Why Moving Is Hard

Growing up, I never liked moving cities.

When I was six, I sobbed at the airport in Malaysia after getting off the plane from Melbourne for the last time in a while, bewildered by strange faces and the sticky air. Touching down at Melbourne Airport almost a decade later, jet-lagged me jumped when a Caucasian security officer gruffly demanded I step into the immigration queue. Are white Australians this scary?, I thought, anxious about living here again.

Time, and trains, waits for no one. Live life. Move. Why wait? | Weekly Photo Challenge: On The Move.

Time, and trains, waits for no one. Live life. Move. Why wait? | Weekly Photo Challenge: On The Move.

Moving is challenging. It’s never easy leaving behind the ones you love and friends who have your back. Never easy seeing teary faces bidding you goodbye at home or at the airport. If you’re moving alone, all of a sudden you don’t have someone right beside you to share happy or sad moments with.

There’s so many ways to stay in touch, think Facebook, email and snail mail, but sometimes people drift apart. Two years back in Melbourne, my friends in Asia and I stopped messaging each other – all too busy with our own lives in different continents.

Moving means leaving cherished belongings behind. Sometimes it’s impossible to bring all of your possessions with you wherever you’re headed. For instance, your cozy bed will always be too big to move around easily. I sadly donated hundreds of my McDonalds Happy Meal collectible toys to charity when I moved to Melbourne because they stubbornly wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.

Moving is scary. You dive headlong into the unknown. You live in an unfamiliar place. You see new faces. Loneliness can hit you like a truck amidst a bout of culture shock. For the first four years back in Melbourne, I found it hard to understand the Aussie accent. Everyone pointed out my Malaysian-Singaporean accent and asked me, “Where are you from?” I felt too Asian to be Australian, and too white to be Asian, like a freak.

And so moving is full of uncertainty. You can look up how to get around and the local lingo spoken in your new home. You can plan ahead but sometimes things don’t go to plan.

But just as it’s a time of insecurity, moving is a time of change and discovery.

You move all your life, if not across land and seas, then in milestones. Graduating high school. Getting your first job. Changing jobs. Breaking up. With every move comes moving on – leaving one place or chapter behind and starting a new beginning.

It can be harder adjusting to the next page of your life if you’ve become comfortable in a certain place. Of if you’re afraid of change. Or just too lazy to budge from where you are.

Stars shine the brightest in the dark. Amidst heartache and doubt, moving brings with it opportunities to start over, see the world, meet new friends and above all, learn.

In my first week back in Melbourne, I sat alone on the carpet of my furniture-less flat eating instant noodles, set on talking to Caucasian Australians as little as possible and moving back to Asia. More than five years on today, not only do I love Melbourne and know its streets like the back of my hand, I’ve come to love the funny-accented Asian Australian I am today and usually get along just fine with white Australians. The other day in the city, a Caucasian girl politely asked me for directions to a smoothie shop, and then thanked and hugged me when I pointed her the right way. I hugged her back. They aren’t that scary.

Just as it’s hard, moving is one big adventure, bringing a whole new world to your feet.

Moving, is a journey.

Have you moved (or would you)? What did you like or didn’t like about it?

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62 thoughts on “Why Moving Is Hard

  1. Moving is always a challenge… I think the concept of change can be very exciting and is good for us in general, but when it really comes time to move the breaks in our routines and friendships is difficult and we fight it a bit (wishing for the “good ‘ole days” and security of what we know). A mixed bag for me, but generally really like it when I do move (even though establishing roots I believe is very necessary in life…a nice little paradox).

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    • “we fight it a bit”. That is so true. I think most of us fight it more than we think. Maybe we really do like our routines: apart from giving us comfort that things will go to plan, they make us feel less stressed and a sense of purpose in our daily live (no matter how trivial this sense may be). Maybe that’s why we always leave packing for a trip abroad or a big move to the very last minute…and panic. This seems to creep up on us, funnily enough.

