To relocate; re-discover and remember the WHY

Written by
Bhavna Mittal
Published on
August 29, 2022

The word ‘locate’ as a verb is defined as - discovering the exact place or position of..

What does it then mean to relocate? As per the dictionary, ‘relocation’ entails moving to a new place to establish one’s home or work. But I prefer to think of relocation as simply- locating again- discovering again- one’s life, one’s work, one’s journey. And that is why relocation is just not about moving from point A to point B. It is a brave endeavor, it’s an opportunity, a choice to embrace change and redefine oneself. Once you have relocated, you will often be asked- so what made you move? Each time you respond, it will be a reminder of WHY you did it. How you explain it to others is irrelevant; how you explain it yourself is everything.

My first relocation was for an MBA. I was a former dentist who wanted to get a business education. An acceptance letter from Oxford university seemed life changing. It was. It was also hard. Sitting in the library one late afternoon struggling with Business finance notes, I looked out of the window and exclaimed- Why is it already so dark? Why did I come here?I felt like I could not breathe and then I repeated again and again -’You're here to start over, You’re here to start a new career, You're here because you made an active choice and you know you can see it through’. 

The WHY behind moving to Florida was to get an opportunity to make a start in the travel industry. It was also so that I could earn in a currency that was stronger than the Indian rupee. Even the most generic WHYs are often quite personal. And hence, the WHY needs love, attention and due diligence. This article explores the journey one takes before they actually relocate and the understanding that continues to resonate even when the new place begins to feel familiar.

Analyze and define the WHY

A great job opportunity for you or your partner. Financial security. A chance to start over after a breakup or a life change. Hope for a better life for your kids. Just hope. A gut feeling. An instinct.

You may relocate for one of these reasons, some other or a combination of the above. But there will always be a primary reason. It can be big, it can seem small but that's the reason you hold on to. That is your choice, your decision. I have lived in 4 countries and 8 cities; everytime I have relocated, I began each day reminding myself of my choice until the day of that one way flight and also after. It helps when doubts creep in, it gives the mind constant context. Mostly, it keeps one going.

Do not rush the WHY:

Maybe you can pack a bag and leave. Maybe you have a mortgage, a child who loves their school, parents who need looking after and maybe even when you try to pack your life in multiple bags and boxes, it still keeps spilling over.

Dedicating time to this decision is important. Of course, over-thinking and dwelling will be counter-productive but rationalizing the decision and then accepting it is key to making this change work for yourself, your loved ones and also for other stakeholders. 

Seek advice on the WHY from your inner circle

The decision to relocate will be yours. You do not need to over explain it to anyone but it always helps to discuss it with people who know you, who love you. Yes, even when you are relocating for work. Input from mentors and sponsors is invaluable but your sister remembers how adjusting to the cold took more from you than adapting to a new role or a different culture in a previous relocation. What's a major change, what's minor- that remains individualistic. The big picture has small details that may not influence a decision but affect our adaptation curves. Talk to the people you know you will call when the new place seems right, bright but also blue.

The WHY will make the HOW easier

Pack, unpack. Terminating the lease, finding a new place to live. Exit and entry stamps. Visas. Telling your building security guard- Thank you for always being kind to me. Ordering that favorite takeaway one last time. Finding a new local pub. Letting go and continuing to love.

Two months into living in Dubai, I remember having to list a local emergency contact person. I left the section blank. Did that make me feel lonely? Actually, no. It made me realize that everything I build here will be all mine. 7 years, 9 apartments, 3 job changes. Like any work project, there will be timelines, goals, pushbacks, negotiations, blockers and solutions. The journey to relocate is one of rediscovery and resilience. You come to understand yourself, your boundaries, your limits, your cheerleaders.  And then one day, you have the stability a routine brings, a cafe you will come to love, knowledge of what to do when your apartment has a leak. What was new, will now be familiar. Smooth. 

Across all the cities I have lived in, the one thing I am proudest of is that my ‘frequently contacted’ log still includes the friends who saw me off at the airport the first time I moved. It gives reason to my WHY.  So, yes - make a checklist for the HOW but a great job, a comfortable apartment, a social circle will help only if you have made your peace with the WHY. 

How many times do we restart? There is no correct answer. But only you can know your WHY or WHY not. The WHY is the foundation, all else will follow. And all else will work out. All else falls into place until it's time - to move, relocate, start again.

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