How many times have you contemplated heading to the nearest airport and booking a one-way ticket to elsewhere? How many times have you actually gone through with it? If you haven’t, not even once, that’s probably because you don’t take the option seriously, pathologizing it as an escapist delusion. It isn’t. You may object, arguing that finances keep you local, but we’re not talking about glamorous holidays here—more like emigration, which even the most impoverished people do when they must.
You deserve a fresh start, especially when you truly need one. Life is short and even those who reincarnate don’t return as themselves proper. Your existential finitude justifies the ostensibly rash decision to skip town. Sure, you might be judged by your circle, but soon enough you’ll be free of all that; optionally, you can even take this opportunity to cut ties with those who bring you down, texting something about keeping in touch before you take off, blocking numbers after landing, vowing to be more socially selective this time around.
The difference between relocation and relocation therapy rests in the after-the-fact outcomes: looking back, was moving therapeutic or not? Even the most cleverly designed trip could end in disaster—freedom is itself therapeutic, until it isn’t; the farther you go, the less control you’ll have, so anything could happen. On the flipside, an improvised shift could by sheer luck be beneficial. “The wrong train can take you to the right station” is an affirmative proverb from India, and is depicted well in the best film I watched there: Lion. Just because the qualification of a trip as “relocation therapy” is retrospective doesn’t mean that there aren’t measures you can take along the way, mostly beforehand, to help ensure that your experience will improve your quality of life; it all boils down to this: intentionality.
There’s a fair chance you’ve heard of intentional communities. They’re not exactly common, but they’re around. To be honest, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what exactly they mean by “intentional.” This is going to make me sound hella New Age, but I currently interpret intentionality as “4D mindfulness,” meaning mindful consciousness that, like visualizing and visioning, accounts for time: i.e., the future. The purpose of this three-part series—before, during and after—which is basically a self-reported case study, is to make “intentional travel” more tangible and defined as a legitimate form of healing, instead of an abstractly obscure concept or even joke.
After two years in New Delhi, I moved to New York City this past spring. Unlike past instances of migration, this could not be called therapeutic relocation, if mindfulness is the cornerstone of intentionality and intentionality is what separates relocation therapy apart from normal trips, holidays, semesters abroad, or what have you. It’s not so much that I didn’t set intentions—friends, funds and family (FFF) as it were; digging deeper, the problem was likely that the FFF outcomes I hoped for were all external and therefore largely out of my control. Also, they were only marginally related to healing.
Am I unconsciously alluding to the fight-flight-freeze response—also “FFF”—too? If so, who/what were the triggers? Depression? Heartbreak? Poverty?
At one point I was thriving as an expat but the life I put together in India was a house of cards. There are quite a lot of people there, and I knew plenty of them, but they were all new. My eagerness to flee came and went throughout my second year, but peaked toward the end, at which point I was maxing out more and more credit cards on my fledgling businesses. There was only one reason I would have stuck around, but she didn’t want anything to do with me.
The timing was bad—it always is with her. I had just launched a crowdfunding campaign, which as you can see clearly in my press release, I was pretty exciting about after taking months to prepare, before she became single for the first time in a long time, and once again pretended to sweep me off my feet. As if visiting her in Dubai wasn’t enough of a distraction during an important time, when she took back her recent invitation to spend the summer with her, or even visit her there again, a part of me died—call it soul loss. It was time to go, despite the large opportunity cost: transitioning when I should have been promoting. The campaign, while technically successful was collateral mediocrity.
The point is that the FFF Freudian slip checks out; if, spiritually dying, I was abandoning a sinking ship, it figures that I didn’t have the calm wherewithal to mindfully structure the relocation, the way they do in intentional—also known as planned—communities. Easy come, easy go—no the opposite of that; my hard landing in India was followed by an inelegant exit, far from the triumphant return to the States on which my heart was set.
Unfortunately, living in NYC in my thirties provided an experience quite distinct from my time there in my twenties; I’m not sure why, but even my single friends weren’t able to find much time for me. It did help things financially and I was able to get plenty of quality time with family, so there’s that, and that. Still, there were times when my phone wouldn’t ring or buzz for five days straight—ouch.
