For all the romanticizing of mobility, globalization, travel, remote work, and “freedom,” the truth remains that moving is challenging, not only logistically, but holistically.
Moving involves much more than choosing whether to drive or fly. It involves letting go of part of your identity, some meaningful relationships, a sense of homeostasis, and a sense of community.¹
I’ve moved about twelve times at this point due to educational opportunities, professional opportunities, and even health issues, so never solely because of, “hey, wouldn’t moving here be awesome?”
In my experience, though moving gets easier, it’s never easy.
That said, here is some advice on moving…without going crazy.
1. Accept your resistance to the move.
You will resist. Even if not consciously, your body will resist, your mind will resist, and your spirit, if you believe in such a thing, will resist. You might get sick, feel anxious, and wonder who you are and what life means…all at once.
This is normal, and I’ve learned it’s a waste of time and energy to resist it. Accept it, endure it with dignity,² and you will adapt in no time.
It also helps to think of someone who has moved often and say to yourself, “if that person can do it, I can definitely do it.” Hint: the Kardashians have all likely moved often. Granted, they probably have an army of ~disruptive influencers~ who help them move. But still.
You can do it!
2. Unpack immediately.
The moment you’re moved in, start unpacking. Don’t wait. Believe me, you don’t want to feel like you’re staying in a hotel for a year. It’s one of those things that’s exciting for a week or two, before it starts to drain you inside-out.
Unpack your clothes, arrange your books, organize your room, hang your paintings, and put up your posters.
Create or re-create your personal space in this new place, and you’ll see how easy it is to make any place feel like home…ish.
3. Stay in touch with people who matter to you.
While moving requires a lot of letting go, it doesn’t mean you have to let go of all your family, all your friends, and everything that makes you you, like your name, unless you really dislike your name, in which case this is your chance.
Call people who matter to you. Have conversations with them. Texting doesn’t count, and for the most part just takes you out of your new reality without providing any of the benefits of truly connecting with someone.³
Make sure you’re calling people and staying in touch.
4. Seek out your interests.
What are you into? Where does your mind wander? Seek these things out wherever you move.
If you like to read, look up bookstores near you.
If you like to play soccer, look up leagues near you.
If you’re learning German, find out where Germans hang out. Hint: Germany.
There are few better paths toward community than through common interests, and chances are every single one of your interests is shared by at least one person in your surrounding area.
I moved to China for a summer, found the Hot Cat Club (not what it sounds like), and went there every week to do stand-up and play songs. I moved to Miami recently, found Salsa Kings, and enrolled in salsa-dancing lessons so my Hispanic family doesn’t disown me. Without these finds, both moves would have been much more challenging than they were.
Whatever you’re into, find it as soon as possible. It will make moving easier and even enjoyable.
5. Explore nature around you.
Take walks! How is the weather different? Any weird-looking plants around? Perhaps there’s a dead duck by a lake? That last one is based on a true story; Miami is an interesting place.
Do not browse the internet to learn more about your new environment. Please. Google doesn’t know what the best natural spots to visit are; it just knows which of them are popular…and which of them pay Google.
Get out and explore. Take walks and take in your new home…ish.
6. Absorb the best of your new home.
I moved to China, where I learned to be less rigid in my approach to life. I also moved to Costa Rica, where I learned how much I value peace, quiet, family, and reading. These lessons are now a part of who I am.
Bear in mind that I moved to China to enroll in a Digital TV Broadcasting Techniques course with then complete strangers from all over the world, and to Costa Rica to get treated for a serious hand injury, so neither of these moves were about “finding myself” or anything of the like.
Still, these are two simple examples of how moving can make you more complete. Different places, like different people, have traits that will resonate with you and traits that won’t, and moving to these places gives you the chance to absorb that which resonates, while filtering out what doesn’t.
7. Don’t forget it’s an opportunity to start anew.
I would have never fully embraced my love of learning or of the arts had I never moved away from where I grew up, and that is a fact, I think.
Moving gives you the priceless opportunity to be stripped of who you think you are, which is often defined in relation to how people in your environment think of and treat you. Stripped of all this, you can choose who you want to be.
Most people never get this opportunity, so don’t waste it. Please?
8. Question why you’re moving.
In “Desperado” by the Eagles, one of my favorite songs of all time, Don Henley sings this lyric:
And freedom, oh freedom, well that’s just some people talking
Your prison is walking through this world all alone
Many people move not because they’re moving toward what they want, but because they’re moving away from what they don’t want; two different intentions which inevitably lead to two different results.
“Freedom” in the escapist sense that’s so romanticized these days is “just some people talking,” and is often more challenging (and lonelier) than staying put.
Moving need not be this way. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, whatever those may be to you.
- Online communities are an oxymoron. Human beings need real-life, proximal communities. Yuval Noah Harari has clear thoughts on this in the “Humans Have Bodies” chapter of his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
- For more on finding meaning in hardship or suffering, read Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl.
- Cal Newport’s goes deeper into this in his book Digital Minimalism.