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Whether it’s wanderlust, geoarbitrage, or a unique work opportunity…maybe you are thinking of making a big move. Maybe you are thinking of moving permanently or just for a few years. Moving can be stressful and cause questions and doubts. Laurie and Jaime have their own stories, experiences, and hesitations about moving. Here are our unique answers to those scary questions!
Scared of The Unknown
Laurie: When I was a senior in college, all my friends were getting jobs or making plans to pursue a master’s program. I just wanted to travel. So I hatched a crazy plan to move to South America with my best friend. In April, right before we graduated, my friend confessed she’d signed up with the Peace Corps instead, so I was on my own. I didn’t have any other plans in place, so I decided I’d still move to Santiago, Chile, by myself.
The problem was, I didn’t know anyone there. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have a place to live. I had no money. Luckily, my college professors were great. They connected me with a couple of students who’d moved there in the past, and those students helped me get certified to teach English quickly, find a place to live the first month I was there, and connect with some “gringos” who’d done the same thing I was doing.
The whole summer after I graduated college, I was terrified. I actually developed an ulcer and couldn’t eat. I was moving to a continent I’d never set foot on, to a country where I didn’t have a job and didn’t speak the language very well. The only thing that kept me going was my stubborn streak that kept telling my scared side to shut up and get over it (and the fact that I had no other job prospects lined up!). That summer, I lived in fear. But I was proud that I didn’t let my fear keep me from what ended up being the most amazing experience of my entire life.
Jaime: When I was a freshman in college, I wanted nothing more than to study abroad during my college years. After my first semester, my grades were too low to apply to a study abroad program. It wasn’t for lack of effort. I studied my butt off, but I was exhausted and looking back - I wasn’t at the right school or in the right program.
While my desire to experience life somewhere else was great, it was also overwhelming. There were so many questions I didn’t have answers to. Those questions filled me with fear. How do you navigate moving to a different country? I had never flown by myself. I didn’t even have a passport. You need a visa? What about language barriers, different money, and not knowing anyone? Would I feel safe as a young 20 year old female in another country?
When I realized I wouldn’t qualify for a study abroad program, I was devastated. But I was also relieved. I was too scared to face the unknown. I was scared of leaving what I knew and let go of my desire to travel. I let my fear take hold and stayed put in Wisconsin where I felt safe and confident.
Scared of Leaving Family & Friends
Jaime: I pretty much grew up with extended family as a child. Sundays and holidays were with my big Italian family. Summer days were spent at my Aunt and Uncle’s cottage on the lake - days full of swimming, playing bocce ball, and dancing the Macarena! I want these types of memories for my children as well.
It’s been 11 years since I graduated college. I’m happily married with three daughters, and my wanderlust is growing. We live within 50 minutes of my parents, siblings, niece, and nephews. We also live within 4.5 hours of my in-laws. When I think about possibly moving out of Wisconsin (no more cold winters please), I get sad thinking about missing family, especially seeing my niece and nephews growing.
Is moving worth missing out on family? My depression gets worse in the Winter months (that can be 6-7 months of the year where we live). Some weeks, my energy and motivation are so low that I spend my days in bed, not enjoying life. Is moving to a place where I can possibly enjoy my day to day life year round worth it?
And then there’s the topic that no one else seems to address - guilt. Will my family be supportive if we decide to move? There was a time in the past where I know my family would have been hurt if we moved away. And that is the last thing I would want. Can I still have a great relationship with family, happy memories when visits do happen, and live hundreds or thousands of miles away? While I feel confident these days in my family being supportive, these questions still apply.
Then there’s the topic of friends. I’m not very outgoing and it took us almost 8 years of living in the same place for us to start making friends. Is it worth starting over in a new place? Can we maintain the few friendships we currently have if we move?
Laurie: Like Jaime, I grew up with a super-close family and extended family. My entire family lived in the Southeast, and I grew up learning that family came first.
When Mr. ThreeYear and I got married, I knew I wanted to live close to my family, if we couldn’t live close to his (because his were all in Chile). So we looked for jobs in the Southeast and landed in Atlanta, 3 hours from my parents. When we decided to move to New Hampshire for his job, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I was 8 months pregnant with my second child. While I was really sad about leaving my family, I did my best to make the most of it, and kept my brave face on.
