9 Life Lessons & Realizations From Moving Across The Country
The wheels touched down and I was now in Ontario for the first time in my life. I’d never been here before and my closest friend or family member was over 4,000 kilometers away.
This wasn’t a vacation. I didn’t just have a carry-on bag with the essentials to survive a week visiting Toronto. Everything I was bringing with me, all my precious “stuff”, from suburban Vancouver was in one of two bags or the two Rubbermaids in the planes underbelly.
I’d made the choice as a spry early 20’s kid with a fresh Bachelors degree to move across the country and chase my “dream job” with some additional schooling to fast-track my goals. I packed everything up, said goodbye to everyone I knew and left for the business hub of downtown Toronto.
Those wheels hit the tarmac almost 6 years ago.
We all make decisions that alter our path in life.
This was mine.
Here are 9 life lessons and realizations I gained moving across the country.
1.) Appreciate Your Family & Friends
After 20+ years of smiles, laughs, tears and experiences with your family and friends, you just might start to take them for granted. You grow accustomed to their support and all the benefits they might be bringing to your life.
Your family and friends know your likes, dislikes, what makes you tick and also how you can improve and impact their lives.
It becomes second nature.
Uprooting and now being 5,000+ kilometers away from them really showcased just how important that circle of relationships are. At first, it’s extremely difficult. With time that slowly improves but the feeling always remains.
Appreciate your family and friends while you have them close.
Every time I go “back home”, I try to make every minute count and enjoy their company as best possible.
2.) When You’re Young And Willing, Take A Risk
No kids, no mortgage, no true chains or responsibilities outside living a prosperous, enjoyable life. That was where I was at in my early 20’s when I made the decision to change the entire trajectory of my life.
When you’re young and able to capitalize on the freedoms you currently possess, “jump”.
Capitalize on the potential rewards from taking a risk when you have the opportunity to do so.
Whether it’s moving, changing jobs, starting an entrepreneurial effort, travelling or anything you think will help better your life.
However, that doesn’t mean a risk isn’t still feasible later in life. I know my risk taking days aren’t over and there are plenty of opportunities to “leap” still coming.
3.) Taking A Risk Is Only Step One, You Have To Lean In
Whether it’s moving to a new place, heading off across the country or asking someone out on a date, that first step of taking a risk is only the beginning.
If you’re entering a new environment and living situation, generally nothing is going to be handed to you, come easy or fall in your lap. The opportunities and experiences available to you are really under your control, and yours only.
The potential pay off comes with the persistence, commitment and leaning in.
Stepping into this new world of uncertainty and unfamiliarity I knew I had to make some serious efforts. Those efforts focused on socializing, professional growth, networking, learning the area and continually putting myself out there.
4.) Moving Is Damn Expensive
Think back to the last time you moved. Do you remember thinking some of these things: do I need this? It costs how much? How did I forget about that?
The costs of everything involved with building (or rebuilding) your own nest are always more than you expected. This includes the big ticket items like furniture and appliances all the way down to dish towels, soap dispensers and spices. All the things that once filled the fridge, cupboards, kitchen drawers, pantry, night stand, office desk, bathroom and so on.
Starting at a clean slate had the cash registering ringing up well outside what I’d projected.
Moving across most of the country also didn’t allow me to take much of what I currently owned. The hassle and cost of shipping didn’t outweigh the cost of by net-new.
The next time I move, I’m taking my projections and multiplying it be 1.33 to ensure I have some budget buffer. Plus this was before I’d discovered the personal finance resource that saved my financial life. The next move will be done much more cost-efficiently.
5.) A Chance To Minimize
In the same realm on the point above of having to re-purchase the possessions you once had, moving gives you a chance to minimize.
My personal situation gave me a chance to take minimalism to the extreme.
I took 700 square feet worth of stuff from my old apartment and condensed it into 1 suitcase, 1 carry on and 2 Rubbermaid Tupperware containers.
All the “stuff” I’d collected in the first 20-something years of my life needed to be evaluated. Is it essential? Do I really need this? Can I replace this? Who can I give this to, donate it to or sell it to?
