Life Needs a Reset Button
April 1, 2009 2:23 PM   Subscribe

I've decided to leave my friends and family, sell all of my belongings and start life over again. Where should I go? Any advice?

I live in the midwestern US; I'm in my early 20s, female. I have a bachelor's degree in a useless field, not a lot of money saved up (after I sell everything, I'll probably have $2500ish), but I do have a car.

I'm looking for a friendly, inexpensive place to live. I know this is a little crazy, but I need to start anew. I've made too many mistakes and ruined too many relationships.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (62 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Could you follow-up with an admin and post something about what you're looking for in a new place? big/small? weather? conservative/liberal? mountains or ocean? fast-paced or laid back? public transit vs. open space, etc. etc.?

Otherwise I think you're just going to get a list of our favourite places minus New York and San Francisco cause they're expensive.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:28 PM on April 1, 2009

Dear AskMe: I'll be cutting off my own foot this weekend. Circular saw or hand saw?

Seriously though, ask yourself what you'd like to do for a living, if anything. If you can envision how you want to spend your days (in a state park? a nice office? with kids? or animals? building things? taking pictures? etc etc) you can begin to get a fix on:
1. Which geographic locations will be conducive to the life you want to lead, or the sights you want to see.
2. Which cities or towns or areas might provide jobs in the fields you have interest in.
posted by arcanecrowbar at 2:30 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Be careful. Tread lightly. Sometimes the urge to chuck it all, burn one's bridges and start over can be very dangerous (I speak from experience) if one is not careful. Don't set your expectations too high: focus on getting some kind of job for income, b/c $2500 will dry up pretty quick that's for sure. Good luck and God bless.
posted by ornate insect at 2:33 PM on April 1, 2009

Alaska is full of people who did what you are contemplating (well, not "full" as in crowded, but you know what I mean). Whether it's a good choice is another question altogether. But if you up and move to Alaska, you won't be the only one there with your backstory.
posted by The World Famous at 2:33 PM on April 1, 2009

I don't have a specific city in mind for you... but you should evaluate how easily you will get a job in your new city vs. how expensive it is to live in a bigger city with more jobs.
posted by cranberrymonger at 2:35 PM on April 1, 2009

Housing prices never got crazy in Texas. You could go someplace with a decent college and get a second bachelor's or look at a master's degree. San Marcos is close to San Antonio and Austin, two of my favorite cities.

Can you tell us what size town you might like?
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:36 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know that they're the butt of jokes often, but I always enjoy the hell out of North and South Dakota. Small towns, (very very) inexpensive living, lots of job opportunities due to an aging population.

Eastern ND and NE SD are heaven on Earth.
posted by unixrat at 2:36 PM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

I can tell you from personal experience that if you move to a small town (less than 8,000 peeps) and become actively involved with the community you won't just become a face in the crowd. But, after a while people will get to know you, and know everything about you, after 2-3 years you completely lose your anonymity, and you have to deal with the consequences this brings.

If it were me I'd move to a place were everything was within walking distance, and the first thing I would do would be to sell my car. In fact, I would sell my car even before going there so that I didn't risk it breaking down on the way there. A broken down car could easily cost you a significant amount of your $2,500.
posted by furtive at 2:37 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

What day is today?

If you really want to start anew why not go somewhere nice like the Virgin Islands?
posted by caddis at 2:37 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Remember one thing: When you run away from yourself, when you finally get somewhere, there you will be. Make sure you have an action plan for how you are going to change yourself - not only your environment.
posted by emilyw at 2:40 PM on April 1, 2009 [20 favorites]

Quite a romantic idea.

Don't do it.

Why? Well for starters, your family is your family. You don't get to choose them. You can choose to cut them out of your life, but you can't start over there by just packing up and moving out. Sometimes that can help, but if things are going to get better you (and your family) need to work at it. Running away doesn't solve most of those problems. As it sounds like you're trying to get away from yourself rather than anyone who poses a particular danger to you, remember that "Wherever you go, there you are." I don't think anyone has invented a mode of transportation that travels faster than regret, and I highly doubt you're going to be the one to do it.

Second, you're in your early twenties. There are people two and three times your age who have made far worse mistakes than you could contemplate who worked things out without fleeing the scene of their "crimes". Seriously, you're way too young to have reached such a drastic conclusion. The idea that you have somehow messed up your life worse than anyone else has displays a degree of self-absorption which may go a ways towards explaining the mistakes/relationships you're running from.

