7 Lessons I’ve Learned From Moving to a New City Every Year for the Past 3 Years: What I’ve discovered from my fear of comfort
It’s that time of year again. It’s a few short, very short, months until our lease is up here in San Diego, California, and although nice, I am squirming, and anxious to move…again. But not a move down the street or to the neighboring La Jolla or anything, nope, like a big move, another drastic move. It’s like an addiction, an addiction to chaos. I’ve been reading a lot about habits lately (check out this book on habits ;)), and it has taught me that habits have a cue (i.e. end of lease), a routine (i.e. drastic, last minute move), and a reward (i.e. adventure!). But what I’ve really found the main reason why I move is that I’m afraid of getting too comfortable anywhere, I’m afraid of getting stuck! So, I uproot everything every 12 months and run for it.
When I move it isn’t just throwing a few things in the back of a pickup or subaru outback (RIP subee), nope, it’s like major moves with shipping stuff, days of driving, new cities, every year. You’d think that with my moving addiction that I’d learn better and live life out of a backpack that is easy to cart around with me, but no, I’m also too attached to all the things I’ve collected over the years. All of the relics of past trips, of past places we’ve lived. We’ve also made every single move with our greyhound, Pickles, and our cat, Toulouse, but they’re super movers by now, and they like it too! Toulouse is even harness trained and goes out for walks at rest stops, we’re getting pretty good at this picking up and leaving business.
So here’s how it goes: we get bored and towards the end of a new lease we have that itch and that urge to pack it all up and ship out! I’ve never lived in the same place for more than a year. I moved around a lot as a kid, and settled into Colorado, where I stayed for 10 years, but after that, I’ve been moving ever since. In the past 3 years we’ve lived in Colorado, Washington D.C., New York City, and are now in San Diego. I’ve learned a lot and changed a lot since each move and my addiction to the move is something that has kept me motivated and moving forward, despite always distracting me from my present locale. Since it is that time of year, moving is in the air, I figured I’d do a little introspection and uncover some of the lessons I’ve learned from hopping from place to place, all in the avoidance of comfort. Now I completely understand that some people hate moving (I hate the act of moving, but love relocating), and I also understand that not everyone has the ability just to pick up and move elsewhere due to their commitments (e.g. kids, etc.), but for me, while I’m young and careless, this is what I do 😉 and what I’ve learned.
1. The grass is always greener, there’s no perfect city
I’ve always wanted to experience as many places and as many cities as possible. It’s just something I love to. I love to explore. But what I find by short-term vacations is that they don’t always give me that experience that I’m looking for. When I like visiting somewhere I’m determined to move there. Take New York City, for example. Jeff and I had only visited a few times here and there, but loved the energy and excitement it had to offer and decided that we’d move there. So, we did. We picked up everything in our tiny D.C. apartment and made the trek into the big city. When we were there we dreamed about escaping into a more relaxed, slower city with more nature and greenery (growing up in Colorado, that was important to me), so when Jeff was offered a position in San Diego, California, we jumped on it. We never say no to a new, exciting opportunity. We follow the opportunities. Now that we’re here in San Diego, we miss the subway and public transit that we used to complain about! We miss the excitement and energy, and although the nature and beach are nice, we’re just a little bored and now miss the hustle that only New York City brings. Lesson: the grass is always greener, there’s no perfect city.
2. Half the excitement is the distance between two points
Another lesson I learned is that the adventure and that shiny, new car smell effect of moving is pretty alluring. It’s easy to pick up and move if you’re feeling bored. What else is more exciting than a whole new city at your fingertips? New people, new attractions, new environments, new weather, NEW NEW NEW! Until, it’s not new anymore that is. The distance between point A of your current city and point B of the one you’re looking forward to is usually more exciting than point A or point B. There’s a lot of expectations with moving from A to B and these expectations can be misleading. But the chaos is fun, once it’s over. That distance between point A and B is a lull, a period of time where you’re leaving your old, bored life behind, and the future seems imaginary or full of hope. The future is waiting, your life is waiting at that point B. That’s where the excitement lies, not in either point initially, but in the infinite points between them because when you get to point B, it’s really point A version 2.