That’s when I started using my weekends to work on the novel and two memoirs I’m conceiving, serendipitously read the Philosophy of Solitude, and realized that loneliness is just social withdrawal. Once you get through the hangover, isolation can become sweet and sacred if you cherish rather than detest it. I began to fantasize about a cabin in New England, with a fireplace, where I could go into an undisturbed trance, writing my ass off all winter. Then I realized I might lose my frail sanity altogether in such extreme, overcompensatory, conditions.
Speaking of socializing, I’ve been a bad boy, a terrible judge of character with a long list of betrayals to prove it. I thought that was behind me. It’s been almost two years since it last happened, when my good friend and business partner embezzled all the revenue from our newest startup and ceased communications. Sadly, something similar has happened again. I met a young man named Sam, who moved to NYC this fall. He reminded me of a younger version of myself—there’s a red flag for you—and didn’t know anyone yet so I took him under my wing. I’ve always been a bit self-destructive but, unlike me, Sam is a danger to others. The perfect match right? Within two months he got one of my best friends evicted, got me fired from my summer job, and got my newish Macbook stolen. He comes from a wealthy family and knew that I’m hanging on by a mere thread financially, so it hurt when he refused to help me get a new computer. Things got ugly when he threatened to pay someone to beat me up, which is why there’s now a warrant for his arrest. No one assaulted me but, as it always does, NY nonetheless dealt me another hard blow; I should have seen it coming but the first two laptops New Yorkers stole from me weren’t quite as inconvenient as the third.
“Fuck it. I’m moving to Miami.” I wonder how many people have said or thought those exact words and what percentage of them felt ashamed, conflating migration and defeat. There’s no shame in my game, or lack thereof. New York hates me and only a fool volunteers to endure passive persecution.
It’s the start of 2020, so it’s a good time to make changes. I see others doing so all around me right now: e.g., my best mate and his fiancée ended their eight-year engagement today. New locations, like new years, provide punctuation. We can make changes anytime but for big adjustments to stick, strategic timing can be key. Most of us struggle with mind-over-matter discipline, so we need to manipulate ourselves. When conscious determination isn’t enough, temporal punctuation signifies to our unconscious self that it’s go-time; with our whole being invested and harmoniously intent, even those of us without much willpower stand a chance.
So why Miami? It was not an easy decision. I know you’re thinking that I chose Florida in order to escape the New York winter, but that was only a minor factor in the equation. The Northeast is cold and yet the Southeast is more chill, and then there’s the lower cost of living. I’d been to Miami Beach twice, and grew curious about what the townie experience would be like. I believe everyone’s city is energetically behind or against them and I’d like find somewhere that I fit, the way I almost did in San Francisco, and I figure I’ll just keep uprooting until I find the one. Actually, I already did—it’s Valparaiso—but I need to save up and improve my Spanish if I’m to return to South America, which is indeed the plan; for now, Miami will do if that makes sense. Most importantly, I’m too old and neurotic to deal with flatmates nowadays, with which I’d be endlessly cursed in NY. After two years of living like a king overseas, it’s not easy taking steps backwards; relative to New Delhi and New York City, Miami is more of a sidestepping stumble.
There will be blood, bloodshed representing mishaps. You just blew up your former life—what’d you expect? You will get horribly lost at some point on your journey. Once you get to your new place you’ll realize that you lost your brand-new salt and pepper grinders during the move and, on your way to replace them, you’ll break your only pair of sunglasses. You know that life is what happens between plan-making, that all changes expose you to risk. You can’t let that stop you, because of all the growth available beyond your comfort zone, but you can keep it in mind so as to not get flustered, the way I did upon arriving.
It’s Sunday and I’m riding solo at a bar in Wynwood, Miami’s Williamsburg—supposedly hipster that is. It’s not like I’m the only one alone. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as I can focus since I’m meant to be writing. While most associate Sundays with school-night dread, I’m usually looking forward to getting back into my workday routine. The issue is that I’m super stressed, a bit sad and poignantly regretful. It all started when I arrived at my Airbnb in an neighborhood where liquor stores have bulletproof glass—not what I wanted to see coming from Harlem—and realized I’d accidentally booked a shared apartment instead of a private one. I can’t really stand to be home too much on the weekend anyway, but this has been just like NY in that I need to evacuate my would-be sanctuary for some time daily. This leads to an unnerving amount of time spent alone in public, and going out every day is far from cheap.