      Like you, moving is a mixed bag for me, though for the longest time I hated it. I haven’t moved in a while, and to be honest I feel the need to move and get away. At least for a bit. I just don’t know where to go. Hope all is well with you, Randall. Always nice to see you stopping by 🙂

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      • I think the more we can feel less stressed about the little things in life, then the greater happiness we can achieve. So in that way, routine is good. But if all we have is a routine, then a big trip, or a big move is a good thing. It may cause a bit of stress ~ but if it is needed then the excitement outweighs the stress.

        Saying this, though, I am a bit biased, as I have my parents and family at home that create a great feeling of security for me ~ I always have a place to go should things go haywire 🙂

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        • That is a very deep thought. The only time I can think of stress is good is in terms of motivation and the drive to get something done. Agree with your sentiments. Sometimes we need that little bit of push to get ourselves moving and traveling. It forces us to think on our own feet and when we do, I think that’s when we truly open our eyes to the world around us and see it for what it is. That’s the beauty of moving, in my opinion.

          Lucky you, got a nice home to fall back on. My family, or parents, has always been one for moving around. If they’re settled, they’re always looking ahead to see where to settle next. Always surprises in store…but really, that’s life 🙂

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  2. I’ve never moved to any place permanently. But one of my besties has moved to stay in the US. I’m afraid that we might drift apart so I try to have internet chat with her once or twice a month. However, when life has moved on, our times are getting busier and busier so I try to drop a short msg via Facebook to keep in touch with each other. I think we need to not be that lazy in order to keep valueable friendship so I try hard.

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    • Very good point. Sometime it’s our laziness and selfishess of being absorbed in our own lives that we don’t bother anymore to keep in touch with those who now live far away from us. It really just takes five minutes or less to drop each other a Facebook or text message, it really isn’t hard. Sometimes one of you might forget to respond… But I think if each of us makes the effort, there’s a big chance the friendship will last. I hope you and your friend remain besties and that your chats are something the both of you look forward to.

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  3. Mabel, your post is so full of truth. I enjoyed reading it from start till end ad I loved the photos. I moved so many times and I agree it never gets easy maybe only a little easier because I know what to expect: the uncertainty and the feeling of loneliness at times. But each move helps me to understand myself a little bit better and put things into persective.

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    • Thanks Nathalie for your nice words, I’m touched. It’s a bit sad that we come to expect uncertainty and fear in the process of moving. We can try to prepare ourselves for it, but it’s hard to guess what our situation will be until we have unpacked our bags in that new place of ours. Sometimes the sight of an empty suitcase brings up doubt and apprehension within me about moving.

      So good to hear that moving helps you understand more about yourself, I didn’t think of that too much when writing this post, glad you brought it up. With each move and every new place I step into, I usually find myself questioning my values – or getting a clearer view of what they are. For instance, dressing conservatively is something I’ve done consistently wherever I’ve been even when I’m in places where people wear the opposite of what I wear.

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  4. I hate moving. I hate the emotional take, I hate the physical workload, I hate being overwhelmed.

    But it’s a very important part of life. If you can’t get used to it, you’ll never grow. I don’t think it’s good to stay in the same place too long, while we are young and free for the time being anyway, and every year I seem to find myself in a slightly new place. Even staying within the same city, it’s good for the brain to explore a new corner.

    Let me add that it is hard to keep in touch with old friends. But the ones you do keep in touch with after all, they prove to be the best friends you could ever have.

    Broad experiences, international mindset. Grow more each time. The good outweighs the bad, take up the challenges, good luck with new starts….

    Let me ask you, where in the world would you move if you had total freedom of choice?

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    • Overwhelmed. That is a great way to sum up moving. Lots of emotions hit us when we’re moving and I’m sure many times they are conflicting emotions – happy at going off to explore the world, sadness at leaving a chapter behind, anxiety on the plane and crowded spaces…you name it. I was very tempted to begin this post with “I hate moving”…then realised this was the case when I was a kid. I still don’t like moving a lot, but through it I’ve grown to see so many perspectives and places.

