I recently had the chance to revisit the place I used to call home, pre-travels.
It’s an internationally known, beautiful California beach spot. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me how lucky I was to live there, I’d be able to afford a vacation home in town.
Yet no matter how long or hard I tried, there was just something that didn’t click for me living there. I knew a few months in that it just wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I lived there for five years.
It’s nothing personal — I adore visiting Santa Barbara now, and I am grateful for the time I spent there.
But there’s something to be said for listening to that little voice, the one that tells you “this isn’t the place for you.”
For me there is a cultural mindset embedded — that is even tied to place. We have this need to persevere, to “make things work.” We also tend to listen when the noise around us dictates what we should want. Everyone calls this “paradise,” how hard could it be for me to stick it out?
Certainly, it was beautiful. It was charming. The people and the farmers market were great. The lifestyle and the sunshine were too great. All the while, I became increasingly unhappy and I couldn’t understand why. It couldn’t be as simple as the place I lived, could it?
Many advised me that packing up to leave was not the answer. “Your problems will follow you wherever you go,” they said. So I stayed. I stayed in the job, in the town everyone else told me I was so fortunate to have.
On the outside there was nothing wrong with me living there. And it’s true that my unsettledness could have followed me. It took looking internally, and being willing to listen, to understand the root of it all. I had to learn to tune out the voices and opinions of others and just act on what felt right for me.
There’s a quote referenced when it comes to significant others: “someday, someone will come along that will make you realize why it didn’t work out with anyone else.” I fall in love with people, deeply. I also fall in love with places, perhaps more than normal. It’s a feeling that cannot be forced, whether a person or a place.
It wasn’t until I booked a one-way ticket out, let go of wishing for answers or needing to know the next step, that it came together for me. Travel gave me the perspective to see what I wanted, and the courage to go for it. It gave me the silence and the space to hear my own voice.
There’s more to a place than beauty, status, and an address. There are too many corners of this world for you to have any feeling that you don’t belong somewhere.
And sometimes it’s not that a person or place is bad — it’s just that it’s not right for you.
You may be perfectly content with where you are. You may have to be somewhere for obligations outside of your control. You may not believe that leaving a place will change your life.
Life is fluid. If, when you pause to listen, you hear a whisper from yourself to go somewhere, to do something else — don’t ignore it. Explore it.
The journey will take you to the people and the places that are right for you. When it doesn’t, you have to have the fortitude to seek them out for yourself.
It may be a change of scenery that leads to a change of heart after all.