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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the weekend: Can moving solve all your problems?

Jezebel asked the question this week in reference to poor Lindsay Lohan and her planned move from Los Angeles to New York in the wake of her release from a brief jail-and-rehab stint. Lohan has deeper and tougher problems than most of us, perhaps — and unfortunately they seem to be the kind of problems you can’t run away from — but the question is worth asking of anyone.

Can moving solve all your problems?

It’s something I’ve certainly been thinking about of late. Where I’m living now represents my longest stretch living in the same place as an adult (and even as kid, but I don’t count that because it wasn’t anything I had any control over). Next spring it’ll be nine years I’ve been in this apartment, and I’m ready for a change. It’s not just my apartment: I feel like my whole life is in a rut and could do with a major boot in the ass to get things moving again. I do believe that, in the immortal words of Buckaroo Banzai, no matter where you go, there you are. But I also think that a change of scenery and routine can be a good way to shake yourself up.

What do you think? Have you ever moved just to get your ass in gear again? Did it work… or do you regret it? Have you ever thought about moving — new house/apartment, new city, or new country, even — just for a change?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • bronxbee

    i do believe it. if you go into it with the right attitude, it sometimes opens up the brain, blows the cobwebs out and gets the creative juices flowing again.

  • promethia

    I certainly hope it can because, after a really disastrous stint with a job and a year of moping, I am trying to do exactly that.

  • Lenina Crowne

    Just out of curiosity, how dramatic would your planned move be? Different city, different borough, neighborhood, or what? Or is it purely theoretical at this stage?

    I’d really like to move someday, maybe to Canada or Singapore. But I’m just a kid, so who knows.

  • nyjm

    I used to move all the time as a kid; and even as an adult in grad school I had a new place every 3-5 years, sometimes less. And I loved it; I enjoy discovering a new place, a new neighborhood, inventorying my stuff, pretty much everything involved with moving, even if it’s only across town. (I moved from Reno, NV to Winchester, VA when I was 11 – THAT was a big change!) But even when I don’t change addresses, I get antsy every now and then: I have to rearrange things. It’s like my Feng-Shui shifts and I have readjust my living space. I’m always happy I did. Your living conditions define SO MUCH of your perspective and it’s good to shake that up every now and then.

  • Isobel

    I moved all the time as a child as well, I went to 14 schools and I hated it. I thought that as an adult I’d settle in one place permanently. Then, about four years ago I had a fairly severe bought of depression. I was living in a tiny studio flat in quite an isolated location that made it easy to shut myself away. I didn’t like the company I worked for and although I loved the town (Chichester, in West Sussex, UK – it’s a beautiful cathedral city) I was in such a rut and didn’t know how to get out of it.

    So, I got a job in London and moved. I still had the issues to deal with that I had before, but I was forced to go out and meet new people, and having a new job meant that I had to make the effort to be more outgoing again, and no-one new about the depression so I could remove myself from it somehow.

    It worked well for me, I’m feeling ansty again at the moment but that’s more to do with work and the fact that although I enjoy my job and I’m good at it, it’s a job I fell into rather than chose and I think I need to find something that I enjoy doing for its own sake, if only I could find what that was!

  • Isobel

    Gah! Typo that makes me look like an idiot – ‘no-one new’ should of course read ‘no-one knew’.

  • Chris

    It worked for me! In 2005 I was still in my hometown, hurting from a pretty bitter end of college (getting the arts degree wasn’t helping with finding work), so I went out on a limb and tried to make it in NYC. That sort of throwing yourself into the unknown worked out okay for me, but I can see several points where it could have gone horribly wrong.
    As for celebrities moving, David Bowie and Iggy Pop seemed to benefit from the change of scenes, opting for Berlin. I managed to meet Iggy when he was promoting a photobook, and to have him describe it sounds like an idealized Manhattan (“imagine a city the size of the island with a quarter of the people and 200 dollar a month loft apartments”).

  • Christy

    This is actually something I’ve done ever since I became an adult. About every two years, I get restless and rut-like. I’ll find friends or family in a place I wouldn’t mind living, look for a job, and make the trek. I won’t say I’ve never regretted a move, but really, it’s all worked out in the end. Because that’s my superpower.

    I think I’ll eventually find a place in which I want to settle down (and a person to do it with), but that just hasn’t happen for me yet. Until then, I’ll keep moving, taking on more experiences, and meeting new people. It’s seem to be the way to go.

