rearview mirror

Rearview perspective on why moving is good for you

There are two types of people in the world: Natives and Transplants.

Natives have the benefit (or curse, depending on your perspective) of being born and raised in one place and remaining there their whole life. Transplants have shallower roots, picking up and moving when school or job, wild hair or wonderlust draws them elsewhere.

I realize this is an oversimplification, of course, but for the sake of illustration I’m painting extremes. Most First-Worlders more likely live somewhere along the spectrum, maybe going off to school for a few years before settling back in their hometown, or taking a job in a new place and adopting it as home.

I’m a Transplanter, having made a significant move half a dozen times in my life. I’m living as close as I have since marriage to where I was born (under two hours); the farthest away was our year in Germany—6,000 miles and a plane ride away.

There are times I wish I was a Native.

It’s hard not to envy friends whose parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles live close enough for Sunday dinner (or free babysitting. That’s gold, I tell ya.). To know where to go—and where not to go—when it comes to doctors, dentists, dry cleaners, car repairs, appliance failures, hair stylists. When you start over, everything requires thought, and GPS becomes your best friend.

woman holding globe

It also makes me a little sad at times our children don’t have a geographical anchor. When they visit us, that’s just it: they come to visit us, they aren’t coming home.

This isn’t a pity party, please don’t hear that. It’s merely calling a spade a spade, and recognizing the downside to good decisions we’ve made. Every move we’ve made was preceded by a great deal of thought, counsel, consideration and prayer. There might have been rough patches attached to moving, but the good outweighed any bad. Benefit ultimately exceeded cost.

There are four observations I’ve made about the upside of moving to a new place away from home (even if you eventually move back).

1. You learn how to swim beyond your corner of the pool.

My daughter was around four when she learned to swim. I’ve always remembered one of her instructor’s practices: originating her lessons in different corners of the pool. Her instructor understood humans are creators of habit, and if my daughter only swam in one area, she’d never get comfortable with the entire pool.

friends at pool

I’ve seen this principle transfer to life, first noticed at a party after college with a mixture of hometown and new friends. My high school friends stuck close to one another, but those who had gone away to college mixed and mingled with old friends and strangers alike.

It wasn’t that my high school friends were exclusive, but they were comfortable with who they knew and they didn’t have much of a need to engage others. Those who went off to school had to learn how to make new friends, and the practice seemed to continue post-college.

2. You become more open.

Are there any Seinfeld fans out there? One of his shows featured a monologue about making friends as an adult and I hate to admit it, but for a season, he describes exactly what we had become: closed.

Moving around forces you to open up, not only to new people, but new ways of thinking, new ideas, maybe even new hobbies. And what about new foods? Moving around often introduces you to regional dishes you’ve never even heard of before.

3. You gain a broader perspective.

I don’t think I ever noticed how formative moving can be until we were required to live abroad during part of my husband’s training for a new job. When you’re pushed outside your comfort zone, you have eyes to see from the outside in instead of just the inside out (inside being your hometown; outside being where you move).

Map and magnifying glass

It doesn’t have to be a transcontinental move, either. I’m a huge advocate for taking advantage of living abroad (did you follow Tsh and her family’s year around the globe?) and my top reason is how it changes you for the better. I wish I would’ve known this before midlife, but at least my children have an early advantage.

Any move to a new area shifts your point of view and perspective to understand differences you might not otherwise know about. People groups, geography, dialect, religious views, education, political opinion, economic issues…. You might become more convinced of your viewpoints, or maybe challenged to embrace another.

4. Greater appreciation for what you had… and have.

Moving around has clarified my view of life’s most important things. Through a rearview mirror, you better see what matters and what doesn’t. You learn not to take for granted the people in your life right now, and how each place has value. The significance of things might even change—I’ve learned that I never want my things to own me, and when I’m forced to choose, less is far more.

Moving has never been easy, but it has always been good.

Even when it was lonely, even when every day brought a new challenge, I can (now) see that I gained from each experience.

4 ways moving is good for you

Are you facing an upcoming move? What are your fears? Your expectations? What has been the greatest challenge for you when moving to a new place?

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Robin Dance

Married over half her life to her college sweetheart, Robin's guilty pleasure is Reddi Wip from the can. Mom to three, she's as Southern as sugar-shocked tea. Follow her on Twitter. Her beautiful new blog robindance.me is a must-see.

