The thing is, when it comes to relocating, there is no one right decision. Well, there is of course, but what that right decision is, depends on you – on who you are, what is important for you, and where you’re at in life (see my previous blog on regrets).
The idea is that when you get all the above questions straight, the right decision for you becomes clear. However, getting everything straight is often easier said than done, especially if you get advice and opinions from lots of different people. Other people will undoubtedly mean well, but their advice may be affected by your relationship to them (what do you mean, you’re moving 4 time zones away?! But I’ll miss you!), or what your decision to move away evokes in their own life – they may project their own fears onto you, or the fact that you’re leaving faces them with uncomfortable questions about what they are making of their own life (or not.) So these -often lovely- people are maybe not in the best position to help you out in your decision making process.
So from my experience (both professional and personal), here are a few ideas for what you can do to help clarify your thoughts. It’s all about:
Knowing yourself. Be clear on what is important to you.
In your dream of moving, you’ve probably thought a lot about what you want to happen and how you want everything to be, I know I did. But to make sure you don’t have any regrets whatever the reality turns out to be, it helps to write down a list of ‘non-negotiables’. This is a list of everything you are really not willing to live without, everything that absolutely needs to be in place for you to be able to cope, let alone thrive. Maybe you need a job offer for both you and your spouse, a relocation package and a place at an international school for your children organised by your employer. Maybe all you need is to have a flushing toilet. There’s no right or wrong here, and certainly no judgement. It’s just really good to be clear now, so you don’t end up being miserable.
To start, it’s useful to divide your life into different aspects. For example, I use four categories: Location, Work/Purpose, Finances and Social (the order is not important). Then for each of these categories ask yourself the following questions:
- What does the ideal look like?
- What is the absolute minimum I need?
- What is a dealbreaker?
So let’s look at each category in more detail. I recommend you write down your thoughts, either on a list, but you could also make a mindmap, or get far more creative. Whatever works for you. The important point is to get your thoughts down so you can look at them, as this will help you gain perspective. Then you can decide on the non-negotiables much easier. Let’s go, starting with Location.
What is the ideal place would you want to live? Is it a metropolis, or somewhere rural? Do you want to be close to a beach? How remote do you want to be? Is climate important? Then go deeper. Do you have any transport needs, for instance living the rural life won’t be easy if you don’t drive/have good transport links to the nearest pint of milk? Or do you (or members of your family) have any health issues, meaning you would need access to good facilities?
Unless you already have a specific location you are considering, it’s more helpful to think in general terms and match it with a location later. If you have a specific location (for example, because you have a job lined up), make the list first before you start looking at real estate. That way, you’ll be able to search more efficiently and there is less chance of saying yes to something that looks nice but doesn’t actually meet your needs (or budget).
What will you be doing after you move? Do you need an interesting and challenging job to feel like your life is on track? If so, what does that look like? Is work a financial necessity? If so, what are you prepared to do if your dream job doesn’t come along?
If work isn’t about financial security: what do you need to feel purposeful? This doesn’t have to be a job, of course. But for many people, work (paid or volunteer) is about feeling useful and having meaningful interactions with others. This is especially important in a new place where you have no social network or a very small one.
What needs to be in place for you to be OK? Are you happy to just pack up and leave and see what happens in terms of work/opportunities? Or do you need a signed contract before you even consider packing anything at all?
There’s no right or wrong here, it’s just important that you know what you need. If financial insecurity stresses you out, take that into consideration. If it helps you get creative and thrive, use it. And common sense is necessary. So if you are relocating without any income lined up, then knowing how long your resources will last you is a good idea. As is having a Plan B in case things don’t work out as you planned.
Consider what the possibilities are for meeting people in your new place, but also to what extent your existing relationships play a role in this. Is it essential that you visit your parents once a month or that they visit you? Then Australia is not a good option for most people (Kiwis excluded of course). In rural France, I’ve met a lot of expats who’ve bought lovely houses with views to die for and no neighbours. While they were looking for quiet and fell for the charm of the place, a number of them are lonely and/or speak very little French even after years of being there because they don’t really know anybody (apart from other expats). Turns out neighbours are pretty essential for becoming part of a community here. Having said that, maybe just regularly connecting with a few important friends or family members via a videolink is enough for you to feel connected and part of your ‘tribe’, and anyone else you meet in your new place is a bonus but not essential to your happiness.
Beware the ‘nice to have’ items
Congratulations! If you’ve worked through the above, you now have a list or a picture that makes a great starting point. However, if this is very long or elaborate, you are either a quite particular person OR some ‘nice to have’ items have sneaked their way onto your non-negotiables list. Nice to have items are those items that feel really important, but are not essential in the grand scheme of things: a good local coffee shop is nice to have, but unless you’re a caffeine junkie it’s not essential. If your list is groaning, check it again to make sure.
So now you’re all done, and if you need to make a decision (or if an opportunity presents itself), you can use this list to check whether this chance to relocate meets your minimum conditions. And if it does, the chances you’ll regret your decision are really slim.
Of course, if you are relocating with your partner and/or kids, this is a slightly more complicated process. And a subject I’ll be tackling in a later blog! So if you want to find out more about how to make good decisions together, why not subscribe to Le Blog, or better still, why don’t we have a chat about it?
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