Filed under "Travel and Adventure"

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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Here’s a list of useful life skills you might learn when you move away from home, in no particular order:

  • How to get car insurance
  • How to get medical insurance
  • How to rent a car
  • How to book airline tickets
  • How to rent a new apartment or rent out your own property
  • How to buy and/or sell a house
  • How to cook a meal
  • How to hire a moving company or rent a moving truck
  • How to sell your stuff
  • How to register to vote
  • How to set up a bank account
  • How to get life insurance
  • How to bug your landlord about your broken appliances
  • How to deal with being an outsider
  • How to move with a pet
  • How to find a church or other community group
  • How to not look like a dumb tourist
  • How to drive (and park) in unfamiliar places
  • How to properly pack clothing, furniture, etc. for moving
  • How to get a new job and leave your current job
  • How to find a new dentist, doctor, vet, etc.
  • How to find a mechanic
  • How to make new friends
  • How to strike up a conversation with a stranger
  • How to get lost (and be okay with it)
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May 3, 2016

A terrible shame

It’s a terrible shame to see the world, yet learn nothing of it.

Those who never leave home can be excused for not knowing any better.

But those who’ve seen new cultures, who’ve met new people, who’ve tasted new foods, who’ve known what it’s like to be missed by those they love, who’ve been a continent away from what they once called home – those people show the greatest shame of all when they overlook the lessons that can be learned from the journey.

If you leave home, keep your eyes open and learn.

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April 20, 2016

You don’t have to stay

If you find that what once seemed like home becomes something more foreign, or the people you once called friends become more like strangers, there’s something you should remember.

You don’t have to stay.

There’s a large world out there, and within in it are possibilities for something new. The world beyond your own can delight you with it’s vastness. It can refresh tired eyes with sights unseen.

And you owe it to yourself to experience it.

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April 12, 2016

Don’t avoid the trail

Wanderers are everywhere, but few wander.

We’re wired to go on a journey, and we’re all afflicted by a thirst for the undiscovered.

But when we avoid the trail, we give up the chance to discover the world around us. It’s an enormous place, and it holds some truly unique people.

In some cases, those who don’t wander from home will wander from themselves and lose sight of who they are.

So take those opportunities to escape.

And if you choose to return home in the end, return with what you found there at the end of the trail.

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March 24, 2016

Why we wander

Most of us share a desire to travel, explore, and seek out adventures. According to astronomer and author Carl Sagan, that’s a desire that’s been around as long as we have.

In Sagan’s words from his book, Pale Blue Dot:

For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled. Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten.

The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood.

We invest far-off places with a certain romance. This appeal, I suspect, has been meticulously crafted by natural selection as an essential element in our survival. Long summers, mild winters, rich harvests, plentiful game—none of them lasts forever. It is beyond our powers to predict the future. Catastrophic events have a way of sneaking up on us, of catching us unaware.

Your own life, or your band’s, or even your species’ might be owed to a restless few—drawn, by a craving they can hardly articulate or understand, to undiscovered lands and new worlds.

Where will you wander? Wherever it may be, go with confidence.

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Moving far from home provides what only a long journey can bring – perspective.

Problems that at first seemed insurmountable tend to lose their urgency once you witness the scope and diversity beyond your comfort zone.

If you’re moving with a partner, it’ll test your relationship far beyond the usual limits. But once the move is complete, it’ll enhance your bond far beyond the usual limits. 

People are generally the same wherever you go.

Your relationship with your family may be enhanced by the distance. An overbearing presence is often replaced with genuine friendship and longing.

We all crave adventure to some degree, and pursuing adventure only seems to enhance the craving.

The friendships that matter will endure through the distance. Those that don’t matter will fade quietly.

The brain easily forgets repeated experiences. Living in a new town enhances your awareness and perception of the world around you.  

We all possess the ability to adapt in almost any environment.

You make your most significant moves forward in life when there’s no one around to anchor you in the past.

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Look at this picture.

Look at it.

That’s the view twenty minutes from our apartment, and it’s even more incredible in person. That cow has no freaking idea how good he has it.

Yet, even though it’s a great view, I’m ashamed to say that I felt like I had fully absorbed the grandeur after only about half an hour. As humans, we’re incredibly good at getting tired of things at an alarmingly fast rate.

Don’t be like me.

One of my most vivid memories from my teenage years was taking a hike through North Carolina up throughout Wesser Bald. Growing up in the south, I rarely saw so much as a green hill when it comes to majestic landscapes. I had no concept of how big the world around me really was.

As we hiked through the heavily wooded trail, we came to the famed Wesser Bald Fire Tower. Climbing up to the top gave me a view that stuck with me even to this day, and I attribute it to my aching wanderlust.

Green mountains blanketed by fog stretching far into the distance.

Through a quick Google search, this is the very best I could find that captures the view I saw. I won’t blame you if you’re not terribly impressed.

Impressed or not, it was my first taste of awe.

I’ve been continually chasing that feeling throughout my life, and that chase has served me well thus far. Without a desire to venture out, we risk missing out on some of life’s best experiences.

Take time to be in awe once in a while.

Take time to seek out those experiences that might scare the hell out of you.

You can’t absorb grandeur in thirty minutes.

Look for sights that might make you forget everything you think you know about the world around you.

Take time to seek out these things, and don’t stop searching.

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February 11, 2016

Leave home

When my wife and I got married, we were given a piece of advice by a trusted mentor.

“The very best thing you can do when you first get married is to move away from home and forge your own path.”

It stuck with us.

Within a year of receiving this advice, we headed out on our way to a new home several hours from where we grew up. We put a good bit of distance between ourselves and our family and childhood friends. Though it was a scary step in our lives, we soon discovered why this advice was so important.

A few months after settling into our new home, we met a wonderful group of friends, several of whom hadn’t taken the chance to move away from home beyond going away to college. We noticed something hanging over these people – pressure. Pressure to keep up with the example set by nearby family members. Pressure to keep up with friendships that should’ve faded a long time ago. Pressure to accomplish the goals they set out to accomplish in the eyes of the peers they grew up with.

In my view, it’s incredibly important for all of us to see how we handle life without any of these pressures or influences.

You need to see how you react to your car breaking down 400 miles from the nearest friend or family member (it sucks).

You need to experience building relationships without those initial connections to assist in the process (it’s hard).

You need to know what it’s like to be missed by those you love.

You need to have the opportunity to let failing friendships die gracefully.

By never moving away, we lose the chance to learn more about ourselves in these scenarios.

All of this is especially true if you’re married. For my wife and me, moving away has given us the opportunity to maintain strong relationships with our families while also providing the distance necessary to form our own married life and build our own experiences.

When we fight, we resolve it head on. When faced with a tough choices, we make those together. When it comes to big decisions like having children, we’ve been fortunate to make those judgments without influence or pressure from 3rd parties. After all, being 2000 miles away from family means that at the end of the day, the only people we can lean on are each other, and for us, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Move away. It’s ok to come back, but you need the time to discover who you really are away from the influences that built you.

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