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Comments

  1. This is an issue that’s been close to my heart for some time. I love to travel and explore and have always dreamed of packing up, moving someplace new and starting a grand adventure. And yet, here I am. Still living in the same county I was born in. It’s not my job that holds me here either. I’m a freelancer and can work anywhere. It’s my family that anchors here.

    I lived in the same house my entire childhood but my late husband moved multiple times. He hated it. He hated always being in a new school and never having the stability of one home. So he was always insistent that, if nothing else, we’d never make a move that would require our kids to switch schools. And we stayed in our ‘starter house’ for 15 years until he passed away in 2013.

    Now, my mom is elderly and her memory is failing so I’m glad I’m nearby to help. I have one sibling who moved out of state right after high school, and I wonder what would have happened to my parents if we had both left.

    So I think a lot about moving. I think I actually mourn that I never have. Sometimes I think I’ll move after the kids move out of the house, but I bet I won’t. I’m sure I will feel an obligation to keep a house they can come home too. *sigh* It’s not how I envisioned my life.

    • Maryalene,

      Do we all have a case of “greener grass” at least at some point in our lives?? As I listen to you and think over my own life, I wonder if it’s human nature to romanticize what you don’t have; to craft it as some ideal version of what you imagine it to be.

      It IS good you’re nearby to help your mom; but maybe once you’re kids are out, you can find a way to take some time–even if it’s short term–and live elsewhere. Maybe house sit? There internet is a vast ocean of ideas, and I often think if I’m creative enough, I can find a way to do most anything I set my mind to :).

      And your last sentence? Makes me think of the old Lennon quote: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” lol, I’ve lived that out more times than I care to remember :).

    • Ask your kids. You just might be surprised. When we returned to the US after years abroad and our family being on 3 continents, we were quietly thrilled being in one town together, then 2 moving a few hours away. Regardless of what we might do with our home, we wll live near. And travel!

  2. I have a move coming up in 2 years, which is the most advance planning for a definite move I’ve done, and will mean I’ve lived in this house for 6 years, the longest single stretch in my entire life. We’ve moved a lot as a family for work, since hubby is in defence, there have been several houses and a few schools – he’s done the last move alone while the kiddo finishes up high school here.

    I think home is something you end up taking with you when you move a lot. I’m not sure if we’ll be coming back here after the next posting is up and hubby retires. I’m equal parts scared to lose here, because we own it and it’s mine in a way nowhere has been, but open to see the possibilities that we’ll have. I’m not planning to travel much holidaywise, (I’m tied to 4 weekly hospital treatments and can’t drink the tap water in Melbourne, let alone food and drinks anywhere remotely exotic, so long, far flung travel has been waved off), but I’d like to strip away a few more of the concrete obligations we have and just see what happens.

    I’m absolutely looking forward to the move at this point, since it’s to a lovely city (and my husband is there, major plus), only problem is the kiddo won’t be coming. He’ll be moving out of home and I’ll be moving interstate and there’s no home to come back to for him. Not sure he’ll care, but it bugs me anyway.

    • Moving IS a complex thing, isn’t it? It’s hard to say it’s ever “all” good or bad. But to me, it always has formative value, something I haven’t always understood. I know it’s said “Home is where the heart is” and that’s true to a large extent….but not completely. Those of us who’ve moved a lot get that.

  3. MelissaJoy says:

    “Moving is never easy, but it’s always good.” Lots of hard things can be good, right? I appreciate the simplified explanation you give of native and transplant. I love natives! Natives bring stability with their history of the area and people among other things. I can think of natives in each town we lived in who made the difference for our time there. It’s a beautiful thing.

    My family is coming up on our eighth move in twelve years. As we approach this next transition, I’m thinking about our most successful move (we were all healthy, had energy to invest in our new community fairly quickly, fulfilling work) and I’m hoping for a similar entrance. We usually don’t have much time to prepare emotionally due to the company my husband previously worked for- two weeks notice to uproot, anyone? We’ve now had a year to restore, renew, rebuild and take our time with major decisions. Im so grateful for this season. It hasn’t been restful but it’s been full of stabilizers of the native sort.

    Thanks for your post. I have been a long time reader.

    • Natives ARE a huge help in assimilating to a new area. I’m very thankful for those who are open–they teach me so much through the way they help a newbie out.