I was supposed to meet up with my one friend here but she’s flaking just like she did in New York. That’s what I want to get away from, but it’s already following me. Ironically, it’s because I know no one here that it could be good socially. That’s how it was when I moved to Argentina and India, which were both social times. Culturally, I’m betting on my preconception that locals aren’t as big on “ghosting” and such here—I don’t think the “Miami goodbye” is a thing. I’ve resolved to find friends who aren’t like that this year. Maybe it’s all in my mind, or I’m attracting such behavior, so my hope is not so much that Miami will treat me better but that I’ll treat myself better via Miami.
We can’t discuss self-care without referencing that which needs to be healed, so here we go: there’s a huge, harrowing, gap between where I am and where I want to be. Let’s get wild for a moment. Let me allow myself to dream big, and then soberingly survey my actual circumstances or baggage.
Speaking of sobriety, I want to avoid hangovers this year, here—small potato. Let’s take it up a notch. To realize my desire to become confident I need to become debt-free, entrepreneurially successful and physically attractive—why do I always lose my figure just before I’m meant to head to the beach? Financially, I might make it if I’m able to reduce expenses and/or take a part-time job. To meet my superficial goals, I’ll need to get in shape, somehow avoid the consumables that stain my teeth, and fix the scar on my face that doesn’t look better than the mole that preceded it—I’m covered with them, head to waist, so I’ve been insecure since the onset of puberty. If these things happen, I’ll have enough self-esteem to socialize like never before.
I mean, I’ve been a social butterfly here and there in the past, but only because I was getting by on the grit I forced myself to muster and repressing my shame and self-medicating; there’s not much wrong with that, but only if you do it well, microdosing perhaps. People think of me as a thoroughly laidback guy or even dude, but I’m discovering that I’m stressed as hell; well, I’ve long known that my entire personage and outlook is built upon a foundation of angst, mostly existential, but now I’m becoming socially anxious watching others watch me. I want to get away from that—not the gaze of the Other, but the self-consciousness it evokes. I, like you, deserve some joie de’vivre. I’m tired of playing the martyr, working overtime to help others, while neglecting myself as a lost cause. I just had a two-hour call with a friend who helped me start Healers and she named the symptom for me: self-abandonment.
I’m just getting started. I promised dreams, not just goals. You know what would be nice? How great would it be to go all the way with a gorgeous lover in a hot air balloon, not to mention sailboat. I’d like to meet a woman to whom I’m attracted, in some social setting, and be invited to spend the night at hers. It’s happened before, but the fantasy’s legitimacy stands because the memory of that instance is not my own—it belongs to my audacious alter-ego who shows up when I take the drugs I no longer do. Also, it would be cool if in addition to bare necessities, I could afford some luxuries, like weekends in San Juan—while I’m arousing no online interest in Miamians, Puertoriqueñas seem to like me. One’s regionally fluctuating hotness is one of the more frivolous reasons to relocate but is therapeutically valid nonetheless. What’s wrong with pursuing romance? Not a thing.
I’d love to return to kung fu and tai chi training. Wing chun seems to be the only form taught near me; fine, if it’s good enough for Ip Man it’s good enough for me. It would be amazing if I could start an Argentine cafe/bakery here, where empanadas are not niche, as I’ve been keen to do since my gap year in Buenos Aires (BsAs). I could start my superfruit startup, the strategic plan of which won a New-York-wide contest when I was in business school—it all starts with sorbet made from soursop, which happens to be uniquely grown in Florida. More realistically, I’ll restart my urban-gardening nonprofit while making and selling tillandsia-infused pieces of driftwood, revivifying them. It’ll be nice to work with my hands again and the long walks on the shore will do me good. Moving along, I wish I could consume 100% organic groceries. That could take some time, but at least I’m already returning to eating pescatarian at least six days a week. Speaking of diet, and noting that you are what you eat, I’d love to source only Floridian perishables and write about nutrition-based relocation therapy—it’s definitely a thing. I was seriously allergic to shellfish for a year or two after BsAs, which suggests that relocation does nothing less than transform one’s physical composition.