Moving across the country really opened my eyes to just how much hoarding naturally occurs.
This light minimalist approach has stuck with me during the 6+ years I’ve been settled here. Long gone are the days of collecting, filling every drawer, stacking items in my storage unit or stowing away things under the bed.
6.) The Administrative Things You Might Forget
There are so many pieces of life that become second nature. After a while you start to forget about them as the system you’ve set up is just rolling along.
When you move, many of those life system elements need to be updated, redone or cancelled. These administrative tasks become an ever-growing list as you look to set up this new life.
Here are just a few examples of these admin and life management items:
- Getting a new driver’s license
- Registering for a health card
- Finding a dentist
- Tracking down a primary care physician
- Opening a new home branch bank account
- Changing every single address for all of your accounts
- Learning about any of the tax benefits or differences
- Updating your information with the government and revenue agency
These can be costly, time-consuming and also create headaches if you forget any of them.
Not to mention finding the best grocery store, liquor store, pharmacy, markets, coffee shops, movie theatres, side streets to avoid traffic, etc.
However, this is part of the fun!
Exploring, learning and building new routines and habits to best fit the change in location.
7.) Embrace The Uneasiness
As ultra-marathon athlete David Goggins and former Marine Jocko Willink each say in their own way, “embrace the suck” or “embrace the grind”.
Moving across the country required me to “embrace the uneasiness”.
Everything was new to me. Every street, every store, every face, every conversation, every experience.
In earlier years, I would often approach uneasiness with some restraint or nervousness. This would cause me to be more reserved, skeptical and constrained.
Similar to the earlier point on “leaning in”, I had to embrace this uneasiness in order to capitalize on the opportunities to live and learn. I needed to flip the nervousness and skepticism to intrigue and curiosity.
I now approach every new situation, no matter how big or small, with an embrace for the uneasiness.
8.) There Are Amazing People Everywhere
As we touched on earlier, leaving my family and friends behind was definitely one of the hardest parts of the decision to pack up and move. It’s an intimidating feeling to be in a province with a population of 14.5+ million people and not know a single person.
However, one thing I quickly learned is that there are amazing people everywhere.
My initial hesitations as a natural introvert needed to be pushed aside. So I actively looked to engage with this new collection of people. And I found…
Coworkers, neighbours and small business owners all willing to have a chat, show you the ropes or introduce you to what the “real” locals do. The best burrito spot, where the brew pubs are, the real estate trends of the popular neighbourhoods, outdoor walking trails, green spaces and the hundreds of other things you might overlook as a newcomer.
This realization has helped me meet so many great people not only locally here in Toronto but I now carry that mindset when I travel to other places around the world.
An open embrace and want to meet new people has changed my life.
9.) Change Is Temporary, Control & Choice Is Forever
One of the key life lessons that has been instilled since moving across the country is that change is temporary but the ability to have control and make choices is forever.
What’s new becomes normal and then old pretty quickly.
I’ve walked to same route to work for 4 years straight. I know every restaurant, pub and store in the neighbourhood. I know this city, the people and the vibe.
The major changes I made fade into a new reality. However, the ability to make choices and have control over your life is something that shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated.
Of course there are some constraints in life. But most of this journey is a blank map with the opportunity for it to be sketched out how you want it to be.
Where you go, how you get there, with who and when.
In Closing…Life Lessons Moving Across The Country
It’s hard for me to think where I’d be in life if I never moved to Toronto.
What would I be doing for work? Where would I be living? How much of a different person would I be? Who would I be with?
I would never have met my amazing girlfriend or experienced the life-changing moments I’ve had with her. The entire future for myself and eventual family would be so different. That’s the hardest thing to wrap my head around.
But this is where I am now.
Packing everything up and leaving every single thing I knew behind was a risk. However, looking back now 6+ years later, it was the best decision I ever made.
These are just a few of the life lessons and realizations I’ve had from moving across the country.
Have you ever uprooted and moved to a new location?
Do you plan to move in the future or do you feel like your current location is locked in?
Let me know in the comments below.
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