The Rough Parts of Transition

A few weeks ago I lost my calendar. For a teacher who has to keep track of lesson plans, class tests and endless to do lists, this is close to a catastrophe. So I needed to get a new calendar. I went downtown and thought I would find one within a few minutes.

One and a half hours later I was still roaming the streets.

I could feel frustration and anger rise inside of me.
Anger at myself for wasting all this time in search of a stupid calendar.
Anger at the city for being so new, so unknown and so big.
Frustration at my situation – I am the new person who has no clue on where to go.
I hate being lost and, more than that, feeling lost.

Moving to a new place is one thing, but making it a home is a whole different story. Transition isn’t over when boxes are unpacked and you found somewhat of a new routine. Transition takes time, and it’s mostly the little things that teach me how long it really takes.

When you uproot your life and go somewhere else you leave a lot behind that you simply can’t put in boxes.

Your favorite coffee place.
That papeterie shop which had everything you needed.
That path on the hill where you took walks to regain perspective.
The knowledge where everything is, what ways you have to go, which routine works best for you.
All these familiar faces and beloved friends who made life in your old home so enjoyable and memorable.

Leaving the old and familiar behind in exchange for the new and unknown is scary. So how can we navigate these rough parts of transition?


Say a proper goodbye
I’ve written about this many times before (like here or here), but every step onto new territory is shaped by how you left the old one. It’s normal to hang in the balance while you’re transitioning, but if your heart and mind are always stuck in the old place and old routines, you will never be open to welcome new places, people or routines into your life.
So settle your accounts.
Look back on what you left behind and give thanks.
Don’t compare, but welcome this new chapter with a grateful heart and open arms.


Translate, don’t copy your routines
This is a piece of advice I received from an American friend as he was transitioning into life in Germany. You had your go-to places and people in your old home and it’s important that you find new go-to’s in your new home. This might take a while and cost you a bit of effort. Most of the time it’s not possible to simply copy old routines into a new setting. The people are not exactly the same and there’s just one favorite coffee place.

But reflect on why you love these routines so much, what kind of people inspire your life, and then go look out for them.
You might have liked the coffee shop for its style, its staff or its coffee brands – so find a place that offers these.
You might’ve had a walking route routine to clear your head – so discover new paths.
You might’ve had encouragers, activists or believers in your circles of friends – so get to know new people and explore the qualities they have to offer.
You don’t have to forget about places and people you left behind, but give new places and people the chance to inspire you in the same way – just in a different shape or form.


Give yourself time
Again, I’m preaching to myself – transition takes time.
How much? I don’t know, it’s different for everyone. I just know that putting yourself under pressure won’t make a transition any easier.
Your apartment doesn’t have to be finished within weeks – allow yourself time to furnish and decorate it. Wait for inspiration to come.
Your go- to places might not always be the most visible, so take some time to wander the streets without an agenda or watch in mind. When a store speaks to you, go in and have a look. Pay attention to details. Get lost on purpose.
Your go-to people need time to get to know you as well, so don’t expect too much at once. Take it one step, one person, one relationship at a time. Be brave to invite others into your home or accept someone’s invitation. Do things together. Share a meal and see what happens around the table. Allow people to surprise you with qualities you didn’t know before.


On my involuntary walk through this new city I finally decided to not give into frustration and anger, but to accept this time of roaming and searching. I opened my eyes for new shops and surprising buildings I hadn’t seen before. It made me want to see and explore more. After a while, I found a cute little place with the most gorgeous design ideas and, finally, a calendar.

Author: Katha von Dessien

Teacher. Believer in the Wilderness. Third Culture Kid. World Traveler. People and Food at the Table Lover. Writer.

13 thoughts on “The Rough Parts of Transition”

  1. As a TCK myself I can definitely relate to all of this. Saying goodbye to a place you feel at home in and where you have friends is hard, but I know from past experiences that with a little bit of effort and courage, you can recreate that sense of belonging elsewhere. It’s all about allowing yourself to adapt and to not constantly compare what you have now to what you left behind. I’ve always thought of moving to another place as something exciting, especially when it is a decision you made (as opposed to just following my parents). Great post, lots of useful tips.

    Would you by any chance be interested in sharing this post with our community at We’d love to have you on the platform as a Creator. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail for more information. I’d love to hear from you. All the best!

    1. You’re very right, it makes a big difference if you made the decision to move or if it was made for you.
      And comparing never really helps…where did you grow up? How did you deal with the moving and transitions?

      1. Hi Katha, I grew up in The Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Scotland. I think my parents were just very supportive, and I had a stay-at-home mom (which makes such a difference with this lifestyle). When you’re young, it’s easier to make new friends but I did find that as you get older and more attached to places and people, you really just have to put a lot of effort in to feel at home.

  2. Yes, yes, yes! This is excellent advice, Katha! It does take a long time to build a life in a new culture. We struggled for more than 3 years before I started to understand what was happening to me.
    In fact, I wrote a little bit about our process during the 31 Day Challenge … The book I mention here really helped.

    Praying for courage and strength as you walk this journey, my friend. You can do this!

    1. Thank you for sharing! You are so right, it’s about living in the now, no matter how short that may be.
      And yes for the book! When I read it for the first time, it was a revelation! I met Ruth a couple of years ago, she was so inspiring! Enjoy life in beautiful SA!

  3. Yes….sounds like cross-cultural living. I’ve learned that focusing on discovery in a new place accelerates the whole process of making a positive transition. The journey focus is no longer about loss, but rather about gain. The danger then becomes needing to move in order to be stimulated; as some can testify. Thanks for the article! Put us on that calendar when you need some R&R.

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