If I sound grandiose, just know that the scale of these visualizations is nothing compared to those that lit me up before life knocked me down. Unlike many bad descriptions of the law of attraction, declaring your desire for someone or something is not sufficient. Real intentionality implies a dash of realism, if not “design thinking”: intensive practicality. So yes, anything is possible, so long as it’s within reason; so no, not everything. Turning away from what’s quickly becoming a vision board, let’s look at what is rather than what could be.
It’s hard to believe that even a moped is beyond my reach, when I could have purchased a fleet of them a few years back without batting an eye, but it all makes sense remembering that I’ve spent several fortunes on failed startups and am still investing capital I don’t have in the hope that Healers will become profitable eventually. What I’m saying is that I could easily sell out and pursue income above all else, the American way—this would at least allow me to fix my face and finances—but we’re speaking about dreams and, though it’s unhealthy, my departure from startups would/will be over my dead body, or ego; if I survived, “I” would be someone totally distinct from who I am today. That could be for the best but it’s terrifyingly alien and met with the utmost resistance, the way strangulation generally is.
Unwilling to get a “real job,” somewhere more affordable than NYC became my only option. Once again, I’m putting off cosmetic surgery. I just signed a seven-month lease for a charmingly rundown studio on Miami Beach, a block from the shore, so I’ve got that long to gain or lose control of my agenda. I just got hit with two big invoices from Healers’ developers back to back, and there will be nothing left after I buy the furniture to accompany the nice bed that comes with the apartment. I’m 34, and could be thriving like many of my peers, getting the most out of my youngness; instead, I’m so without: a hustler without agency, enterprising but cashless, slutty but chaste—washed up. I’m having what could be optimistically considered a quarter-life crisis, wanting to be young and good-looking in a sexy city instead of getting old studying in boring Boston, but the only way to fix my outer issues is to go inward.
Yes, a full-time job would allow me to get work done and be fashionable, but I’d never acquire fitness because I work out at home, spreading repetitions throughout the day. It’s quite effective for those who, like me, work at home and despise the gym. Also, my entire mental capacity will continue to be maxed out on growing Healers. In NY I had to commute to a coworking space, while my home office here will maximize my efficiency and keep my headspace clear. I would fully expect Healers to make it if I knew how to increase readership. As a marketing manager, I used to dominate Facebook, but it then enacted various restrictions with its awful pay-to-play model. Luckily, I then found a way to get a ton of engagement through Instagram, but Facebook recently ruined that too. I’ve got some ideas on replacing the channel that was the cornerstone of our operation, but they’re still speculative.
Renting a bedroom from someone is pretty simple, especially when it’s furnished. You can even arrange a short-term sublet before arriving after Facetiming and getting a video tour from your subleasor. Meanwhile, finding and settling into a private place has proven quite challenging. It took two full weeks and I ended up somewhere that’s great, but not ideal. Several times I thought about rerouting to Austin, where I’d have better luck according to Craigslist. If money is a factor in regard to your hypothetical relocation, I suggest you gauge the rental market by checking Airbnb prices; if you do, search for a month or longer because there are usually large discounts for stays of that length. Now that you know how much an Airbnb place would cost, you can estimate that a leased equivalent would be half as much at most. That’s one way to do it. In this case, my calculations were a bit skewed because I accidentally booked a shared apartment on Airbnb, but I was right in predicting that I could get a studio for the cost of my room in NY. I just barely pulled it off, thanks to an old hotel-turned-condo that seemed to call out to me.
I didn’t find an option with everything I was looking for, which means that I’m faced with delayed gratification, not losing but not winning when it comes to life. If I play my cards right, I’ll be able to upgrade once the lease is up, or even rent two places and use one mostly for Airbnb side income. I have a fighting chance to get what I want soon enough, and that’s more than enough to keep me going, historically speaking. So the transition may have worked out well—we’ll see how I feel in time—but it frazzled me beyond belief.