  • Leslie Carr

    Knowing how much you liked Stonehenge last time you visited England, there’s that whole underhenge property that’s suddenly become free now that it hasn’t got a pandorica in it any more. A girl could do a lot with that much space, and those transmitters would guarantee really good mobile broadband :-)

    As for me, I am still living 4 miles from where I was born. I’m embarrassed by how parochial that makes me sound, but my local town/university kind of grew up at the same time I did. All of a sudden I found that (short of moving to Boston) there was no better place professionally than where I spent my childhood!

  • MaryAnn

    Just out of curiosity, how dramatic would your planned move be? Different city, different borough, neighborhood, or what? Or is it purely theoretical at this stage?

    Ideally, I would like to move to London. It’s more than theoretical, but still not totally doable at this stage. I already know I love that city, but I don’t know it like I know New York. I’m excited by the idea of learning its secrets, wandering around and making discoveries that I could never, ever find as a tourist. I’m also looking to meet new people, which isn’t happening in NYC. Or, I mean, I do meet new people all the time, of course, but very few people that click with me.

    Of course a move to London would barely be noticable from the perspective of all you readers of mine. The window between U.S. film openings and U.K. film openings is closing all the time, so there’d barely be a delay (if any at all) in my coverage of the movie scenes on both sides of the Atlantic (to the degree that one person is able to do that). But I could lots of comparing-and-contrasting between the scenes in ways that I can’t do now. I think it would be a very exciting kick in the pants for this site, not just for me personally.

    Less than ideally but still, perhaps, the needed kick in the pants would be a move to, at a minimum, another neighborhood in NYC.

    Basically, though, something’s gotta give. And I don’t want it to be me. :->

  • Alice

    Funny, I have been thinking of living in London for a couple on months at the beginning of next year. I work on the internet, so I can do what I do from anywhere with a good high speed connection. I don’t know about a permanent move however. I’d hate to be so far away from my family and friends–though they would probably visit me more there than my present abode in upstate NY.

    I’ve moved a lot of times for work in the past, and unless you have a very good work situation, it can be very lonely at first. If you have an interest in decorating a new home, that can take some of your time at the beginning.

    Good luck.

  • Boingo

    I thought about moving for years. Even though I live in Hawaii, it’s cut off from the mainstream of “What’s
    Happening” in the art world. I lived as “half phantom”in this culture, though raised and born here. The years went by and the cost of living was detrimental for an artist (money is sometimes not the priority).
    I had lived in Calif., Seattle,and Colorado, for a
    few years over 20 years ago. Every experience-I came
    away with something.So, zero regrets. By default (locked in
    to real estate and a business, and burnt out),
    I shed my workaholic ways and returned to surfing
    as part of my routine. That simple act has boosted my
    happiness scale over 50%. Now, I have few plans to

    Last year was the best surf in 25 years. I remember
    sitting in the water thinking “There is no place I’d
    rather be on earth.”

  • Chuck

    It depends on what you are looking for in life and what mindset you have when you do it. I hate to be the party-pooper, but if you aren’t finding people who click with you in NY then I highly doubt that moving to London will change things drastically for you in that regard. You’ll certainly find more people that watch “Dr. Who” but their reason for doing so will be just ever so slightly different than why you do. Just different enough in many cases to prevent the “click” that you are looking for.

    That being said, you certainly need a change of pace because I have noticed a degradation in the quality, tone, and content of the reviews on this site over the last couple of years. There have been several times recently that I have considered not coming back because the overall feel of the site has become a lot more bitter than what I fell in love with when I first stumbled onto it. I think you need to evaluate what exactly it is that you need and what you are missing. Once you have identified it _thoroughly_ then you can decide what to do about it. Moving (particularly moving to another country) will keep you too occupied to think much about whatever it is that’s bothering you, but that’s not a real solution, just a more socially acceptable way to ignore the underlying issue than drugs and alcohol.

    For your own sake, take some time to do some deep personal introspection before you jump on any airplanes.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    I think it depends on WHAT you’re trying to change.

    Improving your economic situation? Absolutely. A move can be great for that, especially if you have the job lined up before moving.

    Escaping a dysfunctional social scene? Also very effective, as long as a) it’s not being caused by you, and b) not following you through online community connections.

    A better living environment? Sure, although that tends to be a bit of a crapshoot. I never thought I’d enjoy Portland Maine as much as I did, or hate Palm Springs and Southern California.

    What it really can’t help is changing your personality. I don’t think it’s possible to move to a new area and change your habits or personality. No matter where I move, I’ll never be an especially social type of guy, or the sort of person comfortable picking up women. Neither have my housekeeping nor my work habits changed all that much by being in a different area. Any changes I make can happen just as well wherever I am, without the hassle of moving.

    That said, I’ll probably be moving myself in the next few months, depending on where my next job winds up. Perhaps Ottawa will be next on my list, or maybe just across there river here in town, to an actual house.

  • I’ve been moving every few years for some time now, and it’s to the point where I almost can’t stop. My dad was military when I was a child, so we moved a lot then, and also I’ve lived in North Carolina, Kansas City, Denver (which is probably the closest thing to ‘home’ to me), Gunnison CO, Crested Butte CO, LA for six months, Madison WI, a tiny town in western Arkansas (for five years), and now I’m in New England for however long. We talk about trying another country next. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything–I don’t believe you can really understand a part of the country and the people without actually living there–but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have lived somewhere all my life. And it’s hard to make friends as a professional nomad; there’s that too.

  • leontineg

    Yay! You are officially a New Yorker!

  • MaryAnn

    I have noticed a degradation in the quality, tone, and content of the reviews on this site over the last couple of years. There have been several times recently that I have considered not coming back because the overall feel of the site has become a lot more bitter than what I fell in love with when I first stumbled onto it.

    Sorry to disappoint you, Chuck, but any bitterness is a reaction to how increasingly fucked up the world is, not how fucked up I may be. So absent some sort of velvet revolution that rights all the wrongs without crashing us back into a new Dark Ages, the bitterness is unlikely to go away.

    but that’s not a real solution, just a more socially acceptable way to ignore the underlying issue than drugs and alcohol.

    But hey! Thanks for chiming in with a vote for “whatever’s got me down is all my own fault”! :->

    Serious question for Chuck: What keeps you coming back?

  • Boingo

    Just got through reading some of Stud Terkel’s “P.S.”-
    a chapter of an interview with James Baldwin. He talked
    about his (Baldwin) move to Paris, his adjustments, his change in how he viewed the U.S. from the different
    perspective. Though the Paris conversation is missing,
    here’s a few quotes that did appear:


    I thought it insightful for a writer/artist, etc.

  • I must admit that London grabs me in a way that even Manhattan, Paris or Rome don’t. I adore the South Bank, the skyline and the bridges over the Thames. What is astonishing is that you only have to watch Ashes to Ashes to remind yourself how sh*t the area used to be a few decades ago!

  • Anne-Kari

    It didn’t fix everything, but it sure helped: I had just turned 17, I had dropped out of high school, I was miserably depressed and directionless. I decided on not much more than a whim to move to California and less than 2 weeks later I was there. I had a few relatives living there, I started working, made a slew of new friends, and later got into a community college.

    That led to a scholarship for a semester in London, and eventually, a move BACK to New York to go to Columbia University. Both moves were damned good ideas (even though everyone thought I was insane when I moved California).

    I’m not so wild about my most recent move to Virginia, in part because it wasn’t something that I initiated (husband got big job in DC, needed to have more space because of kids, etc). Nor am I crazy about the suburbs in general, but in terms of what I’m doing with my life right now, it works. And unless we had won the lottery, there’s now way we could have had THIS life back in New York – space, good neighborhood, little back yard, great public schools, kids can run outside and play, etc. So while I am still a grumpy die-hard New Yorker who misses corner bodegas and decent pizza and public transportation, I know that this move was also for the best.

    I really don’t think moving can ever ‘fix’ you – Buckeraoo Banzai is absolutely right. I dragged all my emotional baggage with me back and forth across the continent. But I was able to frame it in a different way each time, and learn a whole lot about myself in the process. And each time I managed to change a lot of stuff about myself that I didn’t like in the process.

    So yes, moving can be a great catalyst if your life is in a rut. But MAJ, don’t move to London until I get a chance to met you and Bonnie in NYC one of these days :)

  • @Boingo:

    I remember sitting in the water thinking “There is no place I’d rather be on earth.”

    I love NYC, but when I visited Hawai’i for the first time this summer, I came really close to thinking that too. I’ve never felt more closely connected to the sea and the sky. (And the stars you get at night–oh, man.) I also loved visiting the Bishop Museum and learning about native Hawaiian culture and history, and how folks have been reclaiming the old traditions; I found the wayfinding voyages of the Hokulea fascinating.

    I know I was just a tourist, and Hawai’i has its share of problems like everyplace else; but even so, the natural beauty of the state is very real, and powerfully moving. I’m glad my family and I got to go.

  • Oh, and as for whether moving can solve all your problems: Pulling up roots and moving is certainly a great adventure and a good way to shake things up, but another is staying put and delving deeper into what your environment offers right here. Tourists don’t know NYC as well as residents, but it’s also surprising how much residents don’t know about the city; my family has lived here for 12 years and I don’t think we’ll ever run out of new things to discover about it. Just last week my daughter and I spent the whole day in the Egyptian gallery of the Met Museum–just that gallery, nowhere else–and we still didn’t see everything we wanted to. There’s just so much to absorb.

    There’s something invigorating about moving and discovering new places, but also something appealing about being deeply rooted in a community and a place. Maybe the point is to be willing to move until you find that community. Or until you decide “this place (whatever it is) will be my home, for better or worse,” and pitch in to create the neighborhood and community that you want.

  • Bill

    i do love moving around and it always makes me feel good…kinda like heroin (with the exception of my move to pittsburgh a couple years back…that was more like jumping on a bicycle without a seat). tho i am not sure it has ever solved any problems. lemme tell you what i have found to be a really great opportunity made available by moving — moving *back*. i recently moved back to a place i really enjoyed. the potential for rediscovery and the fuzzy familiarity made it pretty sweet. and there was much less uncertainty, none of the roadblocks that come with being a complete newcomer…this really made it much easier to focus on solving problems, all the while getting a nice, mild buzz from the move itself.

    but this is all irrelevant. i think you’re stuck…


    “Where are you from?” And I said: “New York.” He said: “Ah, New York! Yes, that’s a very interesting place. Do you know a lot of New Yorkers who keep talking about the fact that they want to leave but never do?” And I said: “Oh, yes!” And he said: “Why do you think they don’t leave?” I gave him different banal theories. He said: “Oh, I don’t think it’s that way at all.” He said: “I think that New York is the new model for the new concentration camp, where the camp has been built by the inmates themselves, and the inmates are the guards, and they have this pride in this thing they’ve built, they’ve built their own prison. And so they exist in a state of schizophrenia, where they are both guards and prisoners. And as a result they no longer have, having been lobotomized, the capacity to leave the prison they’ve made, or to even see it as a prison. And then he went into his pocket and he took out a seed for a tree, and he said: “This is a pine tree.” He put it in my hand and he said: “Escape, before it’s too late.”


  • Boingo


    Loved my visit to NY City-Gallery hopped for 2 weeks-

    Re: Hawaii. It will always be here, changing slowly,
    but the tides, trade winds,palms will always be constants-welcoming you back.

  • Personally right now I’d love to move to where I can get a job. I’d need to secure the job first though, being unemployed this long I have no funds to cover any long-distance relocation effort…

    Having lived in Florida almost my whole life, I can’t imagine living anywhere with colder winter climes (never seen snow, real snow). But if I have to move north of, say, Valdosta, I’ll have to.

    The article that started this thought – Lohan relocating from L.A. to NYC – makes sense for her: Lindsay’s whole life in L.A. is literally killing her, her crazy family, whatever friends she has anchoring her partying lifestyle. She needs to get away from all that. I’m not so sure New York City is a good idea, though: it’s as much an ongoing party town as L.A. is. Lindsay might be better off finding some calmer, yet artistically inclined mid-sized town where she could work on say theater work. Maybe Austin TX? I know someone who works the Shakespearean company there. Some “Taming of the Shrew” might cheer LL up… :)

  • Chuck

    Sorry to disappoint you, Chuck, but any bitterness is a reaction to how increasingly fucked up the world is, not how fucked up I may be. So absent some sort of velvet revolution that rights all the wrongs without crashing us back into a new Dark Ages, the bitterness is unlikely to go away.

    I never said that it wasn’t. However, it IS the world that we all live in and you can’t escape it even by moving to London. And it’s only “your fault” in so much as that you owe it to yourself to find a way to live in it without hating every new day more than the last. A move may be able to help you do that, it helped me once. But only because I decided beforehand that aspects of my life needed to change and it would be easier to make those changes in a new state.

    Serious question for Chuck: What keeps you coming back?

    When I first stumbled across this site I found the reviews to be intelligent and thoughtful (which is not exactly the same thing). The reviews told me what I wanted to know about a movie before I decided to see it or not. All I had to do was sift out the important bits from the bias which were always pretty obvious long before the addition of the bias meter. Now the important bits are still there but it becomes harder to sift them out because there’s a whole lot more bitterness to sift through as well.

    The answer to the question is that the effort to sift out the genuinely intelligent and thoughtful things that I come here for is still worth it. You have a great mind and I am willing to put in an effort to read what it has to say.

    You may not believe it, but it is with genuine concern that I suggest that you take some time to do some introspection and find out what it will take for you to be able to survive and thrive in this increasingly screwed up world without hating life every day.

    For me it was “selling out,” and I’ve never felt better! Ha-ha!

    (BTW, I would have posted this sooner but apparently I am limited to one post per twenty-four hours.)

  • amanohyo

    I make it a point to never own more than a single car load worth of stuff (not including food, a mattress, and cheapo furniture that I can sell/donate in a day or two). Like several people above, three years is the maximum amount of time I can spend in a single city before I start to get antsy. However, my wife just got an awesome job, so we’re going to have to settle down for good for at least eight years near DC.

    After that, extreme early retirement with two-three lengthy vacations a year should satisfy our wanderlust. Maybe someday we’ll be brave enough to try the five flags lifestyle. All I know is that once I get into a routine, time starts to speed up and it scares me. The more new places and people you experience, the slower the clock ticks (at least it seems that way for me). Plus it gives your brain some exercise.

    Best of all, moving makes you take a good hard look at the stuff you’ve accumulated and forces you to trash the useless crap and refocus on the things you’re truly passionate about. For a childless, thrifty, misanthrope like me, serial renting is a win-win. If my wife and I could find work easily, we would probably move every two years for most of our adult lives. For people who actually, you know, enjoy physically being around certain other people like family and friends, it’s understandably a much harder decision to make.

  • If moving alone solves all of one’s problems, the couple in Hemingway’s short story “The Hills Like White Elephants” would be the happiest couple on Earth.

    But sometimes moving can solve some problems. And if nothing else, traveling from one location to another can give one a perspective that one would never get if one never left home.

    I know I got to appreciate life in Texas a lot more after I had the chance to travel out of state and compare it with other locales than I did before I got the chance. And I can’t help but notice a difference in outlook between my Detroit relatives who got a chance to move away from the old neighborhoods while they were young and those who had never moved. But that’s another story for another day.

  • MaryAnn

    find out what it will take for you to be able to survive and thrive in this increasingly screwed up world without hating life every day.

    Wow. Who says I hate life every day?

    moving makes you take a good hard look at the stuff you’ve accumulated and forces you to trash the useless crap and refocus on the things you’re truly passionate about.

    Yes! One of the things I’ve actually very excited about is the prospect of throwing shit out. There’s very little of my stuff that I’m seriously attached to, which is, I think, part of what made me realize that moving overseas wouldn’t be that hard: there’s not that much I’d need to take with me. I’m like Steve Martin at the end of *The Jerk*: This laptop and those Converse, that’s all I need…

  • PC

    Haven’t moved town that many times in my life but the most important thing I’ve experienced from my handful of moves is that it quickly sorts out what is screwed up about where you live and what’s screwed up about you leaving time to work on the latter without having to deal with the former.

    Its funny how a picture; a conversation; a movie; can imprint itself on you in ways never intended by the author or artist. I grew up in the outer suburbs of a big city and spent most of my teenage years dreaming of escape to a life in the country. Did that as soon as I was old enough and raised kids there.

    Then one night I saw that old 80s movie “Play Misty For Me”. Never mind the plot: what that movie said to me was this is what city living CAN be like. So, when the kids grew up and the marriage failed I bought into my personal vision of Mecca and got the fancy city apartment. 15 years later I’m thinking they’ll have to wheel me out of here in a wooden box to get me to leave.

    If London is your dream then don’t die wondering and do what you can to make it real. One of my daughters is moving there this Christmas. Sure, she’s young enough to make a mess of it and try again but don’t let anyone tell you you’re too old to follow a dream.

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