Third, $2500? Really? And you expect to live for how long on that? I give you six months at the absolute maximum, unless you can find a job before then. And good luck with that, particularly if you're dropping on someplace new out of thin air, not knowing anyone. This is really, really hard to make work unless you've already got a job lined up. And you don't.

Fourth, and related to #3, you're already living in the cheapest place in the US. Housing and food prices in the Midwest are, by national standards, about as cheap as you're likely to find. Parts of the South can be comparable, but seriously, if you're looking for an inexpensive place to live you've probably already found it. Move out of your parents house if you have to, but if you're looking to save money you're headed in exactly the wrong direction.

Fifth, You've got a college degree. Sure, your field is useless (I don't need to ask what it is; most of them are), but that alone will get you in places that would be out of your reach if you didn't have it. Now's not the best time to be looking for a job, but if you ditch everything now you're far more likely to spend the next ten years marginally and/or underemployed than if you stick it out and keep in touch with your existing social resources.

In short, take a deep breath, have a drink or two (if that's your thing), get a good night's sleep, and chill the f*ck out. Also, get over yourself. You aren't the first person to have messed up their life or relationships, and you won't be the first person to survive it.
posted by valkyryn at 2:41 PM on April 1, 2009 [20 favorites]

Columbia, Missouri: it was rated as one of the best places to live in the United States some years back. Some spoilage may have occurred via the "call some place 'Paradise' and kiss it goodbye" principle. It's a college town, about as moderate as weather as you can expect from Missouri. I was struck, during my visits, at how happy the entire town seemed. People are very friendly. Fantastic bands come through and play often, some who even manage to miss St. Louis entirely. Housing is relatively cheap. It's not even two hours' drive from St. Louis, so if you needed something from a larger city, it wouldn't be a bad trip.
posted by adipocere at 2:41 PM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

No matter how hard you try, you'll never be able to run away from yourself.
posted by baphomet at 2:44 PM on April 1, 2009 [16 favorites]

I think this is a bad idea, but your life is not my life. However, if you do choose to do this, please let your family know that you are leaving voluntarily, of your own free will, and that they should not report you missing. If you don't care about your family worrying over you, think about the public resources that will be wasted on trying to trace you, which would be better spent elsewhere.

Read Into the Wild to see how this kind of mindset can affect the people you leave behind.

And on preview, what valkyryn said.
posted by andraste at 2:50 PM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Come to Chicago. Not, on the surface of it, the friendliest place, but it really can be once you get to know it.

1. Housing can be super-cheap if you are willing to live on the far north, south, or west sides of the city (room in Pilsen ~300/month, sometimes less). If you want to find a community, I recommend a housing co-op. Memail me and I'll recommend some.

2. It's not the best job market, here or anywhere, but all the college grads I know are at least making enough to pay the bills. It's a big city so you have lots of options. Plus, once you figure out what you want to do in a more career-oriented way, you are guaranteed to find some opportunities here.

3. Lots of young people, in a variety of fun cultural scenes, most of whom are pretty friendly. Not the whole small-town-know-everyone feeling - plenty of room to explore and figure out what kind of person you want to be, what kinds of friends you want to have.
posted by mai at 2:52 PM on April 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

Come out west (Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, NorCal, Washington). Still relatively good economy, beautiful landscapes, great people.
posted by nameless.k at 3:00 PM on April 1, 2009

Your relationships are salvageable. What you are planning is not a good idea.

Moving? Sure. But burning every single bridge? I'm pretty sure you don't actually need to do that.

If you committed some major transgression(s) against your entire family & social circle, well- even the most utterly heinous assholes I know could get back into my good graces with a sincere apology that honestly detailed that they understand that what they did sucked. I would forgive them if I saw them make genuine (even if imperfect) attempts to make it up & not perpetuate whatever bad behaviour caused the problems in the first place. Therapy + honesty and decency moving forwards. No matter what you did, most people will forgive you if you genuinely try to deserve their forgiveness.

If on the other hand, you feel that they all did something(s) to you, well, frankly that sounds like the drama-queeny whine of someone who wants to be a victim, and probably impossible. Everyone you know wronged you? I don't believe that, and if you do, you should also seek therapy.

