Moving away from family or other loved ones to blaze your own path in a new place can feel like the most selfish thing in the world. Whether you are moving to a new state or a different country, being further away from your support system and loved ones can be really difficult.
Not getting to see my nephew grow up has been especially hard for me. I tear up often thinking of how much I’ve missed out on since I moved away in 2012 – especially around his birthday.
I’ve wondered if my desire – my need – to leave my hometown and move out of state to find a place of my own makes me a selfish jerk.
But, what I’ve come to realize – and what I have to tell myself at times – is that it is quite the opposite. If you struggle with this too, or maybe you are considering never leaving because the guilt would be too much, here are three reasons why you are not selfish for moving away.
2023 Update: More Moving Away Insights in Book Form!
This article was originally written in 2016, four years after moving away from family members and good friends in Florida to build a new life in Colorado. Since that big move, we were nomads for four years and now live in Hawaii.
However, I’ve decided not to change this article to the present tense because it really showcases an important point in my life and some great insights on what it is like to be the one who leaves.
Over the years, I’ve received so many comments, emails, and messages about what I’ve shared in this blog post. It is a complicated topic that is challenging to discuss with someone who doesn’t understand or relate to the situation. So I get why so many people have been relieved to read this!
While I’m not one to give direct advice since everyone’s situation is very different, I decided to share all of my insights on this topic to help others feel understood and offer some other perspectives that may offer some comfort.
You can order Moving Away: The Emotional Side of Leaving on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.
There is nothing wrong with wanting MORE joy.
“Why can’t you just be happy with what you have? You are so blessed.” Maybe you’ve told yourself this too – or someone else has. But, what I’ve come to understand, is that seeking joy is not something to feel guilty about, even if you already have a whole lot of it.
And if something that makes someone else happy makes you miserable, that doesn’t mean either of you are wrong. You just find your joy in different places.
There is something to be said for finding joy where you are, no one likes a Negative Nancy. But seeking out places that light up your soul is nothing to be ashamed of.
Why we moved away from home:
People move away from home for all sorts of reasons – a new job, wanting a fresh start or to branch out of their comfort zone, looking for better job opportunities outside a small town, or more affordable housing in a new location.
For us, we always new we would move away to start our own life somewhere new.
I don’t remember a time that I ever loved living in my hometown in Florida. Sure I had good memories – a ton of them. But that was never because it was an awesome place to live. I was never a beach person (not that type of beach, at least). And the bar scene (the main source of fun in that city for adults) wasn’t for me.
Nothing ever stood out to me about that specific place as worth sticking around for. Not to mention, the too-hot weather in the summer and too-cold (surprising, I know) month of winter that didn’t even bother to produce snow. I don’t like to use this word, but I hated it.
However, the mountains … the mountains brought me joy. And still do. Being near them puts me at ease and hiking in them is my favorite thing in the whole world. When my husband, Buddy, and I first visited Colorado we fell in love with the weather, activities, people, mindset, and the stunning Rocky Mountains. We knew we had made the best decision for us.
We finally felt like we were where we belonged. And it is an amazing feeling that I still cherish, even after four years of living here. We’d never want to go back to our old home and our old life, even though the physical distance can be hard. Our move as the best thing for us!
But the reality is, I will probably always want more from life. I love my home now. But there are so many other places I want to experience and things I want to try. I think God has a whole lot of joy he wants to send my way, and I want to be available to soak up every second of it – instead of hiding out, feeling guilty for wanting to devour it.
You miss them because you love them; that’s not a bad thing.
I lived in the same town for 22 years before I moved. Everyone I loved most was in that town (or a few hours away). And most of us had never traveled too far from home.
So, putting it in my rear-view mirror felt a lot like saying bye to all of those dear to me (except my hubby, of course). But it is only goodbye to the ones who weren’t REALLY in your life anyway.
Would I cry over missing my nephew’s birthday if I didn’t love him with all my heart? Would I worry I won’t be there when my best friend one day picks out her wedding gown, if she wasn’t important to me? And would I call my mom all the dang time if I didn’t love her a whole lot? Nope. I wouldn’t.
