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 wanderlust 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, hairstylists. When you start over, everything requires thought, and GPS becomes your best friend.
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 the 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.
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).
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.