But anyway, after you make amends or knock the chip off your own shoulder, moving might still be a good idea for your own psychological well-being, so as for friendly places to live, how about Halifax, Nova Scotia? It's smallish but culturally fairly rich, has nice friendly people and you can go camping by the ocean.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:05 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Even if you have one friend or family to turn to, one person that cares for you, don't go. Even then, don't go. Running away and avoiding causes more stress, not less. It doesn't look like you have a whole lot of funds to carry you through a stressful relocation. Other people have relocated with much less but I don't think you're in the right frame of mind to make a big move.

You're immersed in your own problems at the moment. Other people are immersed in theirs. You're probably not in the minds of the people you have supposedly burned. It's okay to lay low in the town you're in and learn from your mistakes. It's more prudent to stay and surround yourself with people that do care for you. Doing so cushions the heartache and makes your problems seem less significant. You're panicking right now. You're probably embarrassed and anxious and you want to flee because you think this will solve your problems. You can't fill a hole by running away from it.

If you do decide to leave I would suggest relocating to a place where friends or family live, if possible.
posted by Fairchild at 3:08 PM on April 1, 2009

Unless you killed a hooker or something, I would not suggest carrying through with it. I had a good friend who did this, and came to live with me and it turned out horrible for him, besides the fact that be burned all sorts of bridges doing it.

But since you have probably already decided, go to Upstate NY. Everyone is bitter there, and the towns are tiny. Everyone pretty much hates everyone so you won't have people "getting in your biz". Where I grew up there were 5 houses within a mile of me. It wasn't uncommon not to see a neighbor for quite a long time.

If I had a little more money saved up, and it was me, I would consider someplace nice outside of the US. Go Expat on this mother and try to find something there to do.

If you want a nice, IMHO cheap place to live, I love Ohio.
I'm about a hour away from two pretty decently sized cities if I need something, and the town I live in is pretty small.
posted by JonnyRotten at 3:18 PM on April 1, 2009

This is more common than you can imagine.

Of course I'm partial, as you'll notice from my name here, but... welcome to Houston! No, seriously.

I'll give you the downside first, just to be fair: It's hot here. And humid. Also, although we have some pretty spots, we are not known as a beautiful town. Oh, and although we have public transportation (Metro buses), we are predominately a city that uses cars, because we are very spread out (and we haven't built much public transport yet).

Ok, now I'll give you the sales pitch: We have a low cost of living, and it's easier to find a job in a city our size. We are very diverse. People are generally friendly and welcoming (in part because we are so diverse, I think).

We have excellent restaurants. We have parks and such just like prettier towns. This is a city where you can make it -- you can get a job, put a roof over your head and food on your table, find a community of like-minded people (regardless of what that means to you... we even have liberals here although that's a well-kept secret).

We have the cultural items you'd find in most big cities -- museums, concerts, ballets, rodeo, whatever.

We have services needed to support a big city -- some of the best hospitals (Texas Medical Center), some of the best shopping (Galleria)... and so on. Really, if you like it, you'll probably find it in Houston.

And you get to say "y'all"! :)
posted by Houstonian at 3:20 PM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

Do it. Seriously. Too many people are wedded, irrationally, to relationships and communities that have grown toxic for them.

If you decide it was a mistake, you can always go back to family and friends. But this is worth a try.

I like the suggestion of the Virgin Islands. To stay below people's radar, try to live a life that does not get your name listed on web sites. Too many things these days get your name on a website and ruin any possibility of anonymity.

Wherever you go, you can explain your desire for anonymity and privacy by saying you are trying to start over and need your privacy to avoid an abusive/obsessive former relationship, and leave it at that.
posted by jayder at 3:21 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Darwin in the Northern Territory is famous for being home to people who chuck it all away and try to start again. Especially before Cyclone Tracy (in 1974) it was notorious for being the place you'd go in Australia if you wanted to be too far away from your problems for anyone to bother to go looking for you.

Of course since then it's gotten a lot more civilised, but it still has the reputation for being a tropical multicultural version of Bogart's Casablanca, but with crocodiles, and no Nazis. The beer is cheap, people don't ask too many questions, and it's surrounded by absolutely beautiful National Parks.

I'd go to Darwin.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:22 PM on April 1, 2009

Life Needs a Reset Button

Yeah. Too bad it doesn't have one... Totally sucks sometimes.