      Don’t know if we’ll ever get used to moving. Every move brings with it a different place, peoples, cultures and ultimately experience, it’s as if nothing is static. I reckon so long as we want to learn, moving will be more bearable for us.

      To answer your question, I don’t know where I’d move to. It would have to be a place that’s not freezing cold as I don’t like cold. It is also hard to choose where I could move since I haven’t been to each part of the world before…that is such a broad question you asked. And a very challenging one too 🙂

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  5. I remember quitting my job to become a full-time wife and housewife. That was the start of my family’s relocation. Singapore was our second home. I liked it because the country is clean, safe and the transportation system is very convenient. I love Orchard and I appreciate Toa Payoh, the community where we lived. Then, we moved to Malaysia. The people are warm and the goods are very affordable. Multicultural, Malaysia is truly Asia! I also learned a lot about the Muslim culture. Now, we’re here in North America, our fourth home. I hate packing and unpacking! 😀 Long distance away from home, long-haul flights, different time zones, long winters, being away from relatives, missing the holidays, homesickness – I’ve gone through all of these.

    Life is a journey. As long as you have faith and you know your purpose, everything will be just fine. There is nothing permanent in this world but change. I’m glad there’s FB, iMessage, FaceTime, Skype, etc. As long as there’s wi-fi, phones and computers, we can connect to the people we miss dearly.

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    • Wow, you’ve definitely moved places and milestones in your life. And with it, you’ve learnt a lot and have so many stories to share! From the way you talk about Malaysia with so much gusto, it does sound like you love that country a lot. The only downside I would say about Malaysia is their traffic – bad traffic everywhere. The food is there is very affordable too, you can get a decent meal for a family of four at the kopitiams for under RM25 😀

      Seems like you’ve experienced both the good and bad of moving and the good part comes out on top. I hope your family agrees with you too…it must be much more challenging moving with a bunch of people rather than just yourself. You have to look out for one another.

      “Life is a journey. As long as you have faith and you know your purpose, everything will be just fine. There is nothing permanent in this world but change.” Such a meaningful quote from you. Go and write a book 🙂

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  6. This is a great post, Mabel. You’re right. You move all your life, from one chapter to another. And it’s interesting that you wrote about this. I’m seriously thinking about getting a job in another town … and moving. I’m excited and a little nervous about it.

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    • Thanks, Matthew. Haven’t heard from you in a bit, glad to see you. I hope things are going okay for you? With moving comes a lot of planning, always good to plan first and try to prepare yourself as best you can for what lies ahead. I’m feeling a bit restless here in Melbourne at the moment…thinking of taking flight to a new place or job soon. Guess we’re in the same boat 🙂

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        • That’s not good at all, Matt. If you haven’t blogged, means that you…might not have drawn too much in recent times? Been missing your posts and wondered where you went 😦 I hope things work out for you soon.

          Work is sucking out the energy of me too. It’s hard to juggle passion and an unrelated job.

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          • I know. 😦 I haven’t drawn anything in a while. Right now, my machine is messed up at work. If I don’t have to go into work tonight, I’m definitely planning to sit at home and draw something.

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            • That’s sad 😦 Ugh, working at night at a job you’re not a fan off. It must be very hard for you. For me, I feel very tired after work and it’s hard to write and blog, and I feel what I’m writing hasn’t been up to scratch. I do hope you get the opportunity to draw something soon, especially when you’re not so tired. The drawings will come out great, I know it 🙂

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  7. Pingback: Why Moving Is Hard by Mabel Kwong | HarsH ReaLiTy

  8. I’ve moved a lot but all within California. We just finished moving again and it feels like I’m finally “home”. We were in a spot for awhile where I didn’t feel comfortable. I felt lonely. I hated it. Now we’re in a spot that I will never want to leave. It was very hard to get to this point but we are finally here!

