a soul, do it. Listen to that voice. It’s your intuition and it knows what’s good for you, even if it hurts a little.
Be Wary Of Looking for a Cure- All
The more I travel and move, the more I realize there’s no perfect place. But different facets of different places feed us what we need at certain times in our lives. Sometimes, we need the reprieve and calmness of nature and quiet. Sometimes, we need the inspiration, the energy, and the opportunities of a big city. Just like one person can never fulfill all your needs, no city can either.
If you are going through a fresh trauma, or you expect a move to get rid of all your problems, I implore you to slow down and realize that no matter where you go, problems and your past will still exist. You will get frustrated in new ways, and some of the old ways. But if you’re idealizing living somewhere new, realize life will still have it’s highs and lows wherever you go.
With that said, it can be a fun adventure, push you to grow more than you otherwise would have, bring fresh inspiration and perspective, and give you a chance to reset and fulfill different needs and desires.
So, if you’re thinking about moving away from home, or across the country, or maybe the world, but not sure if it’s the right decision, read on.
Here are Eight Reasons You Should Move Away From Home
You become more self sufficient
You’ll need to find a new gynecologist, dentist, auto mechanic, nail technician, hair stylist, and new friends. You’ll need to learn new streets, find your favorite restaurants, and adapt to the local culture. You’ll see how other people live and you’ll be able to question whether or not the way you grew up with was the best way, or just what you knew. You’ll use your brain in new ways, be stimulated, inspired, and maybe a little scared as you learn all about your new locale.
You’ll Discover New Meanings to the Word “Home”
A good friend recently reminded me that home isn’t a place, but a feeling, and moving away from “home” will teach you this in a million ways. Home may be with family and friends, but you’ll be surprised to learn you will find “home” in your new location in the friends you meet, the business owners you come into contact with, and the new places and small, magic moments that will find their way into your heart.
Sometimes home is the feeling you get when you’re with certain people, or the feeling a particular beach or field of flowers or a public garden gives you. Sometimes home is the feeling you get eating a dinner you made, or unwinding on the couch after a long day. Sometimes home is a feeling of coming back to yourself when you are traveling solo and disconnect from the monotony of your daily life.
Sometimes home is the pleasure of being in your own company doing what you do best, or simply hanging out relaxing at your place.
It Will Force You to Grow
Moving away will be a catalyst for massive positive growth. Prepare for a couple of growing pains, but a lot of it will also feel fun and exciting, and will make you more confident in yourself.
It’s not easy to be the new kid, and it’s not easy to start all over, but you will gain confidence when you inevitably figure it out and settle in, because you’ll remind yourself you can do hard things.
It Will Change Your Worldview and Offer You Greater Perspective
Every place has a different culture and a fresh set of people to learn from. Even moving within your culture will wake you up to different ways of life and people. You will meet new people and learn their stories and expand your worldview.
You Have an Opportunity to Recreate Yourself and Your Life
Again, you will take your baggage with you even if you move away from home. You will not become an extrovert if you are a wallflower. You will, however, get a chance to start fresh, and if you want to change aspects of yourself, I recommend making changes in your current city first.
A fresh start, however, may make it easier to stick to your new ways.
You Can Always go Home
Hey, if moving across the country turns out to be a miserable experience, you can go home, or go somewhere else. You don’t have to sign a contract with the devil that you shall reside in your new city until the end of eternity. Life is always in flux, and we have the power to change things we don’t like. It’s very scary to think about making a commitment as emotionally and financially big as moving to a new city, but it’s reversible. Reminding yourself moving is something you can undo can offer some comfort.
Life is Short
It’s cliche, but it’s true. I’ve been in this town just about three years and it feels like I was just moving in to that house by the beach, feeling like I won the lottery. As I approach 30, the fact that I am not getting any younger is crystal clear. While this little beach town is a bit too rainy and slow paced for my current desires, it helped me take a step back, have the quiet space to do massive healing, and got me back into my creativity. I’ve learned how to surf, rollerskate, made new friends, worked in new industries, and seen breathtaking scenes from nature I will never forget. I’ve been inspired and I’ve never made more art or written more. I’ve made a home, and planted flowers and little gardens all around town.