But, you absolutely can go somewhere new and have a new adventure. And being in your twenties is a great time to explore new parts of the country (or the world) and see what else is out there for you. So by all means take a trip to a new place and give it a go. Just don't expect everything to be different, and don't cut off all contact with your past, since it might end up being useful to have them to get in touch with if things don't end up going the way you hope.

As for where you should go, you're a free woman. You can go absolutely anywhere - why not just start looking for jobs or start driving and see where you land? All you'll get from people online is places they liked; you'll find out what you like by exploring them yourself.

Unless you are looking for something specific - a college-y town? (Madison, WI, or Ann Arbor MI etc). A not too expensive but still cool city? (Austin, Boulder, maybe outside Boston or DC?) Or really just anytown USA?
posted by mdn at 3:24 PM on April 1, 2009

If someone I knew personally (presumably a rather young person) were thinking of this, I would advise them to go somewhere in the third world and do volunteer work helping the poor. It would help that person to get outside of their own head and realize that their own problems are not the center of the universe.
posted by matildaben at 3:24 PM on April 1, 2009 [15 favorites]

I don't approve or disapprove of your decision either way, but I was going to nth Texas for cheap housing and cheap cost of living. Somewhere by Houston would have lots of opportunities. I prefer Austin to Houston a great deal, but it's a bit more expensive and there are fewer job opportunities. (Well, generally fewer, since I don't know what field you'd be in. However, as a fellow person with a useless undergrad degree, if you're looking for general office work, or retail or food service work, you'll have better luck in Houston.)

Houston weather sucks, just so you know. I miss the constant rain personally, but when it's not raining it's usually really hot and really humid. We had a few weeks of nice weather the past couple months and that was a rarity noted by everyone. If you want to work outside, or have outdoor hobbies, well, I hope you're a viking. Austin has sort of better weather: it doesn't get quite as humid, but it does get just as hot, just not for as long as Houston stays hot. Austin is tons prettier and has more outdoors recreation.
posted by Nattie at 3:31 PM on April 1, 2009

Join the Peace Corps.
posted by fructose at 3:34 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Instead of simply relocating to a different area, why not apply to teach English abroad, join Americorps, or join the Peace Corps? Any of those programs would allow you a simple way to get away and "start over" for a year or two while also building skills and doing some good as you sort out your life and what you want to do with it.

A short term adventure job might also be fun - is a good starting point if you'd love to spend some time working on a ranch or in the remote wilderness.
posted by susanvance at 3:40 PM on April 1, 2009 [8 favorites]

Wow. A lot of judgment here. You said:

"I've decided to leave my friends and family"

and somehow people extrapolated "burning bridges" and never talking to any of these people ever again. if that is what you're planning, i would say maybe be careful, but then I don't know your circumstances.

if you just mean, "I want to move to a new place," then great! I moved to L.A. ten years ago now, after I finished college. At the point I left I had no one left I considered a real friend. I have never been close with my family. I still talk to them, and occasionally go back for Christmas, but there's no sense in listening to the "OMG YOU ONLY GET ONE FAMILY YOU MUST CHERISH THEM!!!!" blanket statements. Only you know your family, and whether they are worth staying in touch with.

For me, it was by far the best decision of my life. I have new friends here who are like family now. It did take a while to find them, but now I am reaping the rewards. I knew zero people in the entire Western US when I moved. So:

don't burn bridges, but I highly recommend doing what I did- both in general, and moving to L.A. in particular. I don't know anywhere else that combines this level of cosmopolitianness (is that a word?) and diversity with amazingly friendly people, great weather every day of the year, and more nature within an hour's drive than you can shake a stick at.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:54 PM on April 1, 2009

I did this. It is difficult at times, but was the right decision for me. I went to California. I recommend one coast or the other. Have some savings, and get your ass in gear as soon as you "land".

