I’ve moved 22 times in my life. Just thinking about that fact exhausts me, and I’m in store for yet another move this upcoming weekend! Luckily we’re just moving into a cute little house in the NE heights, but that’ll make the count officially TWENTY-THREE moves in 29 years. Will someone kindly bring me my smelling salts?
While a handful of those moves took place when I was too young to have a say in the matter, the rest were usually strategic and necessary to either save money or live in nicer houses/apartments/neighborhoods. But this is still insane, right? I don’t really know why Steph and I have moved so much. Maybe we don’t get attached to physical spaces. Although we do have “favorite” places we’ve lived, so that theory doesn’t really fly. Hmm. But regardless of why we move so dang much, thinking recently about this upcoming move and being back in Albuquerque has made me want to evaluate just how impactful the first major move I made in my twenties was on who I am today. As a result of all of this navel-gazing, I ended up with a list of seven major gains I made in taking that first *utterly terrifying* step of moving to Juneau, Alaska in 2010. These are experiences that I think most people stand to gain when making a major, life-altering, comfort-zone-abolishing move. And while I don’t think moving is the *only* way to obtain these things, they basically slapped me in the face (in the best way possible). If you’ve moved away from your hometown, you can probably relate to some, if not all, of these gains. If you’re contemplating a move, may this post shine a bit of light into that deep, dark tunnel of moving terror!
Here are 7 things you stand to gain by moving away from your hometown:
1. The Opportunity To Reinvent Yourself
Growing up, we naturally fall into roles that others use to conveniently define who they think we are. This was especially true in school where chances are, you were slapped with one of those dreaded labels: the jock, the hipster, the loner, the artsy kid, the nerd etc. Maybe you identified with certain aspects of the role you were slapped with, but I’d bet you found them stifling and limiting to your potential and who you really are. Yes, I was sort of a loner in school – shy, quiet, I wore a lot of black and listened to bad emo music. But not only was that label very far from who I was and am, it had no business still clinging to my subconscious years later. I also lived out of the closet for the first time in my life when I moved to Juneau, which was its own exciting/terrifying first! When you move away from your hometown and the people you grew up with, you’re presented with the glorious opportunity to shed that skin and be whoever the hell you truly are.
Flying my freak flag on the Gastineau Channel during sunset.
2. New Perspectives
You’ve memorized every street name in your hometown, shopped at the same grocery store since you were five, and haven’t made a new friend in 10 years. Life looks a certain way, and everything you do, think and feel is a result of the perspective you’ve developed over the course of your life in this place. But when you find yourself somewhere new, even if it’s only a couple of hours away from where you grew up, your perspective radically shifts. When I first arrived in Juneau, even the air had a different smell to it. There’s a newness to everything, endless “firsts” and exciting discoveries ahead of you. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll also begin to see your hometown in a softer, more nostalgic light.
Obviously, icebergs were very exciting and new to 22-year-old me! *Prooobably don’t try this at home
3. The Realization That You’re Brave AF
SHEER TERROR. That is what I felt when I first left New Mexico. Yes, there were loads of things to be excited about, but it would be a lie to downplay the fact that it is absolutely freaking terrifying to suddenly find yourself away from everything and everyone you’ve ever known. Leaving a cozy life to find yourself suddenly having to figure out how to navigate a new city, make friends, learn a new job, or find your way around a new school, all while carving out a new life out of a foreign place, takes undeniable courage. I promise that you will feel like a serious badass once you find your groove.
4. Endless Adventures
When you find yourself someplace new, the opportunity for adventure suddenly seems boundless. When we were brand new to Juneau, Steph and I acquainted ourselves with the area by going on hikes, whale watching tours, walking around the docks and historic cemeteries, enrolling in a sea kayaking class, accepting invitations to go fishing with co-workers, experiencing the town’s dive bars, festivals and more. We’re massive homebody introverts but knew that we had to branch out if we wanted to fully experience life in a new place. Every outing felt like a wondrous adventure, and a chance to become more familiar with our new home. Bonus: exploring and being open to new things is a great way to meet new friends and interesting people!
Kayaking at sunset in our tandem sea kayak we nicknamed The Banana Boat.
5. Minimalist Tendencies
Moving is expensive, but it becomes a lot more expensive when you feel the need to lug every possession you own along with you. I’ll admit that it took me a while to really “get” this, and it’s still hard to not want ALL THE THINGS (have you been to Target recently?). But moving truly is the #1 best way to pare your crap down to only the essentials; the things that make you feel happy, inspired, or allow you to open a can. I didn’t move to Juneau with much. Steph and I loaded a 10ft Uhaul with only our most treasured possessions and hit the road. We had to buy A LOT once we were settled in Juneau as a result – trash cans, brooms, chairs etc. and it was definitely not a cheap way to go about it, but moving to Alaska is like moving to another country, and we had to be particular with what we brought. Right before we moved down to Oregon, Steph and I had the most massive garage sale Juneau had ever seen. We sold everything we’d accumulated over the last two years (RIP, Banana Boat) and made a nice chunk of cash to help us get settled in Portland. Because of all this shuffling, buying and selling, I’ve come to realize that most of your “stuff” is very temporary. It’s there, and then it’s not, but you’re still okay and can rest easy knowing that the baby dress you wore when you were 6 months old is in that cobwebbed box in your closet, ready to adorn your future child.
Sometimes we “swam” in the freezing Alaskan waters for kicks, as you do.
6. Know-How To Adult Like A Pro
Things you (hopefully) learned how to do by age 22: obtain a job, pay your bills, balance a checkbook, rent an apartment, put gas in a car, go to the doctor by yourself. One of the most fulfilling aspects of moving far away from home, for me, anyway, was feeling like I finally had my shit together. Prior to moving, I lived in seedy apartments or with friends, usually managed to pay my bills on time, and generally got along in the real world. But did I feel like an adult? No! I still felt like I was bumbling along in life, fairly directionless and pretty confused by taxes and landlord-tenant laws and the difference between gas and electric heat. Okay, maybe I wasn’t that lost, but I definitely didn’t feel confident in my adulting abilities. Successfully moving 3,500 miles away from my hometown changed all of that, because the act of moving to a new city/state/country presents a litany of new things you must learn how to do by yourself, and fast; there are logistical knots to unravel and grown-up challenges to deal with, even if you’re moving a few hours away. And no, your mom probably won’t help you with these things, because you’re leaving her and HOW DARE YOU. 😉
Steph bein’ real cute outside the house we owned in Juneau.
7. A Clearer View Of What You Really Want
Choices! These are things that exist when you leave your bubble of familiarity, and they are vast and varied. The biggest choice, when moving away from home, is obviously where you will move to. How exciting is that?! The world is your oyster, people! Where have you always wanted to live? Or, as was my case, where can you afford to move to that is also awesome and/or holds opportunities for you? When people ask me why I chose to move to Alaska (a thing I have been asked literally hundreds of times) I usually just say I was looking for an adventure. This usually satiates people, but, naturally, there were a ton of other factors involved in the decision. Once you figure out where you want to move to, you find yourself facing thousands of other choices, all helping you hone in on exactly who you are and what you want out of life. The best part of all this decision making is that, if you decide you don’t like a choice you made, you can make another! Hate the job you took? Look for something better. Don’t like where you moved? Change something or move somewhere else- even back home! Moving away from your hometown is not a necessity to living a broader life, but it can certainly kick-start the adventure. There are limitless possibilities in life if you know where to look, and the thing that most often prevents from accessing them is inaction. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, maybe it’s time for a change in scenery?