      And OH MY WORD–two weeks to uproot and move? You are resilient! Very thankful to hear your upcoming move has allowed more time to process and prepare; hopefully it will make a difference in being able to transition well :). Thanks for taking time to comment, MelissaJoy 🙂

  4. I don’t even have kids yet and I am already feeling the weight of choosing to live away from my entire family. I know that it’s right for me and am feeling the benefits already, but i grew up where grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles were always around. Not to mention friends I’ve known from middle school and who I am still close to. It’s not an easy decision, but I know I could not stay in one place forever. It’s worth it, even when part of your heart resides with them.

    • Katie,

      It sounds like you’re processing “reality” before you even move, and that’s wise. You have a treasure in your family and in the place you’re leaving, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only treasure, ya know?

  5. Husband took a job last week and we are moving this weekend. The house we are in now, we have been in for two years….the longest we have been in a house in our 5 years married or my single years before marriage. A couple of our moves have been international. It’s a love/hate relationship, but I lead more to the love side of it. Now to pack….

  6. We have moved a lot as a family. I must admit after several big cross country moves I am starting to get weary. Also those of us with kiddos still at home, it gets hard when you realize while you may be ready to move your children are not. My daughter is longing to be a “native”. I grew up where my entire family had lived for multiple generations (but not in the same house) and “hit the door running” as I say. My husband lived in the same house his whole life and his parents are still there. But our daughter is not us and we need to stay in the place we are as long as possible for her emotional sake.

    • Angela, I was shocked at how resilient my children were when we moved in prior to their 1st, 3rd, 5th grade year. They settled much faster than we did! THAT was a huge surprise. Change usually knocks people off balance for a bit; hoping your next move will restore healthy balance quickly.

  7. Yes to all of this. We’ve made four major moves (totally different areas of the country, where we showed up not knowing a soul) since getting married, and another one isn’t too far away. It’s been fun and eye-opening, but I agree with Angela that I’m starting to get weary. I hate the feeling of always having “one foot out the door,” and wanting to become part of a community, yet feeling like I should keep it at arm’s length at the same time. I worry for my girls who have made great friends, and are now old enough to really feel how hard it is to leave people you love. BUT…I’m so grateful for the perspective and openness I’ve gained, and the diverse, lovely people I’ve met along the way. And moving has definitely shifted my worldview and my relationship to “things.” That said, it is a goal of ours to find our version of “home,” and when we do settle somewhere for a while I know I will fully appreciate it, as well as everything that came before.

    • I hear y’all…I know the weariness of which you speak, the reluctancy to be “all in” if you’re just going to move again. That’s why I’m so aware and trying to be intentional about “blooming where I’m planted.” I literally say that phrase to myself, as cliche as it is :).

  8. Beautiful post.
    I’ve always been a big defender of moving away from home to learn to live. I have plenty of friends who stayed home for college, and it feels (to me and to them) like they’ve never left the nest. Mind you, we are still young, but I think it’s important to learn that you can move somewhere else and still be you, that your roots won’t disappear just because you transplanted them. You will still be you, but will learn more, grow stronger, at least in my opinion.
    Now, it has plenty of downsides too: I moved away for college the exact day I turned 18, and I haven’t moved back since. Instead, I moved to 4 different cities in 6 years, all of them a plane ticket away (the “perks” of being born on an island!). This has turned me into someone who doesn’t really know where home is anymore, but that knows that she can make herself at home anywhere. It’s forced me to change my safe place from geography to people: me, my partner, my son. And for that, I am grateful: I’ll always have home with me, both if I am standing close to where I was born or if I am half a world away.

    OM

  9. i love this + all of the comments. i’ve moved twice in the last 2.5 years for my husband’s job and i think the hardest thing for me has been being the new person, especially at work. it’s just so hard starting over, learning the dynamics of a new workplace, meeting people, etc. and don’t even get me started on trying to make new friends as an adult. it’s like dating! haha. i’m thankful for the experiences we’ve had and the ways that we continue to grow and learn, but it still makes for some tough days. one day at a time!

    • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I think that a lot of the time, too (well, during the hard seasons of moving and starting over…) I do believe it’s true, too :).

  10. This was super timely for me as we made a major move just 2 weeks ago (our first major move as a family). It has been hard at times but also so good! Loved your perspective.