It's not a vacation from life, it's a new life, and it's going to be as hard as the old one.
posted by thatbrunette at 3:58 PM on April 1, 2009

If you have a friend in another city, go stay with them until you can find a job in that city and move out on your own. I can't imagine anywhere worth living where $2500 will get you into an apartment and hold you over until you find a job.
posted by gnutron at 3:59 PM on April 1, 2009

N-thing volunteer work. You get a guaranteed roof over your head and a couple hot meals a day. That's all you really need if you're hell-bent on walking the Earth. Well, that, and purpose. Which is another good reason for volunteer work.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:00 PM on April 1, 2009

@ adipocere/OP: All things considered, you may not want to come to Columbia, Missouri. Things have changed and not all for the better. It really helps to have a master's degree to get a decent job and housing prices have stayed stable, but I would not call the market affordable, especially for someone in your situation.
posted by Coyote at the Dog Show at 4:22 PM on April 1, 2009

Seattle or Portland. Mountains, ocean, outdoorsy, creative, nice. It's where I'd go.

I might go now.
posted by mishamashes at 4:27 PM on April 1, 2009

I agree with Jayder that too many people get tied up in a place that's bad for them.

I don't agree with burning bridges, but then again, your post didn't suggest to me that you were planning to. You say you've already made mistakes. I do agree with everyone who is telling you not to worry your friends and family by simply disappearing. Maybe write letters to people who are important, apologizing for said mistakes, and telling them that you are leaving to stay with a friend or something like that. You may not want to come back, you may want to. So no bridge-burning.

I don't think Peace Corps is a terrible idea but . . . when you're done, you'll just be coming back home again, you know? I see why you want to build a real life for yourself in a new place. Peace Corps doesn't really do that. But, they DO give you money when you return in order to help you re-adjust back to your life- i think $6000 or something. Maybe you could apply now, and while you wait to hear back and get your assignment, road trip around to see what places you like. Then when your volunteer service is up, take your $6000 and your new attitude and start your life where you want it.

If Peace Corps is NOT for you . . . well, in a way you are lucky to be young and female because you can probably get a high-turnover job like waitressing or bartending pretty easily. In my experience, they just want to hire people with wide-open schedules so . . . if that's you, at least you could probably get by on waitressing til you get a "real" job (if you want one.) I think with the crappy economy, the best places for the service industry are touristy spots. If you work at a bar in a reasonably-sized college town you could also probably make a decent amount of money but be able to find somewhere cheap to live. Orlando comes to mind, for example- you could do weekdays waitressing at Disney resorts, and work the college bar (is it UCF?) scene on the weekends. Just please don't resort to stripping, unless you promise to save all the money you make and not spend it on meth. Ok, just kidding about stripping. But I spend a good chunk of my 20's waitressing and honestly, I really loved it. If you find a good place it can be a lot of fun, and good money to tide you over until you find something more stable. Good luck to you, and be safe and careful.
posted by lblair at 4:30 PM on April 1, 2009

The phrase, "wherever you go, there you are" seems relevant here. If you tend to create a life that is unpleasant to you and/or others, you will create that life wherever you decide to live.
posted by Piscean at 4:32 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Do you have a dream?
posted by amtho at 5:21 PM on April 1, 2009

Sometimes, moving is the best idea ever. We don't all have perfect families and perfect lives. A restart can be wonderful. Then again, that's easy for me to say since I had a career that took me from city to city every other year through the 90s. I grew to love the change.

I sold just about everything I owned and moved from Dallas TX to Portland OR in the summer of 2002. I've lived here ever since and I've never been happier (although, I'll admit that Seattle, NYC and San Francisco seem to call my name every now and then).

Portland isn't exactly cheap, but mass transit is so good here that you won't need a car... which means, no car expenses whatsoever, including insurance. Plus, Portland is awesome :)
posted by 2oh1 at 5:29 PM on April 1, 2009

If I were to chuck it all (and I've considered it many times), I'd move to a kibbutz.
posted by charlesv at 5:39 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, I don't know. Seems a bit en par for the age despite the nay-sayers.

Economy or not, thousands of early 20-something adventurers and ambitious souls move here to New York city with a college degree, find a place on Craigslist or (look specifically for places that need roommates) and then register with notable temping agencies. Have a WPM of at least 55 WPM, two crisp nice **black** (hey, this IS New York) suits (I'd go with Banana Republic or Ann Taylor / Ann Taylor Loft for something that looks nice but costs less) a nice looking resume (yours isn't expected to be extensive at your age) and you can also wait tables or find a job in retail and guess what? You're a newly transplanted New Yorker. You might have to do some juggling that only 20-something year olds can do but welcome!

