The 5 stages of moving and how to navigate them
You know how they say there are 5 stages of grief? There are also 5 emotional stages to moving that vary in intensity based on the size of the move, the stage of your life and your mental state.
It’s been just over four weeks since Alex and I left our lives in Bondi to move up to the Gold Coast. In that time, we’ve gone through some huge emotional highs and lows and have realised it’s basically the same pattern with any move. It’s a tumultuous, emotional, roller coaster and despite having been on the ride several times over, the sheer range and depth of emotion that can come with it still catches me off guard and this is from someone who’s moved A LOT.
Here’s a quick breakdown of my life of moving:
- Home base: Toronto, Canada | Family home and anchor for the first 27 years of my life
- Move 1: Waterloo, Canada | Uni and my first taste of freedom and independence
- Move 2: Evenos, France | Au pair job #1 in the French countryside with 3 kids
- Move 3: Liege, Belgium | Au pair job #2 in an industrial Belgian city again with 3 kids
- Move 4: Quebec, Canada | Internship with the government to improve my French
- Move 5: Paris, France | ERASMUS International student exchange program
- Move 6: Windsor, Canada | Law school and trying to find my purpose
- Move 7: Jaco, Costa Rica | Escape from law school to learn Spanish/teach English
- Move 8: Bondi, Australia | The start of a new, sunnier, life across the world
- Move 9: Gold Coast, Australia | Trying out a more tropical, cruisey Aussie life
Moving takes you right out of your comfort zone and forces you to consciously build your life again. It can make you question who you are, what you want and a myriad of other things, but it is always (in my experience) 100% worth it. There’s no way to avoid the roller coaster, but knowing what to expect can make it a bit easier, so I’ve put together a step-by-step guide to the emotions of moving.
Pre-move: Stages 1-3
Stage 1: “Omg I have some news!” (aka excitement)
You’ve committed to the decision and are feeling the rush of excitement, anticipating the change, feeling free and like the world is your oyster. You’re a bit nervous but feel proud of yourself for taking the leap and excited for a bit of adventure. You spend time daydreaming about your new life and all the cool things you’ll do, and you delight in telling everyone you know about your big plans.
Stage 2: “Ahhh, I’m going to miss you SO MUCH” (aka rose-tinted glasses)
The clock is ticking down to moving date and you start getting nostalgic and appreciative of everything in your current locale. All your friends make time for you and start saying how much they’ll miss you; you probably get more quality time with them in your last few weeks than you have for the past few months – or even years. You feel a lot of warm fuzzy feelings and have new-found appreciation for your life as it is.
Stage 3: “F*#%! Have I done the right thing?” (aka fear & anxiety)
The reality of actually moving kicks in and you start to wonder if you’re a bit crazy…Why can’t you just be like other people and be happy with what you have? Maybe you are running away from something? Will you ever be satisfied? Did you not try hard enough? What if you don’t like the new place/can’t find a job/can’t find somewhere to live/don’t make friends? ARE YOU MAKING THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF YOUR LIFE?!?!
Your thoughts run wild with worst case scenarios and you may secretly check if your ticket is refundable (true story).
Moving time: Stages 4-5
Stage 4: “WHAT HAVE I DONE?” (aka loneliness & displacement)
Once you actually make the move is when things get even more confusing. The roller coaster speeds up and does a few loop de loops and massive hills. You’ll feel like you’re in a limbo where your old home is no longer your home, but neither is the place you’ve moved to yet. You’ll question why you’ve put yourself through this and if it’s too late to turn right back around and resume your old life. But there’s something inside you that spurred the move and you hold onto whatever that is as your beacon.
Stage 5: “I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner” (aka belonging & joy)
This is where the magic begins. It may take days, weeks, months*, but eventually you’ll start having moments where you feel at home in your new surroundings. Maybe you make a great connection with someone, find a new coffee spot that you love, witness some amazing phenomenon in nature, or just have a newfound sense of calm. There’s some sort of shift where you don’t feel quite at home yet, but you feel at peace and each new positive experience builds on this sense of belonging. When you start referencing this place as “home”, you know you’re in the clear.
There’s no set timeline to these stages and you’ll probably run through them multiple times and go back and forth between them. Just know that it’s normal to go through the highs and lows and feel a range of emotions – and that those emotions aren’t YOU. It doesn’t mean you’ve made the wrong choice, it just means you’re human! Emotions are the most tricky, fickle thing, it’s always best to take a mental step back from them, take a deep breath in and not make any decisions in the heat of the feeling. With any move I always remind myself: “What’s the worst that could happen?” You’ll either find a new home that you love, or you’ll learn to appreciate your old home more and have no regrets or what if’s because you gave something new a shot.
Carpe diem guys – xx Tory
* After very extensive research, we’ve found the magic amount of time you need to give any move before you can make a decision about its success is three months. It’s enough time to feel all the emotions a few times around, settle in, make friends and get your bearings. You’re still on the rollercoaster for the first three months and no decisions should be made until you finally get off!
WOW… lotsa travel history there Tory !!
loved your explanation and way you expressed yourself. well written…
and yes, though I have uprooted myself quite so drastically as many times, I can relate to the emotional roller coaster you describe !!!