Gen Y: Moving Out, Away from Parents and Hometowns

Gen Y Woman of Generation YGeneration Y has two conflicting trends at play within it. One is that we love our parents, and are so comfortable with them often young people are choosing to live at home for an extended period of time — maybe during or post-college, until finding “the one,” or just until it makes financial sense to venture off alone.

There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’d like to venture the thought that in other more family-oriented cultures where the focus is less on individualization and more on the common good of family or society, it’s a common phenomenon to find multiple generations under one roof.

I wonder if some of us, as the children of free-lovin’ hippies and rebels, developed a better more open relationship with our parents as a direct result of our parents’ generation of acceptance? I think it’s probably true.

We also benefit from being the first kids of career parents, who so prized our self-esteem, achievements and happiness they’d sacrifice anything to keep us moving in the right direction — even to the point of being over-involved in an adult child’s life.

But what happens when, “Failure to Launch”-style, our parents are ready to push us out of the nest, or we baby birds are ready to face the big bad world on our own? A few trends are at play that are influencing Gen Yers to move, across the country or even across the world, for the right opportunity — whether that’s love, a job, a dream city or a combination of the three.

Why Gen Y is Good at Getting “Out”

Gen Y Man and Woman of Generation YGen Y is uber-connected. The beauty of all our social networking is that we can feel just as connected to our high school and college friends across the country through Facebook, as we would if we lived in the same city as them. We see what’s going on in each others’ lives, from weddings to babies.

My husband keeps saying he doesn’t need to go to his 10 year high school reunion — he already knows what everyone’s been up to and what they look like now.

The pain of homesickness and leaving behind real connections is blunted by the fact that our friends are just a wall post (or Skype, webcam chat, or tweet) away.

We also are globe trotters, and are not afraid of getting outside our comfort zones, geographically speaking. Gen Y is volunteering in record numbers for service work in other countries, sometimes through a high school mission trip, college study abroad experience, or post-grad social consciousness movement.

The internet proved to us that other cultures and countries aren’t “foreign” or strange, they’re different, intriguing and enticing. Air travel, which was the priviledge of the upper classes and working businesspeople just a generation or two ago, doesn’t phase us.

So why, then, as a Gen Yer who did nearly all the above (lived at home during collegiate summers, in Costa Rica and now on my third post-grad city), am I left wondering if this flight of the educated away from hometowns and into cities that offer us the best opportunities, is a good thing? The whole issue of talented and educated young professionals leaving where they’re from — the brain drain that so many states across the U.S. are concerned about — is a topic for a separate post. But, as someone who’s done it, here’s why moving to the bright city lights isn’t always a good thing.

Why Gen Y Wants to Go Home

Gen Y Man of Generation Y1. Travel is more expensive than ever before. Given today’s economic realities, Gen Y is not making bank. We’re struggling to survive in entry-level jobs, saving for goals like continued education, weddings, tourism/life experience travel, or homes. Flights just keep climbing, especially when you really want to be home — summer weddings, holidays and long weekends. I’ve planned early or late holiday celebrations just to save on the Christmas flight hike.

2. Online networks are hollow — you can only use them as a bandaid for so long, before the gap between real, personal connections and experiences with friends starts to happen. We’re human. We need eye contact, touch, shared experience, to bond with each other. It really hurts when you find cherished connections fading away, usually through no fault of either party — just distance.

3. Cost of Living — As we fly to bigger cities to pay exorbitant prices for small apartments and big parking fees, the dream job and pay seems a little less awesome. The hassle of daily commutes, fast paced life and uber-competitive job markets can be stressful and straining.

4. Quality of Life — Where are you going to raise a family? Do you care about how long you’ll have to drive to let your kids be with their grandparents and extended family? It’s one of my biggest concerns as I dream of what my next 10 years might look like.

5. Saving Your Identity — The U.S. is unique because our allegiance to our home states or cities is much like a national or cultural identity. I lived in Phoenix for three years, then moved to Ohio. Here, I say that I moved from Phoenix, but I’m “from” Nebraska. Most of us still root for our college sports team and the local teams we grew up with.

6. Responsibility to our hometowns, home states and country — Most smaller cities and towns are dying to engage Generation Y. When does it become our responsibility to not let the American small town die? When will Gen Y take the lead in helping rejuvenate our cities? Places like my new hometown of Columbus, Ohio, are doing great things with initiatives in all levels of government and business to “attract and retain” the best young professionals, that I wish we’d see more places adopt.

Not to mention that it’s much easier to be a big fish in a small pond, and for ambitious Gen Yers, that’s not a bad thing. I can give one great example of a friend of mine who stayed in our home state for graduate school and ended up choosing to move back to a smaller town for a great job opportunity.

Now she’s with a statewide organization that she’s already starting to transform with her energy and ideas — and her local business community is welcoming her back as an expert in her field, just because she’s new, different and talented. Yes, I know she still dreams of moving away and worries about never “getting out.” But as one who’s been “out,” for awhile now — it’s a two edged sword.

*Credit for all the amazing portraits in this post goes to my friend Erica of e hardesty photography. Her work is amazing, check it out!


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6 responses to “Gen Y: Moving Out, Away from Parents and Hometowns”

  1. theesuite says :

    Early version Gen Xer hoping my soon to Graduate Gen Yer fly’s the coop….

  2. Bruce says :

    How about unemployment? I finished grad school in September 2009 and have been looking for a job ever since. Living anywhere else isn’t really an option, especially if I need to move at a drop of a hat.

    • sparklegem says :

      Hey Bruce, Yeah, that’s a tough situation and definitely a reason many Gen Yers go back home. I even know people who were laid off and moved back in with parents or in-laws. Luckily, it’s just so common I don’t think people look down on others for living at home like before — plus the added benefit of families working together, sharing the bills or mortgage, may be an awesome way for Americans to get out of this economic hole many of us are in. Thanks for commenting! – Crystal

  3. theesuite says :


    You make a really good point (“plus the added benefit of families working together”). GenXers seen to be getting it from both directions. As our parents age, we are bringing them back into the household and seems as if the kiddo’s are not going to fly the coop as quickly as we might like.

    An extended nuclear family may not be such a bad thing if we sit back and think about it for just a bit…

  4. 8472 says :

    I’m not even legal drinking age yet but while I wish quite sincerely that I could stay at home a little longer, I’ve discovered that my mother is only putting on a front of being a caring mom and in fact loathes me and wishes I would leave. She won’t say it to my face but she and her boyfriend go on at length online, even making a game of seeing who can come up with a worse thing to say about me. True facts and screenshots to prove it. So I won’t be one of the Gen Yers who’s eager to go back home. Unfortunately I have absolutely no way of supporting myself if I move, having no job experience and having failed to get hired even after 3 years of continuous job hunting, so I’m trapped in an extremely dysfunctional and psychologically traumatizing home life.

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