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This Is What You Learn When You Move Away From Your Hometown

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Ewa Stepkowska
Ewa Stepkowska

When I packed my bags and moved from Pennsylvania to Hawaii with a one-way plane ticket, it’s a safe bet that everyone around me was shaking their heads. Some got it and some didn’t, but I was doing what felt right in my heart and opening a brand new chapter of my life.

I had lived in Pennsylvania my whole life, even going to college there, with a short stint of work in Detroit in between. Pennsylvania felt safe. It felt like home and life was easy, but I think that’s where the problem was; I constantly wondered when my life would “take off.” Admittedly, I watch too many movies where life changing plot twists occur, so when I realized magical mice weren’t going to show up anytime soon to whisk me away, I decided to just go for it.

It’s been four years since I took that leap of faith and while I’ve learned countless lessons about myself and about life


1. You need to just go for it. There is a popular Pinterest pin that reads, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans,” and I think it resonates so deeply with me, because I find it to be so genuinely true. You can have the safest, most well-laid plans for your life and somehow, things can (and by nature, will) go awry. It’s the nature of the beast, I think, so playing it safe is truly not always the best bet. For me, I knew that if picking up my life and going to Hawaii turned out to be a colossal mess, I could move back and reevaluate. It was as simple as having a back-up plan and being okay with that back up plan. Sheryl Sandberg preaches the value of kicking the shit out of option B when option A is not available and I think it’s an important mantra to keep. The bottom line? If you want to do something, just go for it.

2. You will become flexible. Moving to a new place with new surroundings was, for me, a bit like walking around with a blindfold at a party. I knew there were dozens of cool new people and places around me, but navigating all-new-everything was intimidating. I had become so accustomed to navigating all my favorite restaurants, bars and shops back in Pennsylvania, that I took for granted venturing out without a GPS. (Note to anyone reading: A GPS will be your new BFF if you decide to spread your wings). My Type A-self really likes having a well laid plan in place for everything, so you can imagine my level of discomfort through all of this. Most days it was a matter of realizing I needed something (a shower curtain, a pencil, a bottle of wine…you see where this is going) and trying to decide where it was I needed to go and how I should get there. Gone were the days of just hopping in my car and mindlessly driving. In retrospect, this did wonders for my sometimes neurotic ways of planning and I became a great deal more flexible in the process.

3. You will find out who your friends are. The very first thing someone says when you move to a lush. tropical island is “OMG! I can’t wait to come visit you!” And yes — it is truly amazing when friends come visit and you are able to show them around your new home. The real truth lies in who you are able to maintain connections with across miles and time zones. It’s relatively easy to maintain friendships when you’re together every weekend checking out a new restaurant or bar, but what happens when the only time you have to catch up is over FaceTime or a lengthy text session mid-week? Weeks turn into months and you realize you’ve only chatted with a handful of people. Who’s in your handful?

4. You will realize that less is more. This could not be more true than when you are hand packing boxes and loading them into a moving truck. Just kidding…kind of. For me, moving to Hawaii has opened my eyes to the small fact that I could buy all sorts of things, but none of that stuff would compare to the beautiful landscapes I’ve seen here, the experiences I’ve had and the people I have grown to love. I think we often get so caught up in having more, we forget to look at the bigger picture.

5. You will not be an afterthought. I think sometimes the biggest fear of taking a leap is the idea of being forgotten or not thought about. Believe me — I’ve been there! When will I see my family? What about my friends? And how in the world can I get my favorite meal from that one place back home delivered? Anyone who has ever ventured away can relate to all of these thoughts, I’m sure. But the reality is that my tiny little hometown in Pennsylvania made me who I am today and there’s not a day that goes by where I’m not grateful for it. The same goes both ways! Sure life “back home” goes on without you just as your life goes on without it, but the moment you come back for a visit, things fall right back into place.


Whenever I catch myself falling into the hole of comparison, I go back to my ongoing list of lessons learned during my journey of life. I can wholeheartedly say my leap was worth every moment. I took a chance on Hawaii and I’d do it all over again in a minute. TC mark

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