The challenge of making a big change

This is one of my favorite bloggers, Chelsea Fuss, a single woman who left a thriving floral design business in Portland, Oregon and who is now living in Lisbon.

Her blog, frolic, is a consistent joy: frank, lovely, wise.

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Where in the world will you go? What if it doesn’t work out? What if it does?!

Some of her thoughts on the challenges of changing your life, big-time, (of which there are five in her post):

1. Nothing is perfect. Often, when I engage in these sorts of conversations, people are looking for a magical answer, a perfect life. Nothing is perfect. As my brother likes to remind me, everything in life is a trade off. Whatever new life you are able to acquire, one thing is for sure, you will have a new set of challenges. Weigh the positives and negatives and be honest with yourself about what your priorities are and what you are willing to sacrifice to make your dreams real. For example, when I left my home base in Portland, I was giving up a creative community, a great location for operating my business, all of my current and potential clients, most of my business and the ambitions and goals I had for it, everything I owned! The list goes on! Some people might say, “You traded all that and more to work as a glorified slave?” It’s all in how you look at it. At the time, my priority was to get my hands in the earth, apprentice on organic farms (I volunteered on farms in exchange for room and board, cutting out the rent factor), see more of the world, meet new people, and mix things up a bit to see what happened. I actually had no end goal in sight. I ended up staying in Europe and moving to Lisbon. I got a whole new life, and a whole new set of problems, with my new-found-life and accomplished dreams.

Two bloggers I follow have done this as well; Cadence (an American in London) and Juliet, a Canadian in Paris.

I know many of you are immigrants or ex-pats; here’s a brand-new blog, by an American man now living in Bucharest.

I’ve cast off my former life a few times and…it’s terrifying!

OK, it was for me.

The first time, I was 25, and won an eight-month fellowship to Paris (!) to study, travel and work in a group of 28 journalists from 19 countries, ages 25 to 35. I ditched a live-in boyfriend (willingly), my dog (sob), friends, family and a thriving freelance writing career I was sick to death of.

I was stuck in a cosy cocoon, but desperate for some wings.

It certainly gave me that!

I’d left my parents’ home at 19, and there I was, living for the first time in a college dorm room (tiny!) with bathrooms down the hall and a hyper-vigilant staff who grilled me when they thought I had “un clandestin” (i.e. a man) in my room.

I traveled alone (on reporting trips) to Sicily, Denmark and Amsterdam and spent eight days in a truck with a French driver going from Perpignan to Istanbul, still one of the best adventures of my  life.

I’m still good friends with some of the people from our fellowship.

Lake Massawippi, Eastern Townships, near Montreal

I did it again when I left my hometown of Toronto for a job in Montreal, where I’d once more be working en francais.

I loved my enormous top-floor apartment and quickly made new friends and met my first husband.

But the city was a poor fit for me, as was the newspaper I went to work for. Montreal, a charming place to visit, offered a brutally cold, snowy and interminable winter; very high taxes; limited professional opportunities, terrible public services and a much higher crime rate than Toronto.

I was gone within two years.

Off to a small town in New Hampshire to follow my first husband’s medical training there — but I had no job, no friends or family, and it was long before the Internet and its easy social and professional connections.

Then, two years after that, we moved to a town in the suburbs of New York City, just in time for a recession. Again, with no job, no family or friends and no alumni networks to lean on.

I had never lived in a small town before New Hampshire.

I had never lived in the suburbs before New York.

You can make a huge change.

Chelsea did. I did.

I know many people who have.

It takes guts, self-confidence, resilience.

Savings and good job skills are essential.

It may not work out at all as you’d hoped or planned; my first husband walked out the door (literally) barely two years after our wedding and promptly married a woman he worked with. That was very definitely not in my plans.

But here I am today, with a home, a town and a second husband that all make me happy that I made the move  — and that I toughed it out.


Grand Central Station, NYC. One of my favorite things about living here.

Have you made a huge change in your life?

How did it turn out?