Personally, I'd try to have at least $5,000-6,000 saved which should keep you enough pay rent for a while (try to keep your rent under $700 even if you have to 'tough it' with many roommates).

Reach out to all of your old college friends in case someone knows someone in this city (I bet networking sites / facebook is great for this) who can help you get settled or even a job prospect.

Sell your car if you're planning upon coming to NYC. You'll need the money more than you'll be able to keep the expense of a car. It would rival the expense of keeping yourself here.

I wouldn't present it to anyone in your current life as 'breaking away' as opposed to 'life is too short, carpe diem!'

... then buy yourself a tourist guide to New York and start to get to know this big apple.

Hm, this story sounds awfully familiar... oh yeah! I did it too!
posted by eatdonuts at 6:13 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a middle ground you could do some sort of a huge, adrenalin pumping 3-4 month summer adventure where you really push your limits. You will come out with such a different perspective on everything that it can really empower you.

$2500, unfortunately will not go far with first and last, car, job hunting, etc. I see it lasting about 2 months.


Life Needs a Reset Button

Yeah. Too bad it doesn't have one... Totally sucks sometimes.

Every morning we wake up is the reset button.
posted by Vaike at 6:20 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think OP may have done a bit of disservice to this thread if she didn't mean she was going to pick up and leave without a trace, because that's how the posting does read.

However, eatdonuts comment about moving to NYC made me nostalgic for about five years ago, even though back then it often felt like hell. I've had to pick myself up several times over since I've been here. Every time I fall, New York helps me start over. I love this city.
posted by sweetkid at 6:27 PM on April 1, 2009

Yeah sweetkid, me too! I love New York and would share my love with anyone.

Of course, no one should forget the sage advice of the city: "Move to New York to grow, leave New York before it makes you hard."

Then again, after over a decade, I'm still in love with our fair corner of the world. Truly this place is not so hard as your best can accomplish.
posted by eatdonuts at 6:31 PM on April 1, 2009

My mama always used to say, "You are the only person you have to live with for the rest of your life." And it's true. So I moved across the country and got good and comfortable with myself.

I now live thousands (or at least plenty of hundreds) of miles away from my relatives and childhood friends. I landed in Philadelphia. It's plenty affordable. It is a very large village.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:44 PM on April 1, 2009

There are still plenty of cheap places to live in Columbia, MO (many of the neighborhoods near the campus are of course NOT CHEAP.) These neighborhoods are comparable in makeup to the neighborhoods you could afford anywhere else. There are jobs, albeit in food service (memail me,) but shit you're running away, you don't need a great job right off the bat, just food and shelter.

If you enjoy an adventure, sell everything that doesn't fit in a backpack and hitchhike around. Visit old friends, go to cities you've always wanted to visit, sleep in National Forests. Eat leftovers at outdoor cafes, homeless shelters, eat out of dumpsters. I understand not all people with the wanderlust are this hard core, but you learn a lot about yourself on the road.

Have fun and be safe!
posted by schyler523 at 7:11 PM on April 1, 2009

I basically did this myself six months ago. I had a job lined up beforehand though and didn't leave until I had the exact job I wanted. The first five months of the new life were fabulous and I've made amazing new friends and love my job tremendously but I find I miss the people who loved me enough to drive me crazy. I moved ten hours away which is too far when the inevitable homesickness kicks in.

I totally understand the need to leave the midwestern bubble but I would suggest not straying too far away. That way when life kicks you in the teeth, the people who know and love you best aren't more than a car ride away.
posted by justlisa at 7:14 PM on April 1, 2009

What day is today?

If you really want to start anew why not go somewhere nice like the Virgin Islands?
posted by caddis at 5:37 PM on April 1 [1 favorite +] [!]

... I like the suggestion of the Virgin Islands. ...
posted by jayder at 6:21 PM on April 1 [2 favorites +] [!]

I did exactly this (except I brought my wife with me) and while I love where I live (St Thomas) and if I had to do it all over again I would without a doubt, the Virgin Islands would be a bad idea given your situation and requirements. Don't get me wrong this is a very popular place for people who are looking to pack it all in and move to a completely new place, we get a steady stream of transplants almost all (especially in your age group) of whom could have written your question word for word. Some manage to build a very cool life for themselves but the majority spend 6 months to a year getting wasted daily, scraping by on subsistence wages, then return to where they came from.

