We are no strangers to moving away. As nomads, we move often. But before we took to exploring this big exciting world, we took a giant leap in the direction of adventure by moving away from our hometown and starting over across the country.
I’d love to say it was a hard decision to leave and we spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons. But that isn’t even close to the truth. I never planned to stay in that city I was born in. Ever since I can remember, I was plotting my escape. And when I met my husband and he had the same distaste for living in Florida as I did, we knew it was only a matter of time before we packed up and set off to find a place that felt like home for us. At first, that was Colorado for five years. Then it was this nomadic lifestyle that strangely feels more like home than anything we’ve experienced before.
As we move again and again, then return to places we once called home just to leave again, we are constantly in the process of making, maintaining, and letting go of relationships. And we have learned so much along the way that we think is important to share. Because so many people stay put out of fear or guilt created by the people who are supposed to love them most. And that breaks our heart. Love shouldn’t feel like a weight holding you down. It should uplift you and fill you with joy.
1. Being afraid of losing someone (& projecting that on them with guilt) is NOT an act of love
You are afraid of losing someone BECAUSE you love them, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I don’t believe constantly inflicting your worries on someone about their safety or well-being is a healthy way to show you love them. It just feels suffocating and will probably drive them away or – worse – make them stay and resent you for it.
A few years ago, I wrote an article about ‘Why You’re Not Selfish for Moving Away.’ It was really just a way to sort through some strong emotions of guilt I was having for missing out on important parts of my loved ones’ lives. I’m still surprised at the constant notes and comments I receive thanking me for writing that or asking for my advice. It turns out, so many people feel stuck in a place they don’t feel like they belong out of guilt or fears that have been forced on them. And that’s complete crap. Because I know for a fact that the people who love me the most would never want me to feel that way.
For a long time, I thought being the one who wanted to leave made me a little bit of a jerk. I can’t stand my hometown and that upsets the people I love who like where they live. I get that. But I know now, that it doesn’t make me wrong for feeling the way I do either. And, while all circumstances are different (for example, we don’t condone moving away to shirk a parental responsibility, etc.), I’d go so far as to say not only are you not selfish for moving away, it is selfish for people who say they love you to try to prevent you from living out your dreams just for the comfort of knowing you’re close. Yep, I said it. Kind of harsh, I know. And, of course, most people won’t see it that way since it is disguised with words of love. But, it is definitely self-motivated.
Admittedly, neither of us have a very tight-knit family. We both have divorced parents and our families are very disjointed. We also had a lot of support from our loved ones – despite being pretty much the only ones to move far away. But, a lot of people seem to get a ton of pushback when moving. And I just refuse to believe that trying to prevent someone from seeking out the things in this life that light up their soul is done out of love. It is based on fear and fear alone.
I strongly believe you don’t fear for someone like that out of love for them. That is out of the love for your own comfort. Losing them or losing your close relationship with them would hurt you and that’s scary. Love is being willing to sacrifice that comfort because you know the person who has your affection would be better off for it. Realizing that makes us appreciate the people in our life who support us despite their own emotions or worries even more.
2. You can have roots without becoming a tree
A close friend of mine has a phrase I love. It goes something like, “If you don’t like where you’ve been planted, then move. You are not a tree!” It’s actually something her mom used to say to her. And since she’s a fellow nomad, she definitely took that to heart. What a beautiful gift to tell your child they are encouraged to move into a place that suits them better. If only all families were like that.
We’ve never had a hard time moving away. But a lot of people feel like you can lose your family identity if you aren’t close. The truth is, you absolutely can. Sometimes, when you move away, you have the opportunity to grow into yourself and experience new ways of life. Often, this can create issues with loved ones if your opinions and values change from what you were raised to believe.
However, if you are able to have an open dialogue with the people most important to you, changed views can also lead to amazing opportunities to really connect and have great conversations. And, while you may choose a different path, you can still appreciate why your family and friends have chosen theirs. You don’t have to be the same to love someone. It is completely possible to appreciate where you came from and remain emotionally connected to those ‘roots’ without letting it keep you from moving away to start your own unique life.
A perfect example of holding onto your roots in a healthy way
On the island of Molokai in Hawaii, we met a cultural practitioner named Greg who took us on an unforgettable tour of his property and shared some fantastic insights into ‘Old Hawaii’ and their unique cultural traditions. Something I found very interesting is that Greg was chosen as the cultural practitioner for his family at five. He knew growing up that at some point he would be responsible for sharing the history of Hawaii on the small island of Molokai.
But, as a young adult, he was encouraged to leave – to move away and build a life of his own. He worked and traveled elsewhere. He even got involved with Cirque du Soleil, got married, had children of his own, etc. And he has now happily returned to take on the honor of his responsibility (while still maintaining his role as a husband and father, of course). It didn’t seem at all like something he was chained to and forced into. His role (and the break he got because of it) was a gift that he accepted and, therefore, thrives in. If you love someone, set them free… If they come back, you’ll all be better for it.
