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Should I Stay or Should I Go? How to Decide Whether to Move…Again

Published on April 3, 2015 by Samantha Marangell

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Deciding to move countries every year can be exciting but stressful. Image by Jacob Axford.

I have a confession: I’m sometimes jealous of those who travel the world with a partner.

I’d enjoy it not just for the company, but for help in making the “where to?” decisions. I almost moved with a partner once. But, ultimately, I’ve decided on my own where I would go with each move. The liberty of traveling (and moving) solo is that you make big moves without the risk of resenting someone else, but you are also solely responsible for the decision.

Having moved six times and lived in three countries in the last eight years, you would think I experience absolutely no emotional turmoil over the idea of packing up and moving almost every year. Instead, it’s the opposite: Every year’s decision requires months of constant self-reflection and stress about what direction my life could, would, or should go in.

On one hand, I experience a lot of internal conflict over moving so far from loved ones, asking myself if I’m just avoiding responsibility and questioning whether I’m delaying the chance of building lasting relationships by starting over every year.

Yet these issues are counterbalanced by the fear of missing a great adventure, by an increasing desire to see as much as possible, and by a genuine worry that I’ll look back and realize I took the easy route.

This is one Wanderful woman’s annual dilemma when deciding: Should I stay or should I go?

path

When both paths are attractive, making a decision can be paralyzing. Image by Patrick Mackie.

Fortunately, some big decisions have been handed to me, often in the form of opportunities I didn’t ask for, like when a lover ends something you knew you should’ve ended anyway. But most other big “go East or go West” decisions have been absolutely excruciating. Those are the decisions that weighed two equally desirable possibilities that would have taken me in obviously different directions. Moreover, following each would have supported a different but equally important personal belief or goal.

Some people might find this dilemma to be trivial: “What’s wrong with having to decide between two excellent options?” you might ask. “What a gift!” Well, while I am aware that either option will likely lead to satisfying results, it’s the awareness that each direction might literally take me to a different end of the world that makes it most challenging.

Step 1: Over the last eight years, I’ve learned that to get at the root of my indecisiveness, I only need to figure out one small but well-hidden issue: my fear.

The answer is often one of two options: either it’s a fear of the unknown of what will come after, or it’s a worry that I’m running unnecessarily. The two worries seem to alternate in precedence each year.

Admitting this is humbling for a Wanderful woman who takes pride in leaping to adventure and craving the new and different, but fear of the next decision is often the biggest issue. For, as good as I may have gotten in analyzing my choices, I’d quite like to make a choice that doesn’t require another dilemma in a year’s time.

After accepting that my fear is either insignificant, unnecessary, or something on which I don’t want to base my life, the choice becomes clear: I choose the thing that scares me.

Then there is Step 2: Double-checking.

A fellow Peace Corps Volunteer once told me how her mother used to decide which movie to watch if her daughters couldn’t pick between two.  She would simply hide the two videos behind her back and have one daughter pick a hand. It wasn’t simply that the selected video had to be watched, but that the reaction on her daughters’ faces would make it clear whether they had wanted to watch that one or the other one. Sometimes disappointment is a more obvious indicator than anticipation. 

I, too, find it easier to tell if I’ve already made the wrong decision than if I am about to make the right one. But that isn’t always practical when you’ve just moved across an ocean. So, if possible, I often pretend I’ve already made a choice and see how it sits.

If I feel no pain of regret, I leap. I jump headfirst into my new life with no regrets and no resentment.

As my next decision will actually take me to the opposite side of the world, I find myself much calmer about it, but I would very much like to have two years in a row when I didn’t have to make this type of decision. Because my options can take me not only in different personal directions, but very likely and literally to different ends of the world, the decisions feel bigger than they probably are.

This detailed description of my annual thinking process might sound exhausting. It is. Yet, it has led me down paths that, once chosen, have always felt right, even if they were left.

madrid panoramaAirports are a second home to the perpetually moving. Image of Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez Airport from Wikipedia.org

How do you make travel decisions? Do you have a go-to confidant or a magic 8 ball? Share in the comments!

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Category: Travel Tips

7 thoughts on “Should I Stay or Should I Go? How to Decide Whether to Move…Again

  • Erin
    on February 9, 2016

    Hi Samantha,
    Thanks for your post, I’m a fellow wanderful woman- and although I can’t say that my destinations have been adventurous enough for my taste- I do feel the constant fear of making that dreaded choice, “do I stay or go”. It feels almost impossible to figure out when the future is fuzzy with fear. Months can be spent wondering this after only living in a place for a year, which makes time fragment into percentages of indecisiveness. Your comment about imagining you already made the decision and sitting with it is a great reminder to search for the answer within and to stop looking for external reinforcement. hope Austrailia holds what you’re looking for- all the best!