  11. As a military brat and military wife, moving is in my blood! I’ve lived in 5 states (multiple cities within those states) and 1 country … The longest we lived anywhere was 12 years – and I couldn’t WAIT to move!! 🙂 Sadly, though, right now I live in a non-military community and it seems that everyone we encounter is a “native” … and for the first time, I feel “closed” … actually kind of left out – sad – lonely … and you know what that makes me want to do??! MOVE!!! 🙂

  12. Linda Sand says:

    I have always moved. Maybe only across town before I turned 15 and changed states but I have always moved. My husband has not. He lived in one house all his school years. Yes, we moved multiple times while he was in service but some of those were just across town. After he was discharged we moved several times but always within the same community. He feels rooted here. I don’t. I’d like to move somewhere much warmer than Minnesota but he found moving away from his community too hard so we are back. I wish I’d thought about native vs. transplant before I fell in love with him.

    • Linda,

      Native v. Transplant isn’t something I thought about until I moved and had so many different experiences. But it sure explains a lot, and helps me to understand people…which I guess is what you’re (sorta) saying.

  13. The good thing about moving is that certain things will be better. Things will be new and different, you will learn from those things. You will miss things and you will miss familiar. I can see why my mother hates, hates change, she did so much of it as a child. I am getting weary of change myself, but I remind myself that with each move certain things will be better. I have certainly learned many things from many moves. Do I wish I was a “native,” hummm maybe not, but I would love to at least live in the same time zone as my family, that makes things so much easier!

  14. Thanks for this. We’re less than a year into our latest move and my Native heart has a hard time not loathing the Transplant life our path has held for us. (Just this week we were discussing cremation because there wasn’t any place we considered “home” enough to be buried!) I love travel, but I was third generation in my hometown and lived in the same house my entire childhood, so finding the blessings of the Transplant life hasn’t been easy…

  15. Your article is wonderful, Robin. I especially agree with your point about how living somewhere else clarifies what is really important to you. I spent a great deal of time in Europe pre-kids and then, found myself in the suburbs, driving a minivan and not having been in Europe in six years. One day this thought totally devastated me and then, a week later, my husband got a job offer to move back to his native country of Germany. I eagerly jumped on that plane, excited to enjoy the travel, architecture and culture I missed so much. Now that I have been here for awhile, I have become much more aware of what is most important to my own personal happiness in life: a strong and loving faith community. All the great travel, food and architecture in the world cannot fill that void in my life right now. I am glad I have learned this lesson and am doing what I can to cultivate this right now but I have to be honest, this kind of community is much easier to find back in the USA and I look forward to our return someday.

    • Leslie,

      Yeah, I know that part of it, and I lived abroad for not quite a year. But you will always have the memories and experience of having lived away, and that will serve you and your family forever! I’m convinced of it :). Time yields the beauty of perspective….

  16. This is a great perspective. I’ve lived in my hometown my entire life aside from the two years I moved away for college. I was never one of those kids growing up saying, “I can’t wait to get out of this place”. I actually couldn’t wait to get BACK after college. Now I love raising my kids where I grew up. This post reminds me to remain open to the Transplants in my life. 🙂

  17. Yes, we will be moving in the next 6 months but I really don’t want to. I didn’t grow up here, but we’ve been here for close to 17 years. I like the town we’re in and love the kids school I don’t want to leave it, I have friends here and I have a hard time making friends, I’m not good at putting myself out there. I’m so totally caught up in we’re leaving behind that I’m having a hard time what we could be gaining.

    • I obviously did not proofread very well. I’m so caught up in what I feel we’re losing that I have a hard time looking forward to what we’re gaining.

      • I followed what you were saying :). Being sad that you’re living this place isn’t a bad thing; it’s evidence that the time there has been good and rich and meaningful. It’s kind of a “make new friends, but keep the old…” There’s silver and gold in both. I do hope you engage your new community and make a friend soon. That will make a huge difference for you.

  18. It’s ironic that your post was published the day my husband and I moved from a small town in Ohio to Ottawa, Ontario. I’m thankful for your perspective.

  19. I love this. I have moved so many times growing up, and even more times as an adult. Born and raised in CA, currently live in TX and moving to OR by the end of the year. The one thing I want most for my kids is a place to call “home.” I never had that, and I crave it so much.

