what it means to move away

People move away from home for a lot of reasons: school, job opportunities, the need to escape what can feel like four walls enclosing in on you, a sense of adventure, even all of the above. Everyday, people just pick up what they’ve got and move. Certain things happen when you move alone though, sure, you’re physically displaced, a nomad in a new place, but emotionally, mentally, you change.

Moving to a developing country, alone, after four years of undergrad (which in retrospect, by the way, seems like a hand-held walk through the park), was (and still is) shocking, but it also brought about a lot of change (varying from good to bad to ugly) that I continue experiencing, which I wouldn’t trade for anything.

When you move you learn the fundamental difference between a house and a home. When you settle in a new place, you say home easily about where you live, letting it roll off your tongue effortlessly, but it is vastly different than talking about your real home. The home, that when talked about, rings nostalgia and yearning through you so loud, it’s deafening. Home is where we feel we belong, for even when we wander far, a little part of our heart feels like the equivalent of a homing device, precisely aware of where we’re from, where those we love most are. 

When you move you’re ability to adapt is uprooted and challenged. Problems you found unbelievably difficult at home are now small relative to the overwhelming challenges you face on a day-to-day basis completing what were once menial tasks. And these challenges, they don’t go away. They persist until you find the courage and ability to maneuver with them rather then against them.

When you move you find another culture. There is such a paramount difference between traveling and moving. When you tour through somewhere with the intent to travel, to visit, you learn enough to get by, you taste and you observe and you leave. When you move, you immerse yourself in a culture, finding your way and your place in foreign etiquette, food and surroundings. You don’t just taste and observe, you create and partake and move past the superficial aspects that can cover a place like a blurry film and find intrinsic beauty in its imperfections.

When you move you redefine your relationships. Leaving means saying goodbye and without maintaining a consistency of communication, people you once considers pillars of your existence, the forever kind of people, slip away. The relationships of convenience are challenged to the point of extinction. And then there are those that pull through, the relationships that know no limits, including distance and you begin to recognize the importance of quality over quantity.

When you move away you move closer to your family, you find solace in people who, despite distance, will answer phone calls ridden with tears or overwhelmed by happiness, who will support your decisions despite not always understanding them. Calling home, which was once lined by purpose can now occur without reason other then an in-depth catch-up.

When you move you meet others who hold your interests, who ignite your intellect and challenge your belief systems. You find yourself making new friends who maybe you never would have met and who offer to you a large expanse of knowledge and experience.

When you move you understand the importance of a daily routine for your overall sanity. You go from a wide-eyed newcomer, lost and disoriented, to someone who confidently manages public transportation (in whatever way it happens to manifest itself), you frequent favourite coffee shops and know which grocery stores carry the best comfort foods from home (you’re only human, after all) and your nervous demeanour transforms into something far more sure, far more comfortable.

When you move you learn. You learn more than you could ever imagine. You learn about where you are but more importantly you learn about who you are. There is no better form of introspection then to find yourself utterly alone in a place you’ve never been. Sure, you can text, call, e-mail, snapchat, instagram, you have every method of communication you could ever desire at your fingertips, but when you fall to the extremes of any emotion, be that sadness, happiness, anger, anything, you alone can pull yourself out, you alone can regain balance. There is no dependence in moving away. You  gain strength in knowing that while being alone is difficult and isolating, it is also an incredible growing opportunity that many never afford to themselves.

When you move you accept that in every place there are commonalities between people, between populations that initially seem so inherently incomparable. You find that the kindness of a stranger or the love of a family or the warmth of a home cooked meal are universal and you learn that despite its overwhelming disparities, the world can feel quite interconnected.

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