A beach town near coves

“I have to ask you. How do you do it? All the moving around the world? The constant uprooting, leaving family and friends behind for a new country and starting all over again?”

We smiled as we received this message from the friend we were due to pick up from the airport. Leaving family back home to take up a new job or opportunity in a new country is something my fiancé and I are very familiar with. 

My postal code has ranged from six letters to eight alphanumeric characters a lot in the past six years. That is a wonderful privilege and an opportunity that has shaped who I am today.

We smiled because we knew the feeling well. Once the administrative dust settles, the bank accounts have been set up, the tickets bought and the COVID-19 tests completed, you’re a matter of hours away from boarding public transportation or a rental to your new home. There’s a magical moment when everything is ready and you begin to feel that pit in your stomach—that rising in your throat or even a faint pang in your chest as you prepare to say goodbye to one place and hello to another.

There’s a magical moment when everything is ready and you begin to feel that pit in your stomach…as you prepare to say goodbye to one place and hello to another.

There is always the glamorous, exciting side of traveling and living abroad. There is also the real and raw stuff too: the goodbyes and the moment the old adage “you don’t realize what you had until it’s gone” comes true.

If you have moved cities or countries a lot throughout the past few years, then you are well acquainted with the transition period that comes with every move. It can last for any time between a couple of weeks and a few months to perhaps even a year or two depending on your circumstance. It takes time to rebuild an authentic community (if it’s a totally new city), to set up practically, to navigate your way around and to even learn a new language. It also takes immense grace for yourself as you change from your normal routine into a totally new rhythm, without the familiar amenities or community around you.

It takes immense grace for yourself as you change from your normal routine into a totally new rhythm.

Here are a few lessons I have learned from living around the world:

1. Have less. Live lightly.

Moving has also taught me to live and tread more lightly, in every sense. Practically, my wardrobe is a third of the size it used to be. I have been learning to live with less possessions. I like to live so that if there was the opportunity to move again, it wouldn’t be difficult to pack everything up in a bag.

Sometimes, the “having less, live lightly” mantra enables you to serve and invest in a place more wholeheartedly too. I love shopping locally wherever possible, as it not only conserves our environment but it introduces me to new people in the area—the artisans, creators and entrepreneurs.

2. Take inventory of your relationships.

When moving, I try to take stock of key relationships in my life and leave each place with a clean slate. Goodbyes can feel really intense and surreal. Saying goodbye to the most special people to me has often been nothing more than a “see you soon.”

3. Don’t leave anything unresolved.

The most important thing to me when leaving somewhere is to never leave a place bitter or with anything unresolved. This can easily become the foundation that you build upon in the new place.

If you are leaving a place because of unforeseen, difficult circumstances, loss or unpredicted change, then inevitably the departure may leave a sour taste in your mouth and consequently color how you settle into the next place. However, even in those times, it is important to take stock of what you’re thankful for, what that place has meant to you and the good that could and will come from your new locale. 

4. Appreciate the good.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when moving is that every single place—whether a small mountain town or a bustling city of millions of residents—has something good to offer. Even if the choice to move wasn’t yours and life is currently going against the flow you expected, every place has something to enjoy. Part of the adventure of moving is simply finding that thing.

What have you learned about yourself from traveling to or living in different places? How does exploration and curiosity help us grow internally?

Image via Judith Pavón Sayrach

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