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  9. Great post Mabel. I started to comment and I ended up writing more than a couple of paragraphs so I thought I’d better ‘press this’ on my own blog rather than ‘blabber’ endlessly on yours. Thanks for blogging about a topic so close to my heart. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Little Borneo Girl. And thanks for ‘pressing’ this on your blog. I am touched and words cannot express how I feel. Glad you like this post. It’s something a bit different from what I usually write, grammar-style-wise.

      I have never thought of your words as ‘blabbler’ at all, Jess. What you have to say is always so insightful and I love hearing your thoughts. And of course, reading your posts about you and New Zealand 🙂

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  10. Pingback: Moving is challenging | littlegirlstory

  11. Yes, moving is indeed never easy. I moved over the past years to several new places, from small changes as moving to another city for studies to bigger changes as moving to another country. Now, I have even my own little family and we are just about to move back to where everything started for me so many years ago. There is so much we have to plan and much of our belongins we will most like sell or give away as it is just too much to bring along.

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    • That is a lot of moving. “move back to where everything started for me so many years ago”: It seems like you’re coming back full circle to where it all started. I bet it’s a lot of fun re-visit the places we’ve been. Not only do memories come flooding back, we usually see things in a different light, somehow.

      I think it’s good not to get too attached to belongings. The more you move, the more things you accumulate and at some point at the shops, you’d think twice about buying what’s on the shelf in front of you. Good way to save money for future travels.

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  12. Well written!

    I like moving in the sense that it’s a new beginning. To me, throwing or giving away some of our belongings is a way of letting go and can have therapeutic value. Packing your whole life into two suitcases is hard, but it will free you up at the same time.

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    • Thanks, Ruth. And thanks for stopping by, I really appreciate it. Definitely, letting things go is in a sense therapeutic – it helps us to move ahead and learn along the way in our lives. True, packing our whole life into two suitcases is hard, but I don’t think our life can actually fit into these two small spaces! Our life is not just about clothes and possessions, it’s also about friends, family and our relationships in general. It’s also about memory, feeling and having a lot of heart in whatever we say and do.

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  13. Figuratively speaking, if you’re still, you may not be alive. Life is a big journey – you may not like it but move along you must. Having said that, I’ve moved house about 7 times. It gets harder each time. 🙂

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    • You have good sense of humour there, Dragon. If we’re still, we may not be alive, or we may just be pretending to be a mummy. Actually, I have stayed in seven houses so far in my life. So we’re even 🙂

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  14. I, too, have moved several times. I thought moving was part of journey 🙂 The sentiment part had been hard to deal and will never be easy… Great post, Mabel!

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    • So true. With moving, a lot of memories always come flooding back. It can be fun revisiting some of them, and upon reflection you can realise that a lot has happened since the time you moved in. And you will be left wondering what’s in store for you next. Thanks for stopping by, Amy 🙂

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  15. True, moving is a scary thing, but it is also quite exciting. I was sad when I left my home country ten years ago, and I was both scared and excited to begin a new life with my husband in a country I only knew from the books.

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    • Exciting? It most definitely is, especially when we are bored of living in one place and long to go somewhere else for a new start or change of scenery. The novelty tends to wear off once we get to know our way around our new city or country. Sounds like you’re settled in your new home now, I’m sure it has been nothing but an interesting adventure for you and your family 🙂

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  16. Gosh Mabel I know how you feel, I mean I’ve moved country 8 times! And many of the times was when I was small and really it was my parents decision. On one hand it was highly annoying: finding new friends, new school systems, even learning new languages. On the other hand, I do think that has definitely shaped the way I think now and all the different cultures I absorbed. Ok, I’m older than you (in my 30s lets leave there, but because I know how old you are, I’ll secretly let you know how old I am on my birthday next month so that we are even, ok?), so when I was young there was no facebook, actually there wasn’t even internet! So I stayed in touch with my friends my normal air mail!!! Now with emails and fb, I am in touch practically daily with my childhood friends from Oz, and it’s great. Sure its not the same as being there, but we manage to keep up to date with the important stuff, say whose had children and what not. And sending nice emails once in a while 🙂

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    • 8 times moving countries must have been quite an experience for you. “…it was my parents decision”. Funny you say that because I think most of the time when we’re little, we move because of our parents – and we tend to forget this. I remember when I moved to Malaysia from Oz, I had no say in it. I cried but my parents had their way in the end. Moving is annoying in that we jolly well know before the move that things will most likely never be the same again and we will have to put up with it. Losing friends is an example. But on the plus, we get to discover more about ourselves.