Some reasons why I do not recommend it for you: First off because of the transitory nature of the population people are slow to welcome newcomers into their social-circle - investing time and energy into building a friendship with someone who has a good chance of disappearing in few months gets old fast. It's sad but one of my good friends says "if you haven't been here for five years I'm not even interested in knowing your name" he isn't alone in this opinion and I understand exactly where he is coming from. Second it is absolutely the worst time of year to find a job - we are a tourist based economy and season is coming to an end which means that jobs are ending now. Many people are leaving island (as happens every year) and the remaining jobs will go to people who are already on island (employers will always give preference to someone already familiar with the island.) Third the VI is definitely NOT inexpensive! Everything here that is not a mango, fish, or coconut, came here by boat or plane from somewhere else, basically add 25% onto the cost of every consumer good before retailers' markup (which is generally pretty high.) Rents for a one bedroom apartment in a decent part of the island will generally be $1000+. This is also not a good place to not have a car and they are very expensive both to buy and operate here. Lastly once you are here even leaving is more complicated than somewhere on the mainland.

The Virgin Islands are awesome and I am constantly urging people to move here, but it is a move that requires a lot of planning and more capital than you have at the moment. I would love to have more Mefites here and anyone who wants tips on coming here to visit or live are welcome to Mefi Mail me, but I have seen too many people just show up here and have it end badly.
posted by Bango Skank at 7:50 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

A southern college town to start out. You can move from there if you must. They will be small towns with large populations that are transient into which you can blend easily. Cost of living will be reasonable if you try to live as an impoverished student. Just moving won't rid you of these people though. You need to launder your identity. No credit or debit cards. Cash only for a while. Your bank account can be traced. Cash your paycheck at a currency exchange. Pay your bills there too if you can.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:33 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

go work at a hotel in a national park like yellowstone-instant roof and food -pay sucks-but a lot o' room to think and a great way to meet people your age and hear about where they lived/or are returning to after this. don't burn bridges-just leave with a smile and a wave.
posted by donabean at 10:01 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You need to launder your identity. No credit or debit cards. Cash only for a while. Your bank account can be traced. Cash your paycheck at a currency exchange. Pay your bills there too if you can.

I like JohnnyGunn's way of thinking. Very Loompanics. It's almost like you're going to live like an undocumented immigrant.
posted by jayder at 10:08 PM on April 1, 2009

When I was 21, 7 years ago, I picked up from Northern CA and moved to NYC. It was awesome. I had about 4000$ and was able to live off that for about 2 months while I looked for a job. I only stayed for a year before family called me back (an illness in the family) but I think I would have stayed forever if I hadn't left.

I keep looking at Brooklyn apartment listings every once in a while and I think they're cheaper now then they were then. But Someone mentioned Philadelphia a few posts up and I would second that. I spent the summer there last year and it's a really great city, and very inexpensive too, at least compared to NY and SF. I might go back there for good someday. It seems easier to meet people in Philadelphia than in NY of SF. And it seems that the people there are flattered that someone might go there even though the place doesn't get talked up a lot.

Also teaching English abroad sounds like a great option for someone in your situation. I've heard of nothing but good experiences. And it might be some experience in another field that will make your degree feel less useless.
posted by Brachiosaurus at 10:13 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I heartily recommend teaching English overseas. For whatever reason you've decided to leave friends and family, a 24 hour plane trip 7000 - 8000 miles away across the world does wonders to leave past things in the past. For those people you might wish to reconnect with? Skype and Gmail are great. MeMail me if you'd like more advice about the process. I also write extensively about life in Korea ( - personal blog, no commercial motivation) - hope there's something that can help :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 11:17 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can easily open up a bank account with just your middle and last names. Just do that, odds are unless you have a very uncommon last name, you won't be traced to it.
posted by Precision at 11:25 PM on April 1, 2009

My suspicion is that
once you get to the new
place that you'll reproduce
the circumstances that are
causing you to want to leave
this place in the first place.