    • I DO hear that, Lauren; it’s a sacrifice we’ve made. So “home” has to be about relationships in our family, not place or geography. The place my kids will remember as home is not where they were born, but where they lived most of their formative years. It is NOT the same place I think of as home… :/

  20. This is pretty timely for me. I feel like I’m just recovering from our move!
    I always think that the place I move to will be the place I’ll be forever. But I really do think that we’ve found the answer now–we left it all behind to move to an ecovillage in rural Missouri. That is a BIG move. Over 90 percent of our stuff is in storage. But so far, so good!

  21. Planning big move to China with my ten year old and hubby. You can read my story on my website http://www.professionalglobaletiquette.com. I have planned as much as I can but I think what is important when you move is to live a simple life. I also have lost any emotional attachments to items. I am ready to travel and experience new adventures while developing my career. I am going to miss family but the enjoyment of meeting others and making new families of friends is motivating to me. Articles like this help me. This process will take a year and I only have 6 months left. Every day is filled with learning lessons and creating changes and preperations. There is no turning back for me

  22. Beth Williams says:

    Robin,

    I used to get envious of those who lived in one area their whole lives. All the family around them. My family moved 8 times to 6 states before I was 8. My sister got her schooling disrupted about every 2 years–not a good thing. Now I see the good in moving around some. I loved your perspective on moving. It is true that moving around allows you to be more open to new ideas, people, food, etc. You also get a better & broader prospective of the world. I believe people should either move to new cities or visit them and see what it would be like to live there! Go out and explore the world!!

  23. I had moved 11 times by the time I graduated high school. As an adult, I’ve only moved a couple of times, and always within the same metro area. I have kids now, and it’s my hope that we never have to move until they graduate. While I learned a lot being a transplant, I found it SO hard to make friends, I ended up being the target of bullies at one of my schools, and I also ended up with gaps in my education because of the frequent moves.

    Now I’ve lived in the same general area for 21 years, and that makes me SO thrilled! I am finally a native of somewhere! My best friend and I have known each other since my freshman year of high school (my final move as a kid) and there’s just something about having a person in your life who has known you that long and to share that history with.

    I often feel conflicted, because you’re right, there’s a lot of learning that comes from moving, and it’s not like I’d really change any of my experiences, because they all led me to where I am today. But by that same token, my personality thrives better on stability, and it’s great being an adult where I can control where I live and decide if I want to move or not!

  24. Ellen Hawkins says:

    I moved several times as a child, WI, CA, then AR, where I graduated high school, went to college, married and have stayed the past 25+ years. My husband has lived here his whole life, childhood, college, and one job straight out of college only 60 miles from his childhood town. Now he is retiring, and we are picking up and starting something new in CO in only 2 months. its going to be difficult, especially for my 15 yr old, but as we homeschool, the difficulty will not involve the whole new school drama. Great article.

  25. Tiffany Larsen says:

    Beautifully and thoughtfully written, Robin. Thank you for a balanced review of being both a native and a transplant. It’s not something I’ve seen others write about. I myself am an unrepentant, chronic transplant. After leaving home for college 15 years ago, I’ve never lived anywhere more than two years, and I’ve dragged my forgiving hubby and five kiddos along for every ride. I do wonder if I’ll need to stop this at some point– to put down roots and go native, as you say, for my children’s sake especially. The notion of staying put anywhere for more than a couple years makes my soul die a little bit, though. But if it’s better for my family, of course I would do it. It’s difficult to know whether my insatiable wanderlust and need for new horizons is irrepressibly at my core and should be validated, or whether I should simply learn to suppress it. I feel like I need a support group for chronic uprooters, ha! Thanks again for your thoughts, Robin. I thoroughly enjoyed them.

  26. I’m so grateful that I stumbled upon this! Our family of three have just moved to the UK for 4.5 years from Midwestern US. I knew at a young age I did not want to stay in my hometown after finishing school. I think my parents gave me the wandering bug when we were stationed in Italy when my father was in the Army and I was a baby, however they still live within a few miles of where they grew up along with my siblings and their families.

    Our young daughter adjusted very quickly, and my husband and I are find our place. I’ll be reading this again and again when things start to feel difficult.

  27. Am currently applying for a job that entails a lifetime of moving abroad and back and starting a family… This post brought me some encouragement. Thank you!

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