I've asked myself this question many times as I've lived in 8 US states and 4 eastern Asian countries like: Japan, Taiwan, Korea and China and traveled to many European countries. And you may be wondering if you should move across the country, across the globe or just stay put.
I mean there are benefits to staying put like you can develop your relationships where you are, work on your career or any other skills and you'll probably save money too. After all every time you move it costs money. It can go quick when you start buying plane tickets that can cost over $1000, start paying for hotels or hostels, visas, gas, taxis, etc.
It can be both exciting and stressfull. Imagine a new land you just landed in and you're getting off the plane and everyone is speaking a different language that you don't understand. Now you got to figure out how to get to your hotel or new home. Then you are hungry and you have to find some food, but there's no English menu and all the food is different...
When you move you sort of sever your relationships where you are - at least temporarily for better or worse. If you sit still you may be in a better place to develop your career. If you travel and move around will employers find that appealing or not? I mean shouldn't you just settle down and follow the status quo right? Well, whether you do whate everyone else is doing is up to you.
But is taking a year or two off going to ruin your resume? "You are not your resume" I've heard. You are much more than that. Taking a year or two off is no big deal and most people who teach abroad do it for only a year or two. I think whatever you really want you can attain if you put the work in. Or can you?
I've heard that sometimes the answer is in the question. So should you stay or move? Probably move if you are asking this question. Where you are now isn't going anywhere. It will be there when you return and you might be surprised when you return that nothing has changed except perhaps you. That's the other end of culture shock (if you go abroad).
You can ask your future self. Imagine yourself 10, 20, 30 years from now. Should you do it? What would your older wiser self say?
Play the positive game not the negative one. Meaning let your desire for what you want to do and achieve be the driver vs. your fearful self. Your fearful self will keep you put. Fear is here to keep you alive and well, but it is often imagined and not real.
What if you don't know what to do?
Then probably do something, perhaps anything. Fear can be crippling. You are going to make some mistakes, but that is all part of learning. When you fail you learn something. And of course many of the highest achievers failed many times before success. You have to keep shooting.
Don't let anyone tell you what you can't do. They've got issues.
You got to focus on your dreams and desires and be willing to take some chances. But should you move for any one thing? Should you move for your boyfriend, because your friend did or because of a job or money?
I would try to see the big picture. If there is just one thing luring you like a salary or one special person I would be careful with that. If you take that one person or thing out of the picture will it be worth it? Say your boyfriend or girlfriend is in Japan then I would ask yourself if you have any other interest in being in Japan?
Look at the big picture.
How about me?
What have I lost by moving around so much? Some people think that's weird and in a recent Zoom interview I was asked something like why I moved around so much. I could hear the judgement and see it in his face. Some people aren't going to approve. I would say you lose friends. So moving around can get lonely, but some people are okay with that. Some people make new friends.
There's always the other side too. Like I've asked what if I just stayed put in San Fran? Then I would have developed my martial art game more, but if I didn't go to Japan then I wouldn't have experienced training judo in Japan. Or actually it was more moving back to the countryside where I didn't have many options for training. Or career wise I've thought if instead of traveling around all these years what if I just focused on making art?
What if you just stayed put?
Art (painting specifically) is what I studied in school. I pursued it for a few years after college, showing my art in galleries sometimes selling art, but I got bored and restless (for better or worse) and I wanted to travel and so the story began.
Be interested in the place.
If you have no interest in a place and you are thinking of just going because of _____ (fill in the blank) then you might be disappointed. If it's money or a girlfriend or just a job that you think will help your career then you might not be happy.
Like if you ever thought of teaching English abroad then don't do it just cause of the money. Start with the culture. There are lots of countries where you could teach. If you don't like cities then probably don't go to one abroad.
Carry some of your interests with you.
I carried and shipped records and big heavy turntables with me when I moved to Taiwan, Korea, China and Japan. I learned some martial arts and I did some hiking more in some places than others too. Like in Korea. The cities where I lived despite being big had quite accessible hiking trails. Where I was in Taiwan and China not at all. So what are your hobbies? Don't leave them where you are.
Should you move for a job?
Move where? Are you interested in that place where the job is? How much? Are you very interested in this job or do you think it will help you get closer to the job you actually want? If you are very interested in this job then maybe, but if not very then IDK.
Should you move for your boyfriend or girlfriend?
I met someone from Germany traveling in the states or well actually travel started way back before then but I'll save you the longer story I'll just start with the story about the young woman I met in the states a few years after college from Germany.
I flew to Germany pretty much to see her and do some traveling together. But when I saw her it wasn't the same as when I met her in AZ. She wasn't all there like before. Time had passed. We started off traveling together with one of her friends in a train headed towards Czech Republic and feeling kind of annoyed I think I just stepped off the train at some point and went at it alone somewhere in Czech. So I guess that's an example of well I can't say "moving" somewhere to be with someone, but I went there primarily because of her and to travel for a few months.
So it didn't work out like I hoped but I ended up traveling all over Europe and having some other experiences.
But you know a few years prior to that I did have a girlfriend for 4-5 years that I met in college. In that time I went to France to see her and then later Calgary and then we moved together to a couple different states for a few years and eventually broke up which led me back to where I started and where I later met the German girl.
So yeah life is a cycle and you don't always know what's in store. You may move somewhere to be with someone but it might not work out and if it doesn't you still might have interesting experiences. Sometimes when you are carried away by someone it is impossible to focus on anything else. But I'd sign that figurative prenuptial agreement in your mind so that if you move somewhere to be with someone and if it doesn't go well then you will sort yourself out.
Should you move for love? Should you move for a job/money? Should you move for any one thing? So I'd say to see the big picture and your place in it.
What am I searching for?
Am I running from my problems by moving? I've heard that before. Is moving away an escape from your problems? Maybe some problems like those noisy neighbors, but chances are you'll find new ones. IDK, I don't want to sound like a pessimist, but it seems like there are always problems.
TLDR: Should you move?
Probably, some say the answer is in the question. Ask your future much older wiser self. What will you lose by moving? Be interested in the place and not just any one thing. If you have a lot of connections where you are now then that is harder and those connections may bring you back.
Interested in teaching in Asia?
- Written by: Ian Leahy