Try to fix things there,
and then, if you really feel
like moving on, move on.
posted by Sully at 11:25 PM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

I did it when I was your age. I had less money than you do. I moved all the way across the country (from Virginia to Oregon) with nothing but what I could pack in two suitcases. It totally rocked. I found a job and made friends who turned into family. I've returned home since. Even moved back for a while. But eventually returned to the Pacific NW because it now feels like home. Getting away from my home town was probably the best thing I ever did. Eugene, OR is an easy place to be poor. Alaska sounds okay. I like Burlington, Vermont too. It's a difficult time to be unemployed. I'd keep that in mind. It's unlikely you'll find a job very quickly and you will run out of money.

My advice is this: This is the only time in your life when you're likely to have the freedom to just take off. If you're ever going to do it, you'd better do it now.

Good luck. You'll learn that the ghosts chasing you at home are the same ghosts you'll find where ever you go. That's just the way it works. You can't run from yourself. Without significant therapy and serious work, we're pre-wired to fuck up the same exact way over and over and over again.

Regardless, You'll have an adventure and adventures are cool.
posted by dchrssyr at 11:56 PM on April 1, 2009

I have never met anyone who's horizon's weren't expanded by leaving the country they were born in. Myself included. Some return to their country of origin with a new perspective on their home country/town, others never return. Even the people who had bad experiences rarely regret going once enough years have passed since the event has taken place. Nothing teaches you more about yourself than going to a place where the culture, people and locations are alien to you.

I tend to plan things in year-long chunks. Personal experience (compulsory military service) has taught me that I can take anything, no matter how shit, for a year. Being somewhere for a month or two won't really reveal the true nature of the place or your role in it. That's a holiday. A year includes the honeymoon, the arguments and the acceptance of the reality that is somewhere in between.

Also, remember that it's ok not to always have a plan for your life.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:30 AM on April 2, 2009

A college buddy of mine did the same, moved to No Cal interned at Solar Living Institute, then worked in a bakery for a while, then lived on an organic commune, then moved to Peru and worked on getting organic agriculture cert for local farmers, then followed the hugging saint around the country. This was interspersed with meditation retreats. All in about 4 years.

A number of other need-perspective friends taught English in the world or joined Americorp. They just got a bunch of stimulus money, so maybe give that a shot.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:09 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

You haven't given nearly enough detail about what/where you're interested in. The why is not part of your question and all the users telling/asking you about it are probably well intentioned but missing the point of your question.

That said, I can't recommend Africa highly enough - particularly Eastern or Southern, but there's plenty of great places in Western as well. So I'm nthing those "go volunteer / peace corps" answers. You're young and unconstrained and now is the time to see the world and get new perspectives.

Regarding what little you do give in the way of direction:

1) Degree in useless field? That equals very highly educated over here. You have a skill you can teach people.

2) Not much money? Its not cheap getting here, but once you do, you can live on a couple of dollars a day or less, depending on your standards of living. Most people live on that little or less, and not by choice. Its completely possible.

3) Friendly. To a fault, over here.

If you really, really want a re-start, I can guarantee this continent will give you one.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:10 AM on April 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Am I the only wondering if "my family" means husband and kids?

Because that seems sort of relevant to how to answer this question.
posted by the bricabrac man at 5:53 AM on April 2, 2009

posted by snowjoe at 2:33 PM on April 2, 2009

I think Portland, OR and Austin, TX are the standard answers to questions like this.

But if you're looking for something different, I'd suggest one of the many random college towns that dot the rural US. The town where I went to school was almost utopian for a young, rootless person -- cheap rent, cheap food, cheap booze, a generally liberal atmosphere (even in a red state!), and an abundance of attractive potential sex partners.

Sure, places like this don't usually have a great economy, but you don't sound particularly career-driven, anyway.

Another idea would be to check out some money-heavy resort town. Someplace where people ski or snowboard or surf or some shit like that. You can make good money in places like that, and probably meet a lot of others in the same boat.

Similarly, I had a friend who spent some time working in a national park, and she said it was one of the best times of her life.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:32 PM on April 2, 2009

.... and apparently adipocere has been to my old college town. See! I'm not making this shit up.

But seriously, I'm sure there are plenty of towns like Columbia. Just look for a town with a student population of ~25,000, where the university is the dominant employer.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:39 PM on April 2, 2009

Money is your largest constraint, and $2500 is hardly enough for this sort of undertaking.

I suggest to save up until you have around $5000 if possible.
posted by joewandy at 7:58 PM on April 4, 2009

« Older Help me turn my contract job into a real job!   |   Ankle fusion surgery? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.