    Reply
  • Lisa Murrie
    on August 11, 2016

    Hi Samantha,
    I actually googled “should I stay or go” and this blog came up. I’m so glad it did! I too make decisions based on pretending I’ve already made them to see how they ‘sit’ with me to see if I really want to commit, or not. Currently, I am in England after having moved for the 4th time overseas from Australia and I have not even committed to a 12 month phone plan, let alone buying a car or setting up a Netflix account. I have the opportunity to change my return ticket or go back to Australia in November, a decision which is causing me stress and anguish. On one level I feel my reluctance to fully commit to the UK means I may have already made my decision to return home. On the other hand I fear I will be seen as a ‘failure’ for telling everyone I was moving for good and then returning home after 9 months after leaving a good job, friends & family, selling my car, selling my possessions and renting out my house to go ‘live the dream.’ The other option is to stick it out and see where it goes. But I think you are right, go towards the fear. Thanks for the insight!

    Reply
    • Kate
      on June 12, 2018

      Hey Lisa,
      I’m in the exact same boat (Aussie but in the US, and also did the same google search! It’s been almost 5 months here. I mainly made the move because although I knew I loved my life in Australia and didn’t want to leave, I was scared that in 5, 10, 20 years I would regret never living overseas. So I made the leap. However, now it’s not what I thought it would be, I miss Australia and the good weather and good beaches and having my own car and my family nearby. Like you, I wonder if the fact that I have consciously kept half my cupboard empty and stay on a month to month phone plan and don’t want to commit to a lease or a gym membership mean I already am just waiting to leave. I am in that place now where I ask myself do I just push on and see what happens for another 5 months, or do I cut my losses and go back to where I know I can love life!? If I go back, have I failed? And what do you do next if you decide to end your great adventure?! Who knows.

      Reply
  • Ally
    on January 15, 2017

    Great article! I am currently trying to decide on whether I should stay or go. I’m living with my parents and am planning on moving out at the end of the year. I can choose to stay in Minnesota, near my friends and family, and buy a home of my own. I know the area well and am comfortable here. Home prices are very low, crime is low and there isn’t much traffic on the roads. The main con is that I hate the weather here. It is cold and snowy over half the year. Right now, it is negative temps for highs and there is icy slush all over the roads. There are few birds and no leaves on the trees. Everything is brown and ugly – even the snow is a brownish color. I have cabin fever bad and haven’t left the house in days.

    I have been seriously thinking about moving to Florida. The panhandle to be exact. It has perfect weather year round, is close to the beach and has a ton of outdoor activities. There are beautiful tree lined streets and lots of colorful birds. Housing is affordable and I could probably buy a little fixer-upper house there. I would need to make new friends and it could help me get out of my comfort zone and grow as a person. The cons are that there is a ton of traffic and I’ve heard that Florida has some of the worst drivers in the country. It is also a very conservative area whereas I am very liberal, coming from a blue state. I can’t stand, nor do I tolerate racism and I’ve heard that KKK is very active in the south. Also, I’m worried about being alone, especially if I have a hard time making friends. I can’t just stop by my parent’s house for some conversation and a home cooked meal whenever I want. It could get really lonely really quick. I think I need to do some more research on the area. I have some time to decide as I am not planning on moving until the end of the year.

    Reply
    • Jill
      on February 22, 2018

      Hi Ally!
      I’m in the same boat…only I’m in Illinois and I want to move to Oregon. I don’t have to worry too much about finding liberal friends, but it is a long way from the rest of my family. It is tearing me up inside. I wish you peace with your decision…keep us posted!

      Reply
  • Randy
    on April 1, 2018

    This is a fascinating article and helps to understand my own indecisiveness. I recently sold my home and moved across the country…alone, retired, widower, with the need to break away from family and friends–to try something new and see if I could do it. I DID it…sort of… I loved my first couple of months of exploring and discovering this new city, I had accomplished mostly what I wanted in the process, including downsizing all my belongings to a 5 X 10 storage unit!

    Now, however, after 4 months on my own in this new place, i’m not “feeling it” at all. I feel the draw to go back to the city in California where I lived with my late wife for 32 years.. I really don’t want to give this current place “more time”…I just don’t think there is any more for me to do here.

    I am being gentle with my self as much as possible and not feeling like this was a failure. Mostly, I know if I DO ultimately return, I need to look at some specific things which will help me to return with the right attitude and intent.

    Reply
  • Randy
    on April 18, 2018

    Well after much soul searching, i ended up deciding to stay in my new city of residence. I felt that i finally started to face some of my fears about staying here and decided that it would be best to “see the move through”. i’ll got a new apartment which i’ll move into next week and i’ll work on getting more involved with community and friendships.

    Reply

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