Unfortunately, the reality of living far from family has been hard. Like Jaime, I suffer from depression during the long New Hampshire winters (as long as Wisconsin winters at 6-7 months!). They’re made even harder by the fact that I usually go that long without seeing any members of my family. What’s made a huge difference in my family’s life is my getting a job as a part-time teacher. I have summers off, so the boys and I go and spend summers with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins (in warm South Carolina!).
If you’re thinking about moving away from your family, I can tell you that it is very hard, especially with young kids. But there have been a couple of up-sides–when we do visit each other, we have quality time, because we’re together just for the express purpose of being together. Also, my husband, my two boys, and I have become a much tighter family, because we have to rely on each other so much.
On the topic of friends, well, it’s been hard for me to make friends in New Hampshire. I only have a couple of close friends. I think that at our stage of life (mother of young kids, in the thick of child-rearing) it’s just a hard time of life to find friends. I still keep in touch with my friends from college and Chile, plus my childhood friends.
Scared of Making The Wrong Choice
Laurie: One of the things that’s hard about being location independent is that the world is your oyster! You could go anywhere and everywhere, so decision paralysis sets in!
Also, we’re a bi-continental couple, meaning Mr. ThreeYear’s family is all in Santiago, Chile, and mine is all in North and South Carolina.
We’ve spent so much time debating where to move. If we move back to Santiago, could Mr. ThreeYear get as good a job as he has now? Would he earn a US salary (significantly higher than a Chilean salary)? Would our kids be able to fit in to a culture where they don’t really speak the language? Or, should we move to the Carolinas to be closer to my family? But if we do, would we be able to find jobs there? Is city living a good idea for our boys after so many years of living in a small town? What if they got bullied in a bigger school? Would we even see our family as much? How would the family dynamics play out since we’d be living close to my family but not my husband’s?
There’s no perfect answer, and I’ve realized over time that wherever we go, I’ll be there. So many of the same issues I grapple with now will be issues wherever we settle, because they’re issues I have to deal with and grow beyond. I’ve told myself for many years in New Hampshire, “bloom where you’re planted.” I think we’ll just debate the pros and cons and make as good a choice as we can, and then make the best of it!
Jaime: Over the years, I’ve contemplated moving south within the United States in order to have nicer winters. I’ve looked into South Carolina, Texas, California, Hawaii, and Florida. I look for good schools, a church we would love, good healthcare, safe communities, places with lower cost of living, and plenty of sunshine. I’ve found there’s no perfect place that matches all our desires (I may be a bit unreasonable).
What if we move and we hate it? What if there are career struggles, school bullying, or one of us gets really sick and we don’t have access to good healthcare? What if we can’t find a church that grows our family’s faith like the one we currently attend? What if moving creates tension in my marriage? What if moving was a mistake?
I’m starting to look at this a bit differently. I feel life has more options than we sometimes allow ourselves to realize. Sometimes we need to broaden our perspective. We could move back. It won’t be exactly the same house or job, but that can be OK. It will cost money to move again, but it is doable. It’s also OK to treat moving as a temporary situation - rent and allow yourself time to see if it is the right fit for your family. You don’t need all the answers before you take the leap.
Scared of Tackling All The Logistics
Jaime: I still have the same wanderlust I had in college. I still have all the same fears too. I even have new fears my naive 20 year old self hadn’t thought of - healthcare, paying taxes, etc. The list of logistics can be so long that it seems impossible to navigate.
One thing helping my confidence is taking baby steps. In 2014, I was forced out of my comfort zone in order to attend my sister’s destination wedding in Arizona. We had to tackle tough logistics, work through struggles, and had an amazing road trip. The logistics of road tripping are nothing compared to moving across the U.S. or to another country, but I did find solutions to fears I had about traveling.
The next baby step we took was traveling to Hawaii in January 2018. It was the first time our family had been on a plane together. We stayed at an airbnb (instead of a resort), rented a car, and grocery shopped. We even had to get medical care for my husband when he got the flu. We figured things out. Not only did we survive, we thrived.
We haven’t traveled with the intention of baby steps, but I’m finding that with each trip, my confidence in navigating logistics has grown immensely.
Besides our own travels, I’ve also started connecting with other people who have made big moves through our Freedom Story Series. Hearing how others have handled the logistics helps answer my questions and gives me confidence to move forward.
