My wife and I made a big move away from home over a year and a half ago, going from Tennessee to the central coast of California. It wasn’t easy, but we’ve found a new outlook on life in the process.

We grew up in a small town in Mississippi. Our problems were small and our opportunities were limited. People didn’t move away from the 100-mile vicinity of our hometown. I recall once believing that the highest achievement in my career could be in taking a job at a cool tech company in Jackson, MS. There was nothing wrong with this, but I never had a feeling of expanding beyond the confines of what was comfortable and familiar.

I never got that tech job I wanted in Jackson. Instead, I got a job in Tennessee, our first taste of moving away. This taught us that it was possible to make a home in an unfamiliar place, but there would still be more to come.

That good job in Tennessee led to a great career in California. In taking a look back to where I grew up, I was able to see that, while my life was formed in that small town, it flourished when I took the opportunity to leave it behind. We could dream big, and we could pursue big ideas.

Here are some of the most important lessons we learned that can only be gained from leaving home.

You’re capable of more than you think

Within hours of leaving Tennessee in our move to California, our car broke down in a Taco Bell parking lot. In the confusion of the Arkansas heat and a pet cat having a panic attack, we felt helpless. We had no friends or family nearby to help. After a few desperate phone calls to tow services and getting some help from a mechanic surely sent to us through divine intervention, we were on our way once again.

In the months that followed, my wife and I would be forced to tackle many more uncomfortable setbacks while relying solely on each other for help. We learned to be somewhat lost in the world around us and be ok with it. Everything was new, but we adapted. We embraced the responsibility of being fully independent from the security we had back home. We suddenly had to find our own answers to questions like, “what do I do about health insurance between jobs? How do I get my car registered? Where do I go for jury duty? Do we need earthquake insurance?? Earthquakes?!”

Life is scary, but when you detach from your comfort zone, you’ll find that you probably have everything you need to make it on your own.

People aren’t so different after all

To our surprise, those that once seemed so foreign to us turned out to be just like us in many ways. Most people are genuinely considerate and are just trying to make the best for themselves and those around them.

Growing up as southerners, we were certainly influenced by a view that those on the west coast were… different. They had different views and beliefs and were generally strange when compared to our normal. We’d hear stories of people moving far away only to turn into “weirdos” and ostracize themselves from their home base.

But we found that there is no normal. By far, the most striking realization I’ve had is that everyone comes to different conclusions about different things at different times for different reasons. While I subscribe to certain beliefs, I know that not everyone has those same beliefs, and it’s important to be respectful of those differences. And to their credit, we’ve always been shown the same respect by the incredible people we’ve met since moving.

When there’s a 2000 mile separation between you and those who are different from you, it’s impossible to empathize. Only by placing yourself (almost literally) in their shoes will you be able to see that we’re really not so different after all.

Related: How to Get Along with Anyone

Marriage is put to the test

If you’re making a big move with your spouse, either you’ll divorce immediately, or stay together happily forever. Moving is a stressful experience to begin with, especially if that move takes you 2000 miles from home to a town where you don’t know anyone. You’ll quickly find that you can really only rely on each other when that time comes. You’ll spend all of your time together as you learn to navigate a new city, find new friends, or, if you’re like us, find new places to eat.

Frankly, some of our most bitter struggles originated from the stress of moving away, but at the same time, we’ve experienced some of our happiest memories during this time as well. Expect there to be a major trial period for your marriage. If you make it out in one piece, you’ll have bonded with your spouse in a way that can only be done when leaving the comforts of home and in-laws.

Considering a big move away from home? It may just be the best decision you make.

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