Tuesday, November 19, 2002

HSPs, Relocation, and the Power of Place

An HSP "Virtual Friend" recently asked me if I had much experience with major relocations, and with choosing a place by "intuitive feel," just because it seemed right. The discussion was interesting, so I'd like to share some of it here.

I have more experience in this area than I care to think about-- I don't know precisely how many times I have moved, but I have lived in 10+ countries on three continents; as well as several places in Texas; AZ, OR and WA. My guess is that I have moved (from locally to internationally) 30-40 times in my 42 years. My "overall" account name here on Blogger was established under the moniker "GlobalNomad," which should tell you a thing or two.

If there is any "wisdom" I have gathered from this nomadic lifestyle, it is that there is a huge difference between going to a place because you want to, purely for the sake of the place itself, and going to a place for the sake of another person, or because you "have to" (i.e. job move, family emergency move). Personally, I see the chance to freely sit down and choose "the perfect place" as a great-- and quite rare-- opportunity, rather than something to be feared. That's not to imply that a cross country move might not overwhelm, by the way.

If you have no major commitments-- job, family, dating, marriage, business-- you are actually at an ideal crossroads to decide "Where would I really LIKE to live?" Very few people ever have this chance. It is still scary (especially for an HSP) to consider a major move across the country-- but if you're "unencumbered" (so to speak) you have eliminated a great deal of the inner turmoil and stress that often goes with leaving a place behind.

The task, then, becomes the challenge of taking "inventory" of yourself in terms of what makes you like (and DISlike) any specific geographic location. You have to figure out what makes you happy. Is it nature? Is it city culture? Is it a certain climate? The quality of education (obviously relevant, if you're a parent)? Cost of living? The arts? Do you like being near mountains, or the ocean? A certain lifestyle? Do you need public transit? Access to continuing education? Can you readily "replace" your current stress free job? Is your work experience specialized, requiring the presence of certain employers? There are any number of "if only I had this!" criteria that we build up in our minds, over the years-- and those would be what I would look at first.

Once you have a very clear idea of what is important to you-- then I'd suggest you start trying to match your desires to a place. Allow yourself plenty of time to figure out the pluses and minuses of different locations.... alas, I have heard too many sad stories on people who moved to a new city on a whim... because they had seen a cool program on the Travel Channel, or had visited once for a 5-day vacation... and used that as the only thing to go on. Also, be open to the idea that your current "home" may actually be the best location for you. However, if you're feeling restless and rootless, that's somewhat unlikely.

Ultimately, you have to go visit the place you're contemplating. Take your vacation there, but don't be a tourist. Go be a "local." Book yourself into an "extended stay hotel" with a kitchen. Make yourself go to the grocery, the bank and other stuff you do on a daily basis. Drive through neighborhoods to get a feel for them. Listen to your intuition. Does the place "feel" right, to you?

Listening to your inner wisdom is also important when it comes to your overall decision for moving-- at least in terms of trying to figure out the true nature of your "restlessness." If the desire to move is inspired by a feeling of wanting to "run away from being by myself," you may want to examine that, as well. And I'm not saying that it IS, by any means-- just understand your own motivations for wanting to move.

A change of location affords us a "clean slate" in some ways-- it's an opportunity to start again, in a place where nobody has any preconceived notions about who we are, and what we do. As such-- scary moments aside-- it can be very cathartic. Although I am "deeply HSP" in many respects, the idea of packing my stuff and moving cross country does not scare me... except as a concern about choosing the wrong place.

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