I’m a great traveler. I’m enterprising, sometimes innovative. There was no real reason to think that things wouldn’t work out, but this time my fears overtook me. Knowing that there was no good backup plan this time, and that I only had one chance to get it right, to get set up somewhere before my transitional budget evaporates, I became terrified of making a mistake, like committing to the wrong apartment, forced to wallow in buyer’s remorse for half a year. (Don’t get me started on retail therapy, which could itself fill volumes.) After I signed my lease, I immediately became convinced that I’d made a huge error and, hoping I could get my deposit back, applied for another one that was ideal but slightly too expensive. I was in a pickle, and overwhelmed with ambivalence, but then I remembered that this, right in front of my face, is an example of me observing myself strive for things that deep down I know I can but shouldn’t have, yet; not for nothing, bearing in mind that I had to report all this to you, I decided to play it smart for once and stuck with the cheaper place.
New York cannot be blamed for my negligence struggling with money all year only to discover the IRS owed me a sizable refund from 2016. It’s bigger than the Big Apple. It all culminated this winter, and since it did, my mind vacillates hysterically when faced with even the most banal choices—what if I regret committing to this cutting board? Bigger decisions, like choosing between grad school in Boston and near-isolation in Miami, took an enormous toll on me and my mental well-being. It’s probably partly because I was always in a relationship before, so I had someone with whom to collaborate in real time, but choices now make me panic. I flip through the pros and cons of each option, over and over, and only find elusive reassurance when I return to a laborious conclusion that I already drew an hour ago. That’s normal enough, but the strong emotions that permeated all this were not.
The truth is that I’ve always been quick on the draw, making commitments all too casually. Even in those relationships I mentioned, I did what I wanted. I was moving too fast to get things right, and in that way this newfound indecisiveness is actually an improvement, in that I’m avoiding mistakes, but to say it’s unpleasant being so stressed all the time is a gross understatement. On a cellular level I can feel months being shed from my lifespan; luckily, that’s all over now. I’m about to be grounded and once I regain control I’ll do everything I can to maintain it. Transitional times create chaos, but it’s temporary.
I might have PTSD from my interaction with the bloke who Yankee-goodbyed me and took two unknown dudes home and left them alone with my Macbook, and then did the opposite of take responsibility. My decision-making abilities have been impaired since that night. In addition to the trauma, I’m also experiencing a lot of self-reproaching from things like breaking my laptop over and over again in 2019, and especially for getting it fixed by a third-party techie, forgetting that I had AppleCare. No regrets, no regrets—no, repressing regret can’t be healthy. It must at some point be resolved.
The sources of my self-admonishment seem to have begun after my mom became suicidal. When I get into moods like this, I feel that I shouldn’t have proposed to my ex-fiancée then—my aforementioned best friend and I and I both did that, partly to lift my mom’s spirits on both counts. Maybe I would have done so anyway, eventually. It’s hard to say. What I really should have done is break up with her the first time she hit me, which would have allowed me to date Dubai at a time that she wanted me—the only one. Or, I could have stuck with the ex and led a relatively blessed life in the Bay. I should have at least listened to her warnings about my spending; even then, if we hadn’t been so shortsighted I could have even bought an apartment or two in South Beach and lived off short-term rental revenue for decades—I say that but the truth is that if I hadn’t donated/invested the inheritance from my mom’s passing I would have suffered from white-privilege guilt for the rest of my days. I just wish I could recover the two missing apps and website to which I dedicated years of my time and tons of cash. Sometimes being selfless is itself self-indulgence, and I could have guessed that generating revenue through my dreamier initiatives would be tricky. More superficially, but most importantly, I should have gone to a top plastic surgeon, prioritizing it instead of delaying and then economically getting work done in India. What am I supposed to do with all that? Rather than suppress these feelings I must bite the bullet and disarm the firearm, which takes us back to the inner work needed. I want to cure the self-recrimination (doable), and my pain (less likely).