3. Missing someone is much better than resenting them
I feel like at some point, most children have heard their parents say ‘I did allll of this for you.’ They feel the need to remind you of all the sacrifices they’ve made to be your parent. Usually, they remind you of this during those ungrateful teenage years because even though they made those sacrifices out of love, part of them resents you for not appreciating it. But the problem is, you didn’t ask for them to do those things. You didn’t make some kind of agreement to be a perfect child because they did them. So it’s hard for both parties to not just end up super frustrated. And I think it is similar if you remain somewhere you don’t want to be out of guilt.
If we had stayed in our hometown because of all the people who were upset when we announced we were moving away, I know we would have eventually resented them. After a few years of rescheduled dinners or not seeing them for months at a time due to busy schedules, we’d have that phrase play through our head. ‘I did this for you!’ Of course, followed by ‘And you don’t even appreciate it.’ I didn’t want to feel that way about the people I love. It was unfair to put that kind of pressure on them to be the thing that was worth sacrificing our dreams and happiness for.
Sometimes it is really hard to miss our people or to know how much they miss us. But, missing them is just a reminder that we fiercely love them. When we go back or they visit, we soak up every moment with them and cherish it rather than always wondering if our life would be different had we not stayed for them. (Which is always such an unfair comparison and a recipe for ruined relationships). Choosing to chase our own life has benefited our relationships much more than staying ever would have. And it has brought some amazing, life-changing people into our life through the process.
4. You can still show up for people without living close by
The funny thing is, as much as moving away may feel like leaving behind the people you love there, it is actually an amazing opportunity to really solidify relationships with loved ones. It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it won’t happen for everyone in your life. And that’s okay, too. Frankly, some people are only meant to be in your life for a season.
As mentioned, we’re pros at moving away. There are the beloved people we grew up with in Florida. The very close family of friends we made during our five years in Colorado. Dear friends we met in the RVing community. Plus, the lovely people we have had the privilege of meeting through housesitting. And while all of them have a place in our hearts, they won’t always have a place in our life. We’re okay with that. Because forcing it has never worked out for us in the past.
There have been friends we’ve lost touch with – some on purpose and some just with time. And some people, who we didn’t consider as very close friends, who we’ve actually become closer with because we realized how much we missed them after leaving. I’m not saying everyone should move every couple of months like we do. But I am saying that leaving puts relationships into perspective very quickly. We make it a point now to check in with our people and show up for them. (Like going out of our way to see our oldest nephew and Buddy’s grandpa on a recent road trip). And it feels wonderful to be able to do that when we can. Because we’ve built a life that allows for time flexibility – with plenty of room for detours and unexpected stops. And it all happened by deciding to forge our own path.
Plus, we have grown so much since leaving on this journey that we actually have more to offer the people we love. We’re stronger due to constantly pushing our boundaries, have more knowledge to share from our varied experiences, and are just better people.
5. Moving may actually allow you to offer more
When we left Florida seven years ago, we had no idea where our path would take us. During those first five years in Colorado, we were blessed with some lovely memories of showing friends and family around Colorado, as well as fun times with our hand-picked family in the Denver area. Plus, we were able to spend lots of quality time with our people when we visited. Because they set aside full days for us – not just a quick coffee meetup. Full days of cherished memories.
Little did we know, we’d eventually quit our desk jobs and become nomadic. Which has allowed us to be there for our people in ways we never even thought would be possible. We’ve spent extended time with all of our family members in the past two years – including some aunts, uncles, and cousins we’d usually rarely see. And we’ve spent a ton of time with all three of our nephews – something that is extremely important to us.
How moving away has helped us connect even more with loved ones
Recently, we flew our 10-year-old nephew out to Colorado to visit us. He saw mountains and snow and waterfalls and dozens of animals (like elk and bison) for the first time. Getting to see his eyes light up at each new adventure is something I’ll cherish forever. And I know that gift of our time and sharing one of our favorite places with him is something he will always remember.
Earlier this year, I also got to give the beautiful gift of time to my best friend of 20+ years by stationing ourselves in Florida for the entire month before her wedding. The year prior, we had another extended visit where I was able to help her find her wedding dress (something I always thought I’d miss out on after moving away). And getting to help her stay calm as we cranked through the long list of wedding to-dos was so rewarding. Once the craziness of the wedding subsided, she called me in tears telling me how grateful she was that I showed up for her like that. And the best part is, I joyfully did it. Not out of responsibility, not as a sacrifice, but purely out of love.
Because my husband and I are choosing our own path, often it takes us far away. But it can also bring us back at just the right moments to really show up for the people we love or share our journey with them in a special way.
Moving away has taught us a lot, but the most beautiful lesson is that we have people worth going back for. (And trust me, the pull to be gone is strong within us). Our time together may not always happen often or for long periods. But we value it in a much different way than we ever would have had we stayed.
Did you leave your hometown to follow your own path? Have you come to similar conclusions?