Just the thought of pulling up roots to settle in a new location creates a minefield of competing emotions. Losing what is comfortably familiar is offset by the excitement of exploring new surroundings. New friends wait to be found, while old friends promise to visit on vacations. A move allows old routines to be discarded and provides a fresh start with a blank slate.

“With repeated practice, from relocations within the same town to moves half a world away, I’ve become increasingly adept at ‘the process’ ” of picking up stakes, the peripatetic Brenda E. Smith writes. Photo courtesy of Brenda E. Smith

Is survival possible without lobster rolls, whoopie pies and Moxie? The mouth-watering tastes of abalone, heart of palm or fry bread deserve a chance to become new favorites. If moving to a distant land, views and values of a new culture may beckon and English may become a second language.

If it all sounds a bit scary, it is! But I’ve learned that a successful move requires embracing all the positive aspects of the new destination. With repeated practice, from relocations within the same town to moves half a world away, I’ve become increasingly adept at “the process.”

It’s much easier to move when you are young, before you’ve started to collect “things.” For my first major move, a 3,000-mile adventure from Boston to California, I crammed all my earthly possessions inside my Plymouth Valiant. I left behind my family, my boyfriend, and my closest friends. Surprisingly, my tears lasted only until I merged onto the interstate westbound.

Four years later, I accepted a State Department job 7,000 miles away in Pakistan. By then, I owned several pieces of custom-made furniture and a few dozen keepsakes I collected on vacation travels. Government movers came to pack up my belongings. I didn’t have to lift a finger. This time, I agonized over leaving my sweet cat, Maxie, and a wonderful job, for one I hoped I’d love even more. I reached Islamabad after an interminable 24-hour flight, while an ocean freighter carrying my possessions took a month to arrive.

While in Pakistan, my personal belongings tripled by purchasing 15 handwoven carpets, 22-carat gold jewelry and a new wardrobe of Pakistani women’s clothing. There I became terribly spoiled by having my own maid, gardener and security guard to watch over me and my property.

When I thought life couldn’t get any better, four years later I was offered a job in Barbados. Subsequent jobs moved me to Bolivia, followed by Sri Lanka and Tunisia. Eventually, I returned to the U.S. with all my collected treasures in tow. My possessions and I crowded into a 1,800-square-foot house, where we resided for the next 20 years.

My final move (I hope) happened in 2019 when I downsized for retirement to a 900-square-foot apartment in Belfast. The prospect of giving up half of everything I owned was excruciating. I held each unique item, reliving the special memory associated with it, then let it go. The joy that fills me now, from the spectacular view I have of Penobscot Bay every day, is proof this move was the best of all.

filed under: