Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Articles → Moving to a new country

Hannah from Kite Club sent me this great email:

I am an artist/musician/educator/mother and all the rest.

I was living in Chicago and raising my kids, teaching art, and playing out with my beloved band. And I just couldn’t stand our situation any further. The gunshots, the schools, the crumbling infrastructure, the leased SUVs, G. Bush, and on and on.

Don’t get me wrong - Chicago is filled with ethical, educated, creative movers and shakers. But I was visualizing something else for me and my family.

I found online teaching jobs, my husband got our house shored up and entirely rentable, and in 2005 we four moved to a little stone house on the banks of the Seine just 40 minutes south of Paris, France.

Where we live is 360 degrees beautiful. The schools are excellent. Guns are banned. The culture is not propped up by credit. Our kids are fluent in French. We have learned so much.

I miss my band and the Chicago scene, but have had to switch gears and my songwriting has taken off, and now I am working on guitar technique and singing, and recording at home. And along the way I have found people around here to play with, and we’ve played out at a few parties. This is not what I was up to in Chicago, but I am grateful just to stay in motion.

I was just hired to teach design at Parson’s Paris, which is a top art school, and a major feather in my cap. Last year we bought a house here. My husband and I are both painting a lot and exhibiting our work here.

Who knew? It worked.

Moving to France is a small thing, but it was a leap for us. The details have one by one settled into place. The quality of our life as a family is so much higher than what we had crafted for ourselves in Chicago. Our creative and professional lives are on track and thriving. And we work less, and spend much more time together. I am grateful daily.

First thing I thought is, “You can just DO that? Just up and move from Chicago to France, family and all?” Maybe this is more of an American mindset I’m stuck in, where moving out of the country feels like such a big deal. (Versus the European mindset where it’s probably no big deal to move from Sweden to Germany.)

Moving to a new place is such a great way to force good change.

I had been thinking about moving to London for a while, then one day just went online and booked a flight, 2 months in advance, with a return date 7 months later. I didn’t know the details yet, but forcing this action just got me over the hurdle of doing it. Same with India. Just booked it, impulsively. It can be that easy. (Frequent flyer miles help.)

My friend Nikki was a promoter in Las Vegas, then just used some frequent flyer miles to book a trip to China to study karate. She loved it and now lives there, working in Xi’an. My friend Karla, a journalist, moved to Argentina and now does her freelance journalist work online. Since the cost of living in Argentina is so much less, she only has to work part-time, and can spend the rest of her time writing a book.

Any other stories of a big move being the best thing you ever did? Please leave a reply in comments. I love these stories.