You can just DO that? Reactions to a year of location shopping

Before we left New York, when we told people (friends, strangers, relatives) our plan to take a year and try out living in a couple different places, they responded in a variety of ways...

1. I wish I could do something like that! But I'm not a very adventurous/spontaneous person...
These are the people who get a faraway look in their eyes, as if they've had this idea themselves, but have given themselves permission not to think about it because they are a certain type of person. And a year ago, this would have been my response, too. I am a worrier, a planner. I have to think through all the details before I make a decision. I don't just go around throwing my life away, making random travel plans, living some free-spirited hippie lifestyle!

But this was anything but spontaneous! It took about 6 months to think it through, make plans, revise the plans, freak out a little, refocus our trip, and decide what to do with our apartment, our jobs, our mail, etc. However, I don't think I would have considered doing it at all, had it not been for a trip to Puerto Rico last March. It may be a cliche, but relaxing on a tropical beach can actually give you some perspective on your life. It reminded me that my life is what - and where - I make it. And that even my "type" can change things up a bit.

2. You can just DO that? What are you going to do for money?
I had many moments when I thought, CAN we just do this? Does everyone look at us like we're crazy because we are actually crazy? Isn't it screwed up to be 31 years old and giving away all my worldly possessions, essentially starting over?

But at the end of the day, I don't understand why people don't do this. For those without children or a set-in-stone career path, it's such a great way to try a place on, meet people, and see a bit more of the world. With technology the way it is, I'm able to do some client work remotely; and with our cheap rent (my half is $325) I'll be able to survive on an additional part-time job. Why feel trapped by your job or your apartment in NYC, when you can put everything in storage and live somewhere cheaper for a while? Quitting a job does not mean you'll be shut out of employment for eternity.

3. Have you seen that movie, Away We Go?
After being asked this several times, we finally did see it the week before we left. I thought it was great, and it was nice to see someone going through the same stuff as we were ("Are we screw-ups? We're 33 and we don't even have the basic stuff figured out"). It was sort of the cherry on the sundae, a little pop-culture blessing, telling us no, you're not crazy, you're not screw-ups, you're just a quirky romantic comedy and you represent a quiet but important cultural shift in how we think about where we live. Get out there and live, damn it!

4. Why would anyone leave New York? You'll be back.
This was the response of a small - but vocal - minority. Some of these people have lived in NYC all their lives, some had left and returned, others just love New York and are settling down there. And I guess this idea - that you'll never find any place better - is the reason that we didn't just move somewhere, the reason that we put our stuff in storage in New York. It's all just in case we decide to come back. But at least then we'll know that's where we want to be, instead of always wondering about what kind of life we could have had somewhere else.

* * *

So, in the end, I'm curious to hear from others - have you ever done something like this, or considered it? Do you know people who have? What holds most people back - fear or sanity? Who wants to start a movement with me, and what should it be called??

Views: 33

Comment by Elizabeth Witmer on November 30, 2009 at 11:03pm
i laughed aloud reading this post because as i read my husband the title, he was like "how can people DO that?" but that is because he is very tied to his job (he can't just move his scientific lab anywhere he wants whenever he wants). but let me tell you, he dreams of doing just such a real life experiment. of the conversations we have had over the last 12 years of being together, i would guess that a full 20% are about where we should settle down and whether or not where we are currently living is a good place to be. i will definitely be living vicariously through your travels during this year and hoping that you have an amazing time getting to know a few new cities. i know that this is not a crazy thing to do, but an entirely sane thing that most people wish that they could do! happy city hunting!
Comment by Anna on December 17, 2009 at 6:59pm
Just came across this article with advice on how to live a "location independent" lifestyle - but most of the advice is just useful in general, as far as managing big life changes. I had read some of these things elsewhere, and when we were preparing to leave NYC, I was constantly reminding myself that we are hard-wired to resist change (bullet #1) and that a big change would only be accomplished through baby steps (bullet #5) - they definitely helped me manage some panicky moments!

By the way, thanks for your comment, Elizabeth! It's definitely a valid point that some people's work is not at all portable. It will be interesting to see what you decide to do in the future!

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