22 thoughts on “The challenge of making a big change

  1. The suggestion about not expecting perfection is so key! Currently writing about overcoming doubt when pursing goals (such as starting a blog) and I also highlight how the expectation of perfection may cause us to concede to failure too soon. I’ve made several big moves in life and I’ve learned that “the sights and scenes along the journey is just as important as the destination”. Flexibility has been key, being adaptable solves many problems 🙂

  2. Loved this post (again) Kaitlyn. I’ve certainly embraced the gift of change. Some (especially my long-suffering wife) would argue that I’ve taken it to an extreme.

    I’ve been incredibly fortunate to wear a lot of hats, live in exotic (and not-so-exotic) locales, and meet extraordinary people. I can’t be certain that this has made me a better person, but I am confident that this lifestyle has exposed me to far more LIFE than I would otherwise have known, touched, tasted, and breathed. And, as Robert Frost suggests, that has made all the difference.

    BTW, thanks for the shout out. (looks like the link didn’t connect, this will work: )

  3. I recently wrote a post about a few times in my life when the whole house of cards seemed to be thrown in the air, only to land in a completely different configuration. And while I did not generally ask for these things, being a bit of a ninny, I got them. And in some ways, I chose them. Divorce over unhappiness. Moving despite fear of leaving family. Eschewing the corporate world for freelance life. I wish terror wasn’t involved in big changes–but it seems to hang out in that vicinity . . . . the rewards, when they come, are generally sweeter though.

    1. So true…I didn’t want my (miserable) marriage to end. I wanted it to get better! But he left, so that was that. I might have preferred to continue making $$$$ full-time but I enjoy the freedom of freelance.

      I think people who’ve survived (and chosen) the big challenges are, or end up, pretty resilient and confident as a result.

      1. I remember exactly what I said to my husband, and I knew when I challenged him to work on our marriage I was ending it. That he wouldn’t. I was so utterly miserable, I didn’t care anymore.

  4. Greetings from Paris. Thanks for mentioning me and my blog. Yes, you definitely need self-confidence; also optimism and a sort of blind faith in the universe that things will work out. You know, that “leap of faith” belief. You also need to be very self-reliant coz in the beginning you’re gonna be alone a lot. So you have to enjoy your own company. And, lastly, I guess you need to trust your instincts. If it feels right, go with it. If it feels wrong, get out.

    I’m interested in that Lisbon blog becoz I’m wondering where I’d like to live when I retire. Portugal keeps coming up, it has become a very desirable destination these past 10 years. Great weather, great food, golf, cheaper cost of living, but that will change. Here in France, French retirees used to flock to Morocco. But, sadly, with the threat of Islamization, that country is no longer desirable (as a retirement destination.) Now it’s Portugal!

    Have you been there?

    1. You should follow her blog — and I bet she’d be open to some of those questions. She’s a really nice person.

      I have been to Portugal and loved it. It was a long time ago, but I can see why you’d find it an attractive choice. The two things that would concern me would be trying to learn the language and a lack (?) of culture/attractions, certainly compared to Paris.

      I agree that a leap of faith is indeed a leap..My time in NH was not, overall, happy. I had never in my life been so alone and so disliked, no matter how hard I tried to make friends there. It really dinged my confidence so moving away became a matter of self-preservation.

  5. i love the spirit of this post and the examples you’ve given, i think it takes a certain mindset, to change what you know and is comfortable to you, even if it is not a good situation for you, or it if is, but you know there is something more meant for you. like you, i have done this more than once in my life and have never looked back in regret.

    1. I know you have!

      It’s so scary to make those BIG moves, geographic or professional or emotional (and sometimes all 3 at once.) My time in NH taught me never again to move “for love” without access to good work and friendships. I had neither there to sustain me and it was very, very difficult. I would never have been able to leave Toronto for NY directly, and alone. I was too scared! So those 2 intermediate stops sort of prepared me. Even still, arriving in NY was much harder than I might have imagined. 🙂

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