Updated: Oct 10, 2020
When thinking about your life as a military kid, it can be easy to focus on the negatives. Leaving everything you know behind over and over again is daunting, being the new kid at school every few years is frightening, fretting over the safety of a deployed loved one is stressful, and ultimately having to uproot your entire life because the career of a family member calls for it can seem really scary.
It’s easy to focus on the negatives.
But when you take a step back from all of the uncertainty, the picture comes into focus. With every change, new opportunities arise. The closing of one door opens another, giving way to a whole new place that you can make the most of.
Exploring Your Local Surroundings
With every duty station comes a new landscape to explore, but it won’t be discovered if you don’t get out there and investigate. Go and check out the local attractions, both on-base and in the surrounding areas, to familiarize yourself with what your new community offers. Many bases offer:
A community center to meet new friends and host exciting events.
A youth center that houses games and jungle gyms.
Neighborhood parks, bike paths, or nature trails to get outdoors.
A movie theater, bowling alley, or both! These are great as weekend activities to hang out with family and friends.
And of course, there’s always the food court in the PX.
Becoming familiar with these places is helpful because you get involved in your community and learn the layout of the base to become a navigation pro.
Be sure to not only explore on post, but also in your local city or town. There are all sorts of community-based programs, annual events, and one of a kind local businesses. Who knows, your favorite Mexican restaurant might be right off base, you could see a peregrine falcon for the first time at a nearby wildlife refuge, or maybe even have a blast at the annual Christmas parade. Don’t be afraid to learn what everything is all about! The more you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to make an amazing discovery and have a ton of fun doing something you’d never dreamed of. Think about it: do people who live in one place all their lives get presented with as many opportunities as those of us to get to try new things? No! Go check out that LARPing group that meets every month in the city park, meet snake enthusiasts that bring live reptiles to the library, or join the county-wide stargazing night. Don’t be afraid to check out the wacky and wild!
Not only is there the community-based aspect of your new surroundings, but also the natural setting. Moving from one climate to another broadens your horizons and really opens up many activities that are available to you.
In cool, wet Washington State, you can enjoy a white Christmas and a splash in the clear waters of a local river in the summertime.
In sunny, dry Arizona it’s a ton of fun to go on daily walks no matter the season and to look for road-runners hurrying past on the street.
In hot, humid Georgia you can hear the bullfrogs croaking behind your house at night, as well as watch the gorgeous lightning display of summer monsoons from your front porch.
Each area is completely different from the next, and that’s okay. Be sure to explore what you have around you, and most importantly, to take advantage of these chances to be a part of something new!
Increasing Your Radius
With your new community now thoroughly explored, it’s time for the next big step. Start traveling! Even if it’s something as small as a weekend trip with family, go explore what’s further out from where you live and take advantage of the new destinations available to you.
Have you moved to a new state? Go check out what it’s known for. Whether it be New York City, the Grand Canyon, or where the Declaration of Independence was signed, there’s something out there for you. Are you a history nut? Visit the government buildings in the capital! Maybe there’s a building that you’ve only seen in pictures located in a city a few hours away? Get your own picture taken next to it! Is there a volcano that you see out of your bedroom window each morning? Go have a picnic at the base of it! Explore everything, because you never know if you’re going to live this close to it again.
Not only can you take trips to places within a few hours of your home, but you can also incorporate some fun into the bigger trips. After a move, many of us leave for the holidays, spring break, or summer vacation to visit family. If you’re taking a road trip and have some extra time, plan out some sightseeing destinations. Even driving to the airport if you’re taking a flight can be an opportunity to take a detour.
Things can get even wilder too. I myself have been to nine different countries, all thanks to being an Army brat. I was able to spend a week touring South Korea and lived in Germany for an entire summer. Both were an absolute blast! How many people have you met that haven’t been out of their country, or even their home state? Moving around enables you to experience things that most haven’t, and those experiences can be incredible! Use your move as an excuse to visit somewhere far away but closer than it’s ever been before. Don’t be afraid to take that leap and try something new.
Broadening Your Social Horizons
Perhaps the most incredible opportunity you get through a nomadic lifestyle is meeting life-long friends and building relationships with others. Our connections with those around us shape who we become, not to mention how much fun it is hanging out with others. Here are some ways to really hit it off with someone new:
Join a school club or organization. Now that you’re in a room full of people that each have at least one interest in common with you, start chatting! Many clubs also go on field trips where you can meet adult experts in the field and maybe even learn about some future careers.
Go on group hikes, bike rides, or anything of that sort. You can start your own outdoor club for people who enjoy the fresh air!
Have conversations with your new teachers. This can seem scary, but most are glad to see their students be interested in their subject, and they often have knowledge of community events that you can attend.
Speaking of community events, go be a part of one! Volunteering and showing passion towards your community draws together like-minded people who want to make a difference, and that’s extremely powerful.
How cool is it that we get to meet all sorts of people from around the world? Being able to interact with such a wide variety of individuals and make connections with them, no matter how fleeting, is truly amazing. Your future best friend might live just a few streets over on this new duty station, or your all-time favorite teacher who you haven’t met yet is grading homework right now. Speak out, make yourself known for who you are, and get to know all of the new people in your life because those connections will become some of your most valued possessions.
Each move offers a new chance to take, a new environment to explore, and a new community to connect with. Are you leaving a home that you’ve fallen in love with, friends that you wanted to see every day for the rest of your life? Yes. But remember, each move is a new adventure, and all it takes is a new perspective.