3. If you want to move, do it
Whenever I quit another job to move across the country or tell my friends and co-workers, etc. I always get the response “I’m so jealous. I wish I could move across the country and get out of this place.” You know what I say in response? “Then move,” which is always followed by a bazillion reasons why not to move. I never listen. If you want to experience something new, experience the chaos that lies between point A and B, then go, move! Try it out. We only live once, so why are you waiting around, wondering? It’s a waste of time. You’ll make it work if you move, you’ll have to. But, I’ve never once regretted moving. Sure I want to go back to New York (yes I actually want to go back to a city I’ve lived in before, crazy I know), but I don’t regret moving to San Diego at all. Go move. Try it out. Save your pennies for moving costs or apply like crazy to jobs in other states, and move. Just figure it out. We’ve done it.
4. Power in ditching practicality.
One of the bazillion excuses I hear about moving is that it’s just not practical. It’s expensive, I can’t quit my job, I won’t get as good of a job, it’s hard to find jobs these days, whaa whaa whaa. I get it. Moving isn’t practical, not at all. I’ve blown my savings repeatedly with moving. Hell, I even bought a car in NYC to move here to San Diego in 1 weekend. Practical? Maybe, maybe not. We moved here, San Diego, from NYC without a place lined up with a dog and a cat, and we stayed in cheap Air BnBs until we found our place. Practical? No. Did I learn a lot? Yes. Sometimes doing the non-practical thing in life is what keeps you going, is what keeps you trying to be the best you can be. Ditching practicality can give you power, can give you the edge you need to break out of your comfort zone and to really invest in yourself.
5. The art of quitting.
Now ditching practicality brings me to this point: the art of quitting. I’m a serial quitter. I’ve quit a lot of jobs in my day, believe me, but that’s because I believe there is more to life than a job, that happiness does matter. I don’t let myself settle into a position or job that I am unhappy with. Period. If I’m unhappy, I quit. Now when that time comes I work my ass off looking and applying like crazy to new jobs (I think in NYC before I landed my editor gig I applied to over 100 jobs!), but I don’t stop when it gets difficult. I stop when it stops being fun and when it stops bringing me happiness and stops teaching me anything. I know this might be more difficult for some people, but give yourself the permission to quit something that doesn’t make you happy. Don’t tough it out longer than you have to because you’re afraid of change. The art of quitting can be a scary skill to learn, but it’s a necessary one. Invest in yourself and begin practicing the art of quitting.
6. Moving from 1 city to another isn’t as difficult as it seems.
Now, while moving is chaos and the day you pack everything up sucks, it’s actually not as difficult as it seems to move from 1 city to another. Just dive in to your research. Get quotes for how much everything will cost. Look at your bank accounts, determine if your budget can handle a big move or maybe a smaller one in the right direction. Look at Craigslist to see what rent is like in your desired location, and then once you’ve done some planning, don’t give up. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Just make sure you won’t be homeless on the other side and if you won’t be homeless, then move. Just set a date and do it. You’ll figure it out. You figured it out in the city you’re currently in, so don’t let that stop you. Don’t ever let your fear get in the way of your life. Live your life. Move around and remember everything is temporary. Sure I’m a serial mover, but that doesn’t mean that I will never go back to New York City ever again (nope I’m dying to get back there ;)). Just let yourself take the risks, roll up your sleeves, and just move.
7. Declutter, declutter, declutter
So although I always move with a lot of junk (e.g. antique trunks from my grandmother, antique books, ahem 10+ boxes of books, etc.), it’s easier to get rid of stuff and move with less than it is to take more than needed. It sounds obvious, but it’s difficult letting things go. What I do is I keep the bare minimum for sure, the things that will cost a lot to replace e.g. my bed, couch, desk, dining table, and whatever isn’t an item of significance to me or won’t be expensive to replace I give it away on Craigslist. I remember in NYC when we were preparing to move (we had 3 weeks notice btw), we had a day where we gave away a ton of items on Craigslist. Our little Brooklyn kitchen was our little yard sale plot and people came in and out just taking items to set up their own NYC apartments, etc. and it was great talking to everyone who came and went, to hear their moving stories. But if you have some time, try to sell some of your items and buy new replacements when you arrive to your destination. I always bring too much with when we move, but we’ve made it work and we’ve lived in a 1200 sq. ft apartment and we’ve lived in a 390 sq ft. apartment, so you’ll figure it out and determine what is absolutely necessary, but as always, less is more.
Full circle: Moving isn’t for everyone, but if it’s something you’ve always had a curiosity about, it’s definitely worth trying. If you have a curiosity about a major move, and won’t become homeless doing so, then move. Just run for it. There’s benefits and disadvantages to moving and no, moving won’t solve your problems, but it will give you the chaos and adventure of trying something new, and who knows, maybe in doing so, amidst the chaos, you’ll find what comfort means to you.
Question of the day: Where will you move next?