I recently sat on the plane next to a young woman who was on the way to Australia for a “vacation” — of indefinite length. She decided to up and move to the opposite side of the world with nothing but a friend waiting for her there. The idea is remarkable and fascinating, so I had to find out more.
Let’s call here Anna (I don’t actually remember her real name, so anonymity is easy). When I first asked, she said she was going on a vacation. When I asked for how long, Anna admitted she planned for at least three months, she would be looking for work to support herself, and she didn’t have a return ticket purchased. Now, in my mind that isn’t a vacation — that is moving. Anna confided that most people she talked to thought she was a little crazy for deciding go — to the extent that she hadn’t even told some of her friends. In part, I envied her.
In the ensuing conversation, Anna explained why she felt she was being rational and was justified in her decision and what backup options she had available. I was an easy sell for convincing Anna wasn’t out of her mind. In fact, to me the idea is admirable, often tempting: get up and go somewhere else, see new things, challenge myself, find out what is worthwhile. I myself was fresh off of a big move, though mine was easier to justify to others as a career move — even though that was never the justification to me personally. So it brings up the intriguing question:
When is it time to jet? When do I choose to leave everything familiar and comfortable for an uncertain future, for a hope?
Please leave any thoughts you may have on this question in the comments.
There are basically two parts of that question: What am I leaving, and how important is that to me? What am I hoping to gain, and how important is that to me? So you may leave because you are unhappy with the present or, as is more often the case for me personally, because you have a hope for something greater in terms of knowledge, relationships, or experience.
That question is personal to me not only because I’d just made my second long-term move, but more so because my parents came to the United States as refugees from the Soviet Union when I was young: they chose to leave behind the familiar and comfortable for a better hope. My life has been improved, defined, and inspired by their decision.
But … moving is hard. My parents can attest to that. I can attest to that. You can probably attest to that. There is inevitably a cost in time, finances, frustrations, loneliness, and many other factors. It takes time to get to know a new place; it takes time to get to know people; trees take more than a season to bear fruit. Furthermore, if what you don’t like about your present situation or what you hope to change is something within yourself, it will inevitably move with you!
What if I choose to pay the cost of moving without moving?
Much of the benefit of a new place is the way it pushes me to go outside what is comfortable, to try new things and meet new people, to embrace a diversity of experiences. What if I instead choose to do that without changing my locale There are truly toxic situations for which the best remedy is to get out fast. And there are times when the hope and the adventure of a move outweigh the reasons to stay in an otherwise good place. But often changing locales is not required for pushing myself, for trying new things, and going beyond what is comfortable.
But going beyond what is comfortable is … uncomfortable — often scary actually. This means giving up some things in order to reach for something better in your circumstances or in yourself. What that “better” should be and what means you might employ to attain it is a whole additional discussion — let’s confer on that over coffee sometime. Whether you move or stay, one thing must come first if you are to pay the cost of changing your present: you must be willing to be a little uncomfortable.
Comfortable is always tempting, but comfort is no sufficient condition for happiness.