Contemplating a huge, life-altering move, one of my best friends recently picked my brain about the main things to know when moving far away from friends, family, and a known way of life. The topic is on my mind frequently as I have more often lately been questioning our moving decisions and their merit. There are obvious major pros and cons of venturing out, yet there are many small details that impact Life Living Away. They are the seemingly insignificant facets of life that one may not realize are important until packing a year’s worth of events into very small visits. When we’re young and hungry, a cross-country move can easily be justified if it will help a career. The older we get, I think, we begin to question if the price is worth it. The experience has been quite different for Nate and for me. He grew up moving around and rarely had a home base or lived near family. I, on the other hand, grew up extremely close to my entire extended family and lived in the same neighborhood for my entire childhood. I realize I am hardly the first nor will I be the last to spend my adult life away from a home base, yet I thought I’d provide a few lessons and tips I’ve learned over the past five years for those of you contemplating a move or are currently living one, too.
The benefits of living far away from friends and family:
- Your relationship with your moving partner (be it significant other, friend, relative, etc) will change immensely.
- You will start your own traditions. I’d never spent a holiday away from my family and was devastated to do so our first year living in Maryland. However, our intimate holidays just the two of us soon became my favorite tradition. We still cooked traditional holiday fare (a Thanksgiving feast and cioppino for Christmas) yet with our own spin.
- You will grow extremely close to whomever you are there with. For me, this was my husband. We moved right after our wedding and the isolation forced us to cling to one another during arguments, celebrations, and everything in between. Rather than running to my sister’s or girlfriend’s for space, we dealt with any argument straight away.
- You will earn your own way. When I first got my jobs in Baltimore at two prestigious hospitals, I felt incredible pride that I earned those jobs. There was no one putting a good word in for me, no familial connection, no professor who knew someone, or clinical instructor that had an “in”. It was me. All me.
- Every weekend can be a vacation when you’re exploring your new neighborhood and city.
- You will discover new passions.
- You will make new friends who will likely expose you to new and interesting things.
- Living far away and in a new place provides the opportunity to explore and appreciate a different way of life.
- You may begin to appreciate what your previous home had to offer; perhaps they were things taken for granted. For example, I absolutely took for granted the ability to frequently attend family events when I lived in Oregon and now making it to family gatherings is much more special to me. Or, I used to think my long commute to work in Maryland was the worst thing ever, yet now I realize it wasn’t that bad.
The cons of living far away from friends and family:
- Children grow up with or without you. Your relationship with children close to you will change and they may soon forget your once constant presence. A little piece of your heart will die because of this.
- Holiday gatherings will turn into snippets on FaceTime: everyone there together, you on the screen as the phone is passed around for a round of hellos and Happy Thanksgivings.
- Unless events are planned very far in advance, you will miss them. This means “You just got engaged!” dinners, telling people you’re pregnant in person, or weddings that aren’t (gasp!) planned a year out will be missed. I’ve missed the birth of my god-daughter, my own brother’s wedding, my best friend’s bachelorette party, another best friend’s wedding, my dad’s 60th birthday party … the list goes on.
- Even when things are planned in advance, you can’t make everything when it requires time off of work and a $600 plane ticket.
- You will stop receiving invitations to things.
- The distance may impact certain relationships. Some people may not be ready for or accepting of the change that inevitably occurs to person due to all of these points. Experiencing the benefits and the cons will absolutely impact who you are as a person.
- Living far away after having a child has been a completely new experience with much lower lows than before. Raising Waverley away from friends and family is soul-crushing as is reintroducing her to everyone at each visit. I yearn for her to have strong relationships and squeal with excitement when she sees her aunties, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
Tips when living far away from friends and family:
- Schedule phone dates. This is especially important when living in different time zones. At first I thought this was impersonal and too business-like, yet I later realized it is the only means to talk to certain people. Schedule at least one a month and block off a good hour of time.
- Say yes to new opportunities. Explore the area and get out of your comfort zone.
- Realize it is only temporary. I try to remind myself that the last three years flew by so the next three will likely fly by as well (if not faster now with Waverley growing like a little weed!).
- Make new friends! Albeit this can be easier said than done, but realize your new friends are not intended to replace your old friends. The more the merrier, yeah?
- Do not use all of your vacation time and funds traveling home.
- FaceTime. Email. FaceTime. Text frequently. FaceTime!
- Realize some people are better than others at staying in touch. That’s okay! Not every relationship needs to be maintained with daily or weekly correspondence.
- Pick at least one weekend a month to explore a new place.
- Be a tourist. Take water taxis, go to museums, and do what tourists do! There is plenty of time to live like a local, yet foregoing an area’s popular destinations may end in regret if time runs out. That being said, it may be best to wait until visitors come to see those sights. For example, we usually only ventured to the museums and monuments in DC when we had guests to avoid tiring of those activities.
- Timing is everything. Try to avoid moving on the heels of another major change in life, like getting married or having a baby.
- Establish favorite spots in your new town. The sooner this occurs the better to provide a sense of home.
- Point out important people in pictures often to little ones (and FaceTime!) so they may begin to establish familiarity and recognize family and friends.
Nate’s practical advice:
- Make sure you are moving for a legitimate reason. Do not move because you are running from something or are just tired of a certain place (unless you are completely unattached to a certain area).
- Visit your new destination at different times in the year to get a feel for the seasons.
- Make a list of pros and cons prior to moving to determine if the move is worth it or not. We created a numerical scale and weighted the pros/cons which helped to add quantitative data to our decision.
- Have an estimated length of stay prior to moving.
I hope you found this helpful! These are just a few of the hard-learned lessons we’ve encountered when living far away from friends, family, and a known way of life. Do you live near your friends and family? Do you have anything to add to the list?