The fourth time I moved, I found myself alone in the middle of Florence, Italy. The time before that? College in Colorado.
Before Colorado? The central coast of California. Before California? My parents' house.
Sometimes, I thought the moves were permanent. Other times, I knew they were temporary and open-ended experiences. We aren't meant to stay in some places forever, but that doesn't mean we weren't meant to go.
Call me restless, adventurous, unstable or independent. It doesn't really matter.
Moving has never been a mistake for me. I've never regretted jumping around, and I always knew when it was time to go.
Each location packed in an incredible number of lessons. Over and over, I've proven to myself how strong and capable I can be on my own.
I know that one day, I'll find a place to settle down in. But while I'm in my 20s, I have a list of places I want to go.
That's not to say moving goes smoothly. It's very difficult to start all over alone, over and over again. Moving has a way of shining a light on all of our faults, the areas we need to improve upon and all the things we think may disappear somewhere else.
However, I admire people with unique stories and experiences more than I fear living somewhere alone. I want to be the type of person who understands cultures outside of her own. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone.
This doesn't come from staying in the same place my entire life. Moving imparts new knowledge and reinforces old, forgotten ideas about who you truly are. Here are some of the things I've learned after moving four times in four years:
1. People are more important than places.
Yes, driving through the Colorado mountains for the last time was nostalgic. Sipping on my last Italian coffee was bittersweet.
But, the tears only started pouring when I left my friends and family. Each place becomes associated with the people you leave behind in it.
They are what make the experiences special. It has nothing to do with the physical aspects of a place. They are also the reason you generally want to come back.
2. Freaking out is normal.
Adjustment is hard, especially when it comes with new cultures, customs and ways of life. I have vivid memories of both minor and major freak-outs.
It's difficult to be alone in a new place. It's necessary and normal to lose your sh*t here and there. If we could simply pick up and move anywhere we wanted without a problem, everyone would be doing it much more often.
It's meant to be hard. It pushes you and makes you grow.
3. You will second-guess yourself.
Maybe it's the restless part of us that always wonders if another decision was the right decision. Maybe you left something great behind in the hopes of experiencing something even better.
From what I've learned, you make your decision the right decision by taking advantage of where you currently are to the fullest. Getting stuck in the past or future will ultimately lead to regrets.
4. You are capable of more than you know.
I remember when I was 10 and my family moved for the first time. I swore I would never put my kids through that type of trauma when I became a parent.
I look at my life now, and I realize how much I can change my opinions. I move with confidence and self-assurance now. The first step is always the hardest, but you are so much stronger than you know.
5. Family trumps adventuring (in the long term).
Every time I moved, my family kept me grounded. I needed daily phone calls, and my highlight of the year was going back to see them for the holidays.
However, that's not to say I should have always stayed near them. I needed to go. They are the ones I always wanted to come back to, though.
6. You need a plan. Then, you need to be prepared to throw the plan away.
Plans require balance. They do not require planning every step you take in a day with flawless execution.
They also require more than a one-way ticket and the hopeful spirit that everything will work out. You need a basic plan to keep you on track.
Then, you need to be prepared to let it go. Maybe parts of this plan will work out, but chances are, most of them won't.
New opportunities that you never would have guessed will work their way into your time. Take advantage of them, and let go of what you thought life would be like.