How Moving Cities Can Improve Your Life Dramatically

Moving, aka the act of shifting your primary residence geographically, can yield insane returns on both your financial wealth and overall happiness. Mastering the skills needed to exploit geographic mobility can easily make you 5-10x happier, healthier and wealthier.

Many people commonly limit themselves to one city (usually their hometown) for their entire life. There's a sense of belonging and identity that they're afraid to let go of. Some of that comes from wanting to stay close to friends and family; but mostly, it comes from the fact that we live in a rigidly divided world with more borders than we need. There's also a sense of fear that the next place might be "too different" for them.

 

You want to treat the entire world as a single nation and not be distracted by silly man-made geographic boundaries. Think of the world as your country, and all the people of this world as your own tribe. We're more similar than we're different. 

Be willing to relocate anywhere, anytime

Moving is all about spotting opportunity and jumping ship when the timing is right. People who can't do this lose out on major opportunities and end up having to work longer to become financially independent. Especially when you're young, there's just no excuse not to move. You're more flexible, more nimble, have fewer commitments, and fewer belongings. In your 20s, moving's just a matter of putting all your stuff up on sale on Craigslist, terminating your lease, and catching a flight.

Hey North American readers, can you spot your hometown?

From my personal experience, the ability and willingness to be flexible with my geographical location made it easier for me to get the best jobs for my skills. Thus began the long winding journey to start building up my net worth: from $0 to where it is now (~$300k) in a short span of 7 years. I am now 67% of my way to financial independence, and given my income is significantly higher than when I started, I plan to reach 100% in just another 3 years. Had I stuck to only the city where my parents were living in (Vancouver), my career and therefore earnings would've probably remained meager in comparison. It also would've probably stagnated due to my inability to switch jobs quickly.

My life in 3 words: Pack your Bags! 

The first move is always the hardest. But each subsequent move gets substantially easier since you've already built all the skills you need to orchestrate a successful move. Personally, I've done it so many times now and seen it done so many times through the lens of others, that it's become second nature to me. These days, I actually get a little queasy if I don't move for a few years.

My entire life has been characterized by some kind of constant moving. My first major move was from Dubai (where I grew up as a child to being a teenager) to Vancouver, Canada. That was one heck of a move. Although I was only 15, I could definitely feel the struggle of my parents completely uprooting their life (and mine) and starting again from scratch in a brand-new place. But starting from scratch gave us a great opportunity to restart with a clean slate and get things right from the get-go.

Just 3 years after our move to Vancouver, at the age of 18, it was time for the bird to leave the nest. I embarked on my first real solo-move: I moved myself to the Toronto area for college, an entire 5.5 hours away from "home" (by flight). Living alone was hard for the first month or so, but I quickly adjusted. I built some great new friends, and kept myself busy with school and academics -- the primary reason for my move. At the back of my mind, I kept reminding myself that all of this was merely temporary. That I would be done in 5 years and could then move back to wherever I wanted.

4 years in, and multiple moves later, I made another big move, this time to San Francisco, California to land a high-paying software internship. 8 months later, I moved back to the Toronto area to wrap up my undergrad. 8 months later, I packed up my bags and backpacked in Europe for 2 straight months, changing cities every 3-4 days. After that ended and I ran out of money, I moved back again to San Francisco to start full-time work at another popular software company. San Francisco at the time had the greatest demand for software-types like me, so this was the place I could earn the most amount of money. I was also able to keep my expenses low by having roommates and eating for free at work as much as possible.

It's not just about money 

Moving's not all about just the money or improving your quality of life. Sometimes you can (and should!) move for other beneficial reasons as well. For example, so many people confine themselves to finding their dream guy or girl to within the same city they live in. They only go out on dates with prospective partners in the same city as them! What blasphemy. I had no such restrictions: I was amply comfortable going out on dates with girls in other cities, some of them very very far away from where I lived.

Indeed, that is how I reconnected with Mrs. FH several years later. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and she in Toronto. Once, I happened to visit there and we decided to go out for a potentially romantic lunch in Downtown Toronto. Just 8 months later, I found myself putting up my room for rent on Craigslist, donating my excess clothes to the Salvation Army, and hopping on a flight to Toronto. Mrs. FH and I then got married a short 18 months later. And what did we do a few months after? We re-evaluated the best city for us and once again packed up our limited belongings and moved there.

When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade if it's close-by, but if not, pack up your stuff and go after it with everything you've got. No matter where it is in the world. With today's modern flight power, every single place on this planet is only a mere 24 hours away from wherever you currently are. It certainly helps if you deliberately keep your material belongings to a minimum, and your commitments light. For the first 27 years of my life, I kept both extremely lightweight.

Our roots have wings

On to the next adventure!

My parents and Mrs. FH's parents were already ultra movers back in their day, having hopped two countries across multiple continents by the time we were 18. We fully intend to continue this time-tested family tradition of moving around the world continuously for fun and for profit. We don't belong anywhere - we're just citizens of the world! We've both been brought up with a lack of fear of foreign religions, foreign people, foreign cultures, foreign traditions, foreign languages, or foreign vocabularies. No matter where we go, we find a way to adapt and acclimatize quickly, but still stay true to our core principles. Move, adapt, blend, then move again. The cycle repeats.

 

We are the modern-world life hackers, and we fully intend to exploit geographical benefits to their fullest potential. My dad's renegade move from India to Dubai for purely financial reasons set me up with a great life from the get go. I intend to do the same for my future kids by having them be financially independent by the time they turn 14. That's setting them up for a lifetime's worth of work doing all the right things rather than doing something just for money.

What's holding you back?

If you've lived in one place all your life, you're probably missing out :) Is there a better place you could be living in where you could realize your dreams faster? There is nothing to be ashamed of moving for money or for a chance to better your standard of living. No one's going to blame you if you became financially independent a whole 20 years sooner than your childhood friends.

What's your adventure story? Where all have you moved to? What cities have you lived in? How has that impacted your perspective on life?

Mr. Frugal Hacker

San Francisco, CA

Born in India. Grew up in Dubai for 15 years. Studied and lived in Canada for 8 years. Backpacked in Europe for 2 months. Lived in Toronto for 1.5 years. Working in San Francisco for the past 4 years. Runner, cyclist, software engineer.