What I Learned From Moving Across the Country

I am not a risk-taker. In all honesty, playing “Never Have I Ever” as a middle-schooler always stressed me out. What was the craziest thing I’ve ever done? Um, does sneaking into the PG-13 Britney Spears movie with my sister when I was 11 count?

Wild child, over here.

But while it may be about 10 years too late, last year I finally found an answer to the question. The craziest thing I’ve ever done was move from one side of the country to the next, with just three weeks notice and without knowing a single soul in that large city of sunshine and smog.

I’ll never forget emailing a co-worker back and forth one day at work. I was still finishing up some things in Manhattan while she had been hired at my company’s Los Angeles branch.

“Do you know many people here?”

“Not one person,” I typed back, both smiling and fighting back a pool of tears at the same time. “In fact, you are probably the closest friend I have in LA…and I’ve never even met you”

I’ve always found myself wholeheartedly and trustfully following my heart, no matter how passionately it led me. An overwhelming sense of intuition sometimes overcomes me, leading me blindly to places I can’t quite understand. And yet, I will do my best to get there with a flashlight and a map if I have to. My entire life I’ve known I was destined to live in California. It wasn’t so much a question of why or how, but when?

Apparently, the answer to that question was last September.

I had mentioned to my manager months earlier that I had interest in moving with the company cross-country, but my inquiry was brushed off due to limited space and a lack of need. Months later, I had just started browsing apartments in the East Village with an old college friend when I was abruptly told there was a spot open for me in Los Angeles, and could I be there in two weeks?

A few weeks later, I’d emptied out my wardrobe to some of my closest friends, grabbed one last happy hour with my coworkers, and in what felt like a blink of an eye, was waving goodbye to my mom at the airport with just one suitcase and a brave heart in tow. I couldn’t stop crying the entire flight over, but somehow I knew these weren’t tears of regret or even sadness, but of delight that I was letting go of a wonderful life and moving onto something greater.

Fast forward to nine months later, as I sit in my West Hollywood apartment surrounded by two welcoming roommates (plot twist: one ended up being that co-worker!) and dreaming of weekend plans spent hiking in Malibu or dipping my toes in the cool Pacific, I think back on how moving away from my home in New York to a brand-new coast was easily the best (and craziest) decision I had ever made. To say that it was a breezy experience would be an exaggeration, but I can’t help but feel grateful for all the opportunities moving ended up presenting to me, even if it did come in the form of a few difficult, painful lessons.

Luckily, I can share the lessons without necessarily passing on the pain. The best way to see what you’re capable of is to force yourself to find out the following:

Being alone forces you to break out of your comfort zone

I’ve been surrounded by people I’ve been close to my entire life. In New York, I lived a mere five minutes away from high school best friends and reunited with my college roommates on a regular basis. Moving to a place where I didn’t know a single friendly face—not even a family member—was really difficult. I had never felt more like a friendless loser than I did during these past few months, but being alone forced me to muster up the courage to ask co-workers and people I was barely acquainted with if they’d want to hang out. Without having that backup group of friends to rely on, I was able to force myself to meet new people and explore different personalities. I even ending up meeting my boyfriend because I was so excited about dating around and having fun that I accidentally found someone I wanted to share my independence with.

You should always be exploring

And no, not in the sense that you shouldn’t build yourself a lifestyle and feel at home in your new surroundings, but in the way that you should always feel like you’re falling in love with the city in which you live. When I first arrived to Los Angeles, I was so overwhelmed by all the things to do and places to explore, I didn’t even know where to begin. Try out restaurants? Conquer all the hikes? Should I play around the city first or branch out to other parts of the West Coast, like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon? Once I quieted my mind a bit, I started making endless lists of things I wanted to see and do and challenged myself to try one new thing every single weekend. Whether it was going on a weekend trip or just trying out the taco truck everyone raves about, I would treat my new space like an area yet to be explored.

Leaving a life behind is hard (but worth it)

One of the hardest parts about moving was leaving my family and friends behind. I went from constantly being surrounded by people I was close with to only getting to see them for a few moments twice a year. I was going to miss major events: birthdays, weddings, wing night at our favorite bar—all so I could go off and explore on my own. My heart still aches thinking of my younger cousins and niece and nephew quickly growing up without me and not getting to partake in each little stepping stone of their young lives without having to mind the three-hour time difference and find a timeslot to FaceTime. While it’s inevitable to give up some things you love when moving, the infinite amount of happiness I’ve gained just isn’t comparable. My family and friends get to love and catch up with a person who is unbelievably happy and satisfied with her new lifestyle, which has only made our relationships stronger and our hearts fonder. It’s true what they say: love knows no distance. And I know that because, well, I’ve done it.

Stephanie Limiti is a born and raised New Yorker living out her dreams of palm trees and sunshine in Los Angeles. When she's not zenned out in yoga class, she's reading biographies and volunteering at dog rescue shelter. Follow her on Instagram.