On Moving Away

by Laura Fitzgerald about a year ago in solo travel

Moving across the country where no one knows your name is terrifying and exhilarating.

On Moving Away

I believe human connections between friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, random people that ride the bus with you, that classmate or that co-worker whose name you don’t know, are the main joy, source, and meaning of life. Every human relationship has the capacity to cause intense pain and intense joy, but it’s the joy that I think prevails.

So, naturally, I decided to move away from every human relationship I know and love to go to a place where I knew no one. I cherish the relationships of my family, friends, and boyfriend dearly, and they are more important now that I am 650 miles away from them than when I could walk to their houses.

I also believe travel is one of life’s greatest teachers, opening your mind to the diversity of the human experience. I have an insatiable desire to see new places and meet new people, learning all I can about the world around and beyond me. Living in the same hour radius in southwest Ohio for most of my life just made that desire grow intense enough that I moved halfway across the county to find it. I also wanted to follow my passion for journalism and storytelling, and with jobs so few in the newspaper business, I had to be flexible about where I lived.

So, I was in Walden, New York less than two weeks after I graduated college from Miami University of Ohio. I found an apartment in three days, acquired two cats the day after I moved in, and started my job as a newspaper reporter the next Monday.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from moving halfway across the country and leaving behind everything I know.

Homesickness and loneliness are real.

Most of the time, I am content, thoughts of everyone back home absent from my mind as I chase a story or type away on my keyboard. But every once in a while, homesickness will hit you suddenly, in ways you didn’t anticipate, and leave you reeling, sobbing for no particular reason except you feel alone and like something is missing. Living alone and having fewer friends produces a loneliness I haven’t felt in a long time.

I have never experienced homesickness before, having traveled without my parents through my adolescence. I never cried because I missed my parents at sleep-away camps like other children did. I spent two of my three summers in college living away from home, one as a camp counselor and one studying abroad in Europe, and never wished I was home. So, I don’t know how to cope with homesickness.

I covered a couple graduations, and watching the ceremonies brought back memories and the same bittersweet feeling I felt at my own graduation a little over a month earlier. I called my boyfriend when I got home and held back my tears until I got off the phone because he was going out with his friends soon and I didn’t want to make him late.

So, you will feel alone. You will miss all your friends, family, and significant other (if you have one) that are ten hours away from you. Let the loneliness seep into your bones. Part of being human is being sad sometimes, so let yourself feel human.

You might not be able to explore and do everything you thought you would right away.

This slice of NY has more than Ohio, but I have yet to do much of it. New York City is less than an hour and a half away by train and there are several beautiful state parks an hour or even a half hour away. Money is an object, since journalism is not exactly a lucrative career, but so is settling in. I had to get a new bank account, change the registration on my car, and pick up things for my apartment in what felt like dozens of trips to Walmart, all of which takes time. You might not have time right away to go off on adventures for an entire day.

A full-time job is also a major obstacle. My hours are flexible, so I can type my stories whenever, wherever I want. Of course, I have to go into the office a few days a week to talk to my editor and pick up my paycheck. There are certain community events and town meetings I have to be present for, most of which happen on nights and weekends. If I have an event in the middle of the day on Saturday, I can’t travel for the entire day. Or, if it’s a Monday afternoon right before deadline and I’m waiting for someone to call me back so I can finish a story, I have to be at my desk to wait for that call.

This means I have to have adventures in bits and pieces, devoting one day every few weekends to a new adventure. I see this as a positive because there will always be new things to explore, spreading out my adventures for continuous discovery rather than doing everything all at once. And it’s better for my thin wallet.

Be prepared to do things alone.

Usually, when I imagine going on these adventures, such as a nature hike or a museum in New York City, I imagine doing them with a few girlfriends. Making friends takes time though, and other people have busy schedules as well.

I have been wanting to go hiking in the area ever since I moved here, since my area has huge, beautiful natural areas as little as 15 minutes away. One of my only new friends at the time said she was going hiking one Sunday, which got me excited to go. But she had to cancel last minute, and I was left sad that I couldn’t go hiking. After a few minutes of internal debate, I realized I could still go on my own, so I drove to a state park about 15 minutes away and spent the afternoon on a small trail.

So, if you want to go for a hike, or go to a new restaurant, or go see that art exhibit, but don’t have anyone to go with, just go. Is it a little lonely? Yes. But you will be happy you got to experience something new, even if you had to do it alone.

You might find yourself in unexpected situations and question all your life decisions up to this point.

Recently, I found myself searching in the grass for a man’s fake tooth at a drive-in movie theater in rural New York. I then questioned all my life decisions that led me to that point. It was a funny moment to share with friends, but not one I could have predicted even two months earlier.

I recently went on a hike to Minnewaska State Park with the girl from the bank and her friend. It was beautiful, and I had a lot of fun. Again, not something I would have predicted having the opportunity to do a few months earlier, but a day I will cherish in my memories.

You meet people in unexpected ways.

Finding ways to meet people was a big fear when I moved here. Walden is so small it’s a village, and it’s not exactly a trendy scene for young people. I thought I would have to take a workout class or desperately ask people on the street to be my friend.

But, turns out you meet people in ways you might not expect. My landlord’s daughter became my friend when she gave me her two cats to take care of. When I opened a bank account, I met a sweet girl who I’ve had dinner with and recently went to Minnewaska State Park with. Then I meet their friends and boyfriends, meeting even more people.

You can form those meaningful human connections again.

I said in the beginning that I believe meaningful connections are what make us whole as human beings. It’s why I want to tell stories for a living; I enjoy exploring those human connections through writing about them. I met a girl at the bank and another girl because I take care of her cats. I am starting to grow closer to them and their friends, and I am excited to see these friendships blossom and grow. I am excited to continue adventures with these friends and form meaningful connections with them through the memories we make. Since I constantly meet people through my job as a journalist, I am excited to make connections with the people I write about as well. And those long-distance relationships that I already have with my friends and family and boyfriend will continue to grow and blossom, they will just go through some changes first.

So, you can make connections with people in a brand new place with brand new people. You can move someplace where not a soul knows you and make a fulfilling life for yourself. It just takes time and patience, as these friendships won’t happen overnight.

Moving away is scary, but you can do it. It just takes a little faith, hope, and courage.

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Laura Fitzgerald

Newspaper journalist that loves writing, people, travel and horses. 

See all posts by Laura Fitzgerald