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Why moving away from home is worth the risk

By Nikki GreyMarch 21, 2016

Plane flying over a city
Plane flying over a city Pexels

If you are thinking of relocating for a job or an adventure, I encourage you to do so. Moving away from home helped me grow. It shaped the person I am more than any other thing I have done in my adult life, aside from earning a college degree. Through living in cities and states in different parts of the country, I’ve encountered people, lifestyles, and opportunities that I never would have otherwise. I’ve learned the places we live, more than just the places we visit, influence how we see the world. And each time I move somewhere new, who I am changes to some extent.

I’ve learned the places we live, more than just the places we visit, influence how we see the world. 

I grew up living in a handful of small towns in Northern Nevada and attended college in Reno. The day after I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, I got on a plane and flew across the country to Washington, D.C. for an internship. I quickly realized how different the people living and working in the nation’s capital were from the people I knew back home. Although they came from all over the country — few who live in D.C. are actually from there — many of the people I met have much in common. Most are ambitious, most work long hours and most are passionate about some cause or person.

During that summer, I met people who seemed to come from an entirely different world than I did. Many of them grew up wealthy, attended prestigious universities, and it seemed had every opportunity laid before them to help them succeed. That wasn’t the case for me, but I didn’t want that to stop me from becoming a journalist. So I tried to make the most of my internship. I took every opportunity to tag along and watch experienced reporters work. I sought chances to interview people and write my own stories. And I went to networking events, with some pretty powerful people in attendance. All of this scared me. 

I quickly learned a lot about myself. I realized I was brave enough to put myself out there. But I also learned that political journalism wasn’t where my heart was. I watched the hours it took to stay on top of the news, before and after work, and I saw how passionate political journalists were about what they did. I realized I wasn’t ambitious enough about political writing to stay in D.C., at least at that time. So, I secured another opportunity, an internship at a daily newspaper in Santa Barbara, California.

I didn’t know anyone in Santa Barbara — a beach town nestled in between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Coast — but I went anyway. As soon as I arrived, I noticed the culture was vastly different from D.C., as well as Reno and everywhere else I had lived. In Santa Barbara, people were passionate about things other than work. They loved exercise. They loved art. They loved fine restaurants and wine tastings. They enjoyed everything and anything outside in the Mediterranean-like climate. 

As a general assignment reporter-intern for the town’s daily newspaper, I focused on storytelling about people. After a few months interning, I was hired as a full-time staff writer in the features section. I interviewed and wrote stories about philanthropists, chefs, clothing designers, authors, business owners, artists, celebrities and other people doing big things in and for the community. 

Suddenly, I was putting in the long hours I saw others do in Washington, D.C. But I was doing it because I felt the need to tell stories about people reaching for their dreams, overcoming incredible odds against them, and trying to make the world a better place. 

In Santa Barbara, I made friends with my fellow reporters. In Reno and in D.C., many of my friends spent their leisure time in bars and clubs. My new friends and I went to bars, too. We also went to the beach and explored new areas, went to wine tastings. We spent a lot of time outside, enjoying each other’s company. 

Most of us had not grown up in Santa Barbara. We had left home for an adventure. We bonded over the changes in our lives, and we commiserated over the stresses of working at a daily newspaper. Forming these relationships brought more meaning to my life. During this time, I met a photojournalist who grew up in Santa Barbara and would later become my husband. A couple months after we got married, we moved to Seattle, Washington, so he could attend law school there.

Again, the Pacific Northwest had a different way of life. Many of the people there are nonconforming and pride themselves on being edgy. Seattleites tend to be well-educated and passionate about coffee, the environment and the outdoors. My husband and I made a few new friends, despite the “Seattle Freeze.” This term refers to the belief that Seattle natives are cold and distant with strangers, so it’s hard to make friends.

In Seattle, the people we encountered met us as a married couple. They didn’t know me as the girl from a small town in Nevada, and they didn’t know my husband as a photojournalist in California. Many of the people we met were in law school. They were smart, ambitious and busy people. 

But I’m also a different person in each place I live, because of everything new I encounter and learn.

While living in Seattle, I worked in a public relations/customer service role for a small company, but I missed writing. I eventually left that job to freelance for magazines and websites. I became more introverted while working from home. I didn’t like leaving the house, in part because of the constant rain. To me, Seattle never felt like home.

My husband and I decided he should transfer law schools, so we moved again to Washington, D.C. It’s been interesting being back here, getting the chance to hang out with friends I knew four years ago. Since my internship, I have lived other places, met new people, changed careers and married. I like living in D.C. more this time around, since I am in a job better suited for me: working as a freelance writer on features stories, personal essays and other creative writing. 

Each time I move, I learn new things about myself. In many ways, I’m still the same girl I was when I left Northern Nevada. But I’m also a different person in each place I live, because of everything new I encounter and learn. And I think that’s a good thing.