Why Are We So Reluctant To Move When All Change Is For The Better?

A recent article on food-stamp recipients told of a 64-year-old American man who lives on $828 a month Social Security, plus food stamps. The man pays nearly $500 a month in rent, and, after receiving slightly fewer food stamps this month, he'll run out of food. He could move and pay lower rent and have plenty to eat and much more to do to boot, in theory. But he chooses to stay put.

It seems people would rather starve than move.

When Mt. St. Helens was about to erupt, years ago, mountain residents were told to leave. I remember one man telling TV news he was going to stay put. He would rather die in a volcano explosion than move. When the mountain blew up, he did (I presume).

Our hearts go out to these people. The poor on food stamps may see few real options. They may be too poor to move, evacuate, or do much else. Recent research shows that the poor, the hungry, and anyone else under pressure have a hard time making good decisions, a hard time making any decisions at all.

For our purposes, though, I think we can conclude that at some point most all of us become very, very reluctant to move.

I'm puzzled by this. We Americans move more than anyone on earth. Something like 20% to 25% of us move every year. Moving vans criss-cross the continent, day and night, to reposition those who choose to start fresh somewhere else. Most of us at retirement age look back to a lifetime of moving, perhaps in our youth, to college, to our first job, to be closer to a spouse's family, and so on.

So, again, I'm puzzled why at some point so many of us seem reluctant to move, let alone move abroad. Maybe we become too established and comfortable in our routine. Maybe we fear the unknown. One friend recently wrote: "We like our stuff, our creature comforts, our fluency in our own language, our notions of civility and sanitation, etc., too much to ever let them entirely go."

Could the reluctance to move be because we mistake comfort for happiness?

I submit that moving -- and particularly moving overseas -- offers adventure, a new way of life, a fresh take on the world. We can often save money, whether by moving to a cheaper country, living in smaller quarters, or doing without a car. I've spent my entire professional life searching out resources to help anyone who's interested figure out how to live a better life overseas. Might you have moments of discomfort? I'd say for sure. Will you be happier? I hope so, and I believe so.

I've been covering this beat for nearly 30 years. In all that time, I've rarely run into people who regret moving overseas -- or anyplace else, for that matter. Quite the contrary.

Moving is good. Brain research shows that social and environmental change stimulate the production of new brain cells (neurons), apparently enhancing the ability of the brain to acquire and remember new information.

A friend long ago put me on to the value of change. "All change is for the better," he told me. He was referring to change we initiate ourselves, and I took his advice to heart.

Millions of us have already chosen to move abroad. I submit that more Americans would be better off acting with the same get-up-and-go. All change is for the better.

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