what i've learned from living in more than 80 places

1. Even the biggest moves are accomplished bit by bit.

I’ve lived in more than 14 states. I’ve emigrated. Twice. Including overseas. Every move got done one step at a time.

2. Distance is of no consequence to the heart.

My dearest friends live all over the world. We have active current relationships. Physical presence is wonderful, but not required for close friendship.

3. Moving to improve is better than moving to escape.

This saying is useful when contemplating a move: “Wherever you go, there you are.” If my urge for change is motivated by wanting to get away from myself, moving is not the solution.

4. Bloom where you’re planted.

No matter how bad right here may be, finding a way to make peace with it will make the next phase easier, whether the next phase is to stay or to move.

5. Adore stuff or leave it.

If I don’t really love an object’s usefulness, beauty, or both, I’m not willing to move it. If it doesn’t make me feel good, I’m not willing to move it.

5. An ability to blend in with the locals comes in handy.

By the time I was 15 I’d lived in more than 15 places. Adopting the local accent kept me from standing out so much in all those new schools. Adapting in ways that were easy for me helped me retain my essential self in the midst of change.

7. Plug in to the local scene early.

Make connections in ways that feel comfortable. Doing it earlier makes settling in easier. Ways I’ve made local connections in new places have included taking a writing class, living in a group house, and joining a group of English-speaking women in Germany.

8. Living on an island is a good way to learn how to slow down.

I’ve lived on two islands in two different countries. Taking a ferry takes time. So does planning ahead to get items not sold on the island. Mail takes an extra day to and from. Locals knew and I learned to respect “island time” rather than fighting it.

9. Living in a small town is a good way to practice integrity.

Everyone knows everyone. We know each other in different contexts (the bank teller is also in the writing group). Everyone shops at the same grocery store. A habit of integrity keeps us from needing to avoid anyone.

10. People are the same, even when people are different.

Everywhere I’ve lived includes the same kinds of people, even when they’re culturally different: helpful, nosy, generous, bossy, artistic, worried, weird, friendly, etc.

11. Home is a choice.

For a long (long) time, I tried out a lot of different kinds of homes in a lot of different places. Then I made a decision to be at home inside myself, wherever I am. Then I found a home in the world that feels more home-like than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

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6 comments to what i’ve learned from living in more than 80 places

  • I love the integrity of living in a small town. It’s so true. You can’t avoid people so you have to deal with stuff instead of sweeping it under the rug.

    Love this list!!

    • And … that said, when I have lived in small towns and on islands, I ALSO loved going somewhere where no one knew me. Ahhh … unobserved life as an anonymous whomever. It has its moments. Thanks for commenting, Andrea.

  • Katie McClaini

    This wisdom applies to more than moving. Love it Grace.

  • Hands-down, you have out-moved everyone I know! I’ve lived in only four states, and have only been to as many countries. Still, #11 has been the most valuable lesson to me. Your insights and perspectives are so wonderful. Thank you, Grace.

    • In another lifetime I’ll get to have the experience of not moving much, which, for sure, has its own joys. Thank you, Erika, for being one of the friends I wrote about in #2. xoxo