Knowing that I put startups designed to help people and the planet before all the desires embedded into this post, and that I continue to do so instead of reversing my priorities, is all you need to hear to know I’m a true idealist, which is a person who’s a blessing to society but, because of and in light of this, cursed as an individual. I was already a do-gooder in high school, organizing fundraisers for organizations like the Leo Cub and starting student groups like the Cultural and Social Awareness Club, but I would have probably never gone to the extremes I have in pursuit of global impact if I hadn’t been radicalized by my group of friends in college, or vaguely exposed to social enterprise indirectly by Teach For America. In other words, it all went wrong when I conceived Scalechange during grad school. Once the seed was planted, the point of no return came once I ordered a NOLO guidebook on starting nonprofits. This might make me sound like a bit of an ass, but I sometimes feel betrayed by the universe since my solidarity-based sacrifices and not-so-random acts of kindness have not been on the whole rewarded.
On a semiconscious level, I’m aware that this is a spiritual retreat, hence the self-isolation. Sure, there are a lot more people surrounding me than there would be if I was typing this in a cabin, but they’re unapproachable because I’m broke, and feeling ugly in a city that cares about looks. So the retreat label fits, and its potential outcomes are twofold. The “simple” one is spiritual awakening. All of my worldly preoccupations will go out the window if enlightenment comes through it (infenestratation). Less ethereal but more difficult to explain, there’s the notion that my introspective musings/writings will lead to external improvements, and I don’t mean indirectly through writing therapy, though it is an essential perk in my case. I gained 5% body fat in the past month; eating my way of depression didn’t work, but writing my way into happiness might; still, that is more relevant to the first outcome. As for the second, I’m stalling because I don’t want to sound egotistical and I hate when authors write about writing, but I do have a way with words, and also thoughts; if I’m willing to craftfully present my unique perception of the world, with the bravery to be mindfully candid, it ought to continue to inspire others to do the same, making Healers even more special than it already is. The magazine was originally called Sacred Spaces with this kind of judgement-free zone in mind. It’s also not beyond the realm of possibility that one of my books, if completed, could be published. If I can express myself the way I feel I ought to, exposing myself in so doing, I can write in a rich manner and, while I know the odds are against me, if a publisher actually picks up a submitter’s manuscript they might not put it down if it enriches their spirit in its radical authenticity. Either way, Healers’ success would help me become the person I want to be, living the life he wants to be living. Literally, it’s a sole proprietorship; figuratively it’s a soul prop. (Are there any angel investors reading this?)
So now you know what I’m dealing with, but why did I tell you all that? I could be a social worker next year if, as planned, I spent this one at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, which I’m not doing, but I might still be able to become a healer which I, as the editor or Healers Magazine, think would be appropriate. Combining what I learned from three full-time semesters at the New York Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, and visiting nearly 35 countries, I am striving to become the world’s first professional relocation therapist. While I would be paid in this scenario, it would not be a career, but a second labor of love to keep my original one, Healers, company. I’m not there yet. I’m still testing and extrapolating but after one expierment with a 45-year-old friend who had never left the States before I worked with him, and this well-documented trial underway, I believe the practice will begin to come together. Freud’s original texts were cautiously phenomenological in nature, as opposed to data-driven research, but they became guidebooks of a field that transiently shook the planet. I’m not claiming that what I’m going to start referring to as relotherapy will do all that, just explaining the legitimate value of a post that could be mistaken as trivial diary-writing, which might be true if it weren’t teleological, taking us somewhere worthwhile that is.
The only thing I wanted to cover in this first installment is the reasoning behind my move, not just for the sake of informing you, but to make sure that I’m traveling therapeutically this time, digesting goal/dreams formally while assessing possible pitfalls mindfully. As for the personal issues I divulged, I’m not looking for pity; no, I’m fully aware that mine are developed-world problems. The next time you’ll hear from me, I’ll be a new man, since relocation and reinvention are soulmates. I’ll check in again when I’m two to three months in. In the meantime, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of the post, might relocation therapy resonate with you? If you’d care to give it a try, I’d be happy to help. You can sign up for a free Healers account to request a consultation with me and we can discuss pro bono support, which would be mutually beneficial because, on my end, more experience would be useful.