We are now looking into spending up to several months living in another country (Panama? Costa Rica?) this upcoming year. I never could have contemplated that when I was 20 years old! And who knows what we may tackle after that!
Laurie: Like Jaime’s family, we’ve recently gotten practice in tackling the logistics of travel. When we went to the Atacama desert this past December, we rented a car and drove around. I was really nervous about driving through the desert ourselves (because what if we broke down?). But as we safely made it from one destination to the next, I got more and more confident that we could do this.
In fact, we talked to the concierge at our hotel, and she told us that she thought we were better to skip the pricey tours and do a lot of the scenic trips on our own. We took our car up 9,500 feet to the Puritama Thermal Baths, driving high into the Altiplano, and made it just fine (thanks to Google Maps). We drove through Moon Valley. We drove to the airport and back.
Now that we’re thinking about selling our house, we’re reminded about how many logistics are involved in selling your house and moving all your stuff! Jaime and Chris just went through that, so they have it fresh in their minds. The last time we moved was 6 years ago, and even with a semi-minimalist home, it’s amazing how much stuff we’ve accumulated, and how much more we need to get rid of if we’re downsizing to a smaller space. Honestly, you get overwhelmed thinking about everything there is to do! The one trick that seems to help (sort-of) is to focus on one thing: paint the baseboards. Paint the baseboards. Paint the baseboards. Then, when that’s done, move on to the next thing.
Scared to Leave All That Is Good
Laurie: I understand the feeling of being scared of leaving a great place to live. We live in a beautiful area, a place where many people retire (on purpose!) so they can spend their golden years here. There’s almost no crime, schools that are a 10 on the Great Schools scale, an Ivy League school next door, and the amazing outdoors to enjoy (we’ve got 10 ski slopes within an hour of the house, tons of mountains to hike, trails, covered bridges, and those famous New England fall landscapes).
And we want to move. Why in the heck would we ever leave this place? Many people say we’d be crazy to leave everything we have going for us here. But whenever we get the chance to visit our family, we quickly remember how much we’re giving up by living so far away. Our kids adore their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides. They talk about their family so much and we can tell, after a couple of weeks around their relatives, that their self-confidence grows by leaps and bounds. When we travel together as a family, the kids love it. We all love making memories together by going to places we’ve never been or seeing and experiencing something new.
We’ve had wonderful benefits from our time in New Hampshire, including strong memories together, just the four of us, great elementary education for the boys, and a very strong financial situation. But when we think of what we’re moving to, not what we’re moving from, then we remember that despite how things look on paper, our hearts are telling us it’s time to move on. I believe you must learn to listen to that voice inside that’s leading you to a different place. Even if where you live now looks perfect on paper.
Jaime: We’ve lived in the same small suburb of Madison, WI for 11 years. We feel safe in our neighborhood. We have a good schools, an amazing church, and a favorite pizza place. We love our summers in Wisconsin and have family nearby. We’ve even bought land in our town that we are excited to build a small home on. We could definitely stay here for the rest of our lives and have a great life.
While this is true, it’s not. I am still drawn to travel, to experience life elsewhere. Our winters are no fun (I’m not into winter sports either) and I find myself curled up in bed cold and depressed. In the summers I forget how winter feels (like forgetting the pain of childbirth). When winter comes, I’m miserable. When summer returns I always ask myself why I keep putting myself through this (I’ve been asking this since college).
At this point in life, I just want to experience something else. I don’t want to go through this life and wish I would have experienced more. How will I know if I miss winter if I never leave? How will I know if my desire to be close to family outways the mental health benefits of being someplace warm?
Yes, life here is good, but who says it can’t be good elsewhere? I know it will be different. Some things may be better, while others may be more difficult. Life is full of trade offs. Some are worth it, some aren’t. At the end of the day, I find myself wanting to live somewhere else (at least temporarily), remembering that we can settle back in WI if we decide this is where we really want to be!
More Great Articles About Moving
Route To Retire: Jim and his family are planning to move to Panama. They have all the same fears and questions. Here’s how they are answering back.
(Laurie even interviewed Jim about their upcoming move to Panama.)
Slow Your Home: Tsh Oxenreider interviews Brooke McAlary, whose Australian family just sold their home and will spend the year traveling through Canada and the US. And they don’t know what they’ll do next.
Do you have fears about moving? What are they? How have you overcome them?