      Oh, and you don’t have to let me know how old you are if you don’t want too 😉

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  17. I’ve only moved within Canada. But the difference between Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia is 4,300 km. apart.

    Family are in Vancouver and Toronto area. I knew no one in Alberta when I moved after accepting a job offer. (I was flown in for an interview from Vancouver which is 800 km. west of Calgary,Alberta.)

    So life gets complicated when visiting and keeping in touch. It’s expensive to fly across a huge country like ours.

    One day I plan to do more posts that compare the 3 different regions of Canada where I’ve lived. I’ve done it at a narrow way –cycling related posts and on livability.

    Interesting Aussies like to work in the mountain ski resort areas –Banff, etc. We’ve seen/met a number of them when we vacation in the Rocky Mountains..which is 120 km. northwest of Calgary. Not far. Only 1 hr. drive away. (or 5+ hrs. of cycling).

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    • Wow, Canada is a very big place. If I do come to visit, I think I’ll have a hard time deciding where to go. That sounds scary, moving to a place where you don’t know anyone for a job. But I’m sure you had great support from your company and adjusted after a while.

      It’s so true – flying back “home” to see our family and friends is expensive. My dad always jokes that my family and relatives in Malaysia are just a short 8-hour plane ride away from Melbourne…it’s not that easy when you’re on a limited budget and can’t fly too often.

      That is interesting to hear Aussies working in ski resort areas. A lot of Caucasian Aussies I know in Melbourne are very fond of the snow and love going up to mountains to see snow in our winter. Maybe that’s why they like Canada.

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  18. As a white person who has lived in Asia, I can relate to some of your thoughts. It is hard to be the “outsider” but I really think it helps you grow as a person because it causes you to question a lot things that you maybe never really even thought about before. Also, you are forced out of your comfort zone and made to adapt. That’s hard, but ultimately a very rewarding thing.

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    • Thanks for sharing, Amy. Never knew you lived in Asia, it must have been a great experience. Definitely, moving around I felt like I never fit in anywhere but I feel it has made me more observant to the world and how things work around us. Moving teaches us to be less selfish too, that we can’t have every material object in the world, and teaches us how to keep friendships and relationships that mean a lot to us.

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  19. Mabel, great post! I also struggle with moving but I’ve slowly come to recognize it as an inherent part of life. You’re right in that it’s intimidating. It’s tough to leave what’s comfortable for the unknown. I find myself looking for any excuse to return to the familiar just like you did in your first week. But once we give moving/change a fair shot, it’s amazing how fast we’re able to adapt.

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    • Thanks, Alex. Moving is never easy and it’s hard to predict what exactly will happen during and after the move. I guess we’re afraid as we don’t want anything bad to befall us. But honestly, nothing is really as bad as it seems. There are others who are worse of then us at each moment in time, or at least in similar situations. Once we’ve gotten over the initial shock of change and the unexpected, we will come to see so many opportunities in front of us.

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  20. So much in there I can identify with, Mabel! I have had three big moves (halfway across the US) in my life. I hate moving of any sort, so they were all traumatic to some degree. Some worked out better than others, but thankfully, the most recent seems to be working out quite well. 🙂 I think it’s awesome that you are able to look back know and wonder what all of the fuss was about! What a nice read!

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    • Moving. Traumatic. Totally agree with you there, I felt that way too each time I got on an airplane for the last time in a while. I think when we move in our later years, we tend to be more mature and rational about it, accepting the bad parts of moving with a clear head. But still, it never fails to be a painful experience in some way.

      “What a nice read!” What a nice compliment to read after a long work day. Thanks for supporting, Marcus 🙂

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