And would my nephew leave me voicemails and send letters saying how much he misses me if he hated my guts? No. Would my family and friends make an effort to come see me when I’m in town, or visit me in Colorado, if I wasn’t important to them? Well, maybe they’d do it for the free Colorado vacay, but you get the point.
How moving away from family changes relationships:
Believe me, absence does make the heart grow fonder. My best friend of 20 years and I barely hung out or talked when I moved. We were just busy with other things. But now we talk weekly, if not more. And when we see each other we have THE BEST time! It took being a thousand miles apart to realize how blessed we were to have each other.
Now, we have an amazing long-distance friendship that I’m extremely proud of.
We miss our people because we love them fiercely. And that is not a bad thing – don’t let it be. Cry the tears. But don’t feel guilty. You are not a bad person for loving them so much.
Striving to be a better person is a good thing.
When my nephew was born, I swore to myself that I would be a big part of his life. I would be someone he could always rely on. And I would make sure he knew how much I loved him. Even with the distance, I’ve worked hard to keep that promise. And I try to see him at least once a year, if not more.
We may not spend a lot of time together, but we do have quality time when we are together. And I’m the best version of myself and have created my own life on my terms, which he can one day see as a great example.
Insights on offering more to the ones you love:
While wanting to be a reliable form of support for your loved ones is a great goal, what if you could offer even more? What if by finding out who you are, following your dreams, and making the most of your life, you could inspire the people you love to do the same?
What if you were not only someone your friends and family could rely on, but someone they respected and admired?
I didn’t want my nephew to think of me as his grumpy aunt who argued with her husband all the time, was overweight and drank too much. That was the life I saw ahead of me in Florida. Staying in that town I grew up in was suffocating my dreams and sense of adventure. And I knew it as it was happening.
I was angry that I was still there, unmotivated to make the most of each day, and pretty sure Buddy and I were on a path to one day kill each other out of sheer boredom. Never underestimate the dangers of boredom.
Leading by example:
Now I like who I am. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m someone my nephew can be proud to call his Auntie. And his Uncle Buddy has grown into a pretty awesome guy, too!
We have asked ourselves the important questions, found a good rhythm to our personal life, have been given great opportunities to grow, and have gained a new perspective by being in a different city far from the one we grew up in. We are stronger now.
On a recent trip to visit my favorite kiddo, we were playing tag, and he said: “Even though you climb mountains, I’m still faster than you.”
I’m the Aunt who climbs mountains. I’m the Aunt that sends him postcards from awesome places he’s never seen. I’m the one who has goals and dreams I’m not afraid to reach for, who has the type of marriage I only pray he can have one day – filled with adventures and so much laughter. I’m the one who will help him fill his own Passport one day.
I wish with all my heart I could have become this person without having to miss out on so much of his life. Moving away from family and friends you love is really difficult. But I honestly don’t think I could have grown this much without forging my own path. And my marriage probably wouldn’t be this strong if we hadn’t taken off on our own to make a life we love.
Luckily, most of our family and friends totally support our crazy dreams. But for an eight-year-old, these ideas are a bit too deep to grasp. I just hope one day my nephew gets it. And before then, I’ll keep sharing my adventures with him and making the most of the time we do have together. After all, the best part about finding joy, is sharing it.
In 2019, I also wrote a follow-up piece with the lessons we’ve learned from our now multiple experiences with moving away from family and friends: ‘The Truth About Moving Away.’ For even more insights, don’t forget to check out my book: Moving Away: The Emotional Side of Leaving.
BONUS: Logistical Checklist for Moving Away
Now that we’ve talked about the emotional side of moving away from family, I do suggest getting the logistical aspects in order to make it less stressful. It is important to be practical about your move and make some strategic plans before you take off. This checklist of logistical steps, decisions to make, and information to gather before your move should help you get off to a smoother start.
If you plan it out right, once you get to your new chosen home, you can just focus on getting settled in and enjoying your new scenery and new experiences! But, don’t forget to pause and enjoy the excitement of the journey while you are making your big transition. You deserve it!