My point is that sometimes we wake up and three years flew by, and we realize it might be time to switch things up. Sometimes we wake up and look in the mirror and think, “where’d those lines come from??” If you don’t move now, you may get tied down in the future by jobs, family, kids, etc. You never know what can happen on any given day or year, so do the scary things so you don’t have to ask yourself, “what if?” in ten years.
You’ll Get to Know The Real You
When you’re stripped away from all the people who tell you who you are, you open the door to finding who you are for yourself. When you can’t just call up your oldest friends to meet for a drink, you’ll spend more time in your own company, and choosing your new company deliberately.
You’ll find your strength and autonomy in making a new life from the ground up, and you’ll no longer be as scared to lose everything because you’ll have lost it already, and built it all again. You’ll learn to walk through this life less afraid, and more likely to dive in. You won’t miss as many opportunities due to being scared, because you’ll have done something really scary.
On that Note, Here are Four Reasons You Should Not Move Away From Home
Your Self Esteem is Very Low and You Think it Will Improve with a Move
While you can gain confidence in doing something challenging like moving to a new city, you won’t arrive feeling great in your own skin if you actually secretly hate yourself. If you are thinking a change in scenery will give you the gusto to go after your goals, sadly, that is something that happens internally.
Build up your self esteem in your current location first.
You Think It Will Improve Your Relationships
If you don’t like or get along with anyone in your current town, it could be you just don’t like people period, or you are perhaps emitting some vibes that scare people away. Or, perhaps you are too judgmental.
It won’t necessarily be easier to make true friends, even if you move from a small town to a big city. Learn to build relationships and friendships wherever you are, and that skill will follow you from city to city.
If you think a change in scenery will save a crumbling romantic relationship, unfortunately it doesn’t work. I tried. The stresses from moving to a new city are more likely to exacerbate old issues as opposed to healing them. Move for you, move because you want to, or if you’re in a relationship, you both want to.
You Idealize Life in a New City
If the picture you have in your head of you in your new city has quit drinking, is ten pounds thinner, has loads of friends, and is always trying out new things and getting out of her comfort zone, but you don’t do that in your current city, you’re going to be disappointed in a different city.
You really do take yourself with you, and life is what you make it, not where you are. If you want to suck the juice of life, learn to do it wherever you are before you pack up your things and go.
You are Trying to Side Step Some Major Healing
Maybe you went through a traumatic experience, or are generally facing some other mental health challenges, and you want to move to a new city to clear your head and start fresh. Unfortunately, those things do not go away. Sure, when you’re on vacation it’s easier to not think about your woes, but as you adapt to your new surroundings, those old issues will come up.
Focus on healing, going to therapy, and practicing self care. Moving to a new city to try to heal old wounds is just sweeping issues under the rug. It doesn’t work, and it’s a temporary solution that prolongs the problem. Work on your stuff, then move.
You Don’t Like Who You Are and You Want to Change
If you haven’t changed in your current spot, what makes you think you will in your new one? If you want to reinvent yourself, it’s going to be scary no matter if people who have known you your entire life are watching or it’s complete strangers.
Changing cities doesn’t mean you’ll roll up and become the person you want to be. You becoming the person you want to be happens inside, no matter where you are, and will require your commitment no matter the location.
Moving to a new city can be exciting, scary, stimulating, a catalyst for growth, and for some of us, lead to a fuller life.
So if you’re wondering if you should move to a new city, and you’ve read this list, and aren’t trying to run FROM anything, I think it can be really good for you. Plus, you can always go home.
Your idea of home, however, may start to shift. Best of luck in your decision making!