Decide Where to Live.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to which city you’d like to move to, research further to figure out what area of town suits you best. Consider crime rates, schools, living cost, and commute. If you can, it is a good idea to plan a trip to view your rental or home buying options before your move. Or plan for a temporary living situation if you won’t be securing lodging before your move.
Secure a Job
Find out if jobs in your field are realistically available or if you could relocate in your current role. Make sure you don’t need any additional certifications to work in that state or country. Also, consider the commute. While working from home is a great way to move with your same job, going to an in-person job can help you make new friends.
Get a Realistic Idea of Cost of Living
Especially important for those on a budget, you’ll need to research cost of living and other fees or expenses to know what to expect in your new home. Will you be taxed differently? Is registering a vehicle or getting insurance more expensive? If you live in the United States and are going abroad to save money, make sure you know any other costs for living in that area you may not be aware of.
Plan for the Weather
If moving to a new city, consider the climate, culture, and what kind of recreational options would be available to you. Will you need to make any adjustments or by new gear due to weather?
Look into Options for Your Children
For people with kids, look into the quality of schools in the area, cost of daycare, and family friendly activities available. A good way to get started is in Facebook groups and on local mommy blogs! If you have kids in school, enroll them in their new school and notify their current school they are leaving. If bringing teenagers or young adults along, involving them in looking up local activities could be a great way to get them more excited.
Plan for Your Pets
If you have pets, check to make sure they don’t need any specific licenses or testing prior to moving. Also check for any rules or restrictions based on breeds, etc. Make plans for how to transport your pets and get any necessary proof of vaccines, etc. If you are moving abroad, you will likely have to put your pets in quarantine, so plan accordingly. A big move can be a hard time for your pets, so be sure to manage their needs and stress as well.
Consider Any Lifestyle Needs
If you want to go to college, have a small farm or raise chickens, start a business out of your home, or some other activity that is important to you, make sure your location would allow that. Will you be able to still go about your normal daily routine and lifestyle in a comfortable way?
Arrange for the Sale of your Home or to Break Your Lease
If you need to sell your family home or plan to get out of a rental lease, be sure to get that all figured out within good timing of your move. In our experience, sometimes a house can sell extra quickly, so having a backup lodging plan can help.
Decide What to Do With Your Belongings
Determine if it is worth shipping furniture or other large items rather than just repurchasing them when you get there. Then, make a plan to move your belongings accordingly. Consider downsizing to save yourself time, money, and hassle when moving.
Outline a Move Timeline
Will you drive or fly and how many days should you dedicate to the move? Do you need any help? Do you need to take time off work? Do you need to plan any pre-move trips to make arrangements?
Collect Important Documents
Confirm that you have your birth certificate and any other important documentation you need to avoid having to return to your home state or city to collect. If moving abroad, arrange for a Visa or other documentation you’ll need.
Don’t forget to arrange for mail to be sent to your new address (whenever you have it).
Find out how long you will have after moving to get a new driver’s license and establish residency, then plan accordingly with time off work and keep the associated fees in mind.
Notify Important Entities
Once you have a new address, be sure to update your bank, insurance companies, credit card institutions, and any other places that may need to have that current information.
Discuss How to Stay in Touch
Make plans for coming back to visit or having friends and family come visit you, if desired. This can help ease the sting of being apart! If you have elderly parents, this may involve some extra planning or you returning instead for visits.
Deciding on a regular video chat schedule can also help. I like to make calendar reminders to remember to send birthday cards and reach out if I know my loved ones have something important coming up.
Plan a going away party (if you want one!)
Or ask someone to host it! This big life event deserves a celebration – even if it is just a solo one. We always throw a big party with our local close friends and loved ones before a move. I think it is the best way to show them we really appreciate their support and it is always a good time.
Get Connected in Your New Home
Even before you leave for your new beginning, you can connect in your new area by joining local community groups or connecting with locals on social media for insights. This is a great way to meet new people and get insights into the new area you will be living in. Meeting new people can feel intimidating, but it is an important big step in getting settled in to your new home and feeling less sad about not having access to your usual social circle.
We hope this helps you have a better move! All the best on your journey.