The Real Cost of Mobility

Tulin Dzhengiz (Cengiz)
5 min readFeb 13, 2021

There is so much to talk about mobility, what it means, when it makes sense, how much and in what ways does it cost. Although, I don't feel like we talk enough about it in an honest way and this is just a little conversation starter.

In academia, and perhaps for many other professions, mobility has become a necessity to make progress in one’s career. I have heard many senior academics discussing the benefits of leading ‘mobile lives’; advantages include quicker progression, higher salaries, expansion of the academic network, increased research output thanks to this network. It is almost taken for granted that one needs to move several times to lead successful careers. And, I understand that. In the last 9 years, I have moved 9 times and currently relocating to the 10th country on my personal mobility list- Finland. This mobile life meant changing ‘home’ 16 times, between shorter and more long term accommodations. I confirm the benefits. Yes, it is truly easier to find appropriate jobs for yourself, when you say the world is my oyster and you can relocate anywhere. Yes, one does expand their network, meet very interesting people, start new collaborations. Although, the costs are very high for such a life and we need to talk more about these costs.

To talk about these costs, we first need to understand what makes one happy in life. Generally, all human beings are happier if:

  • they feel a sense of belonging to their communities,
  • they have a certain level of attachment to their places, locations and locales,
  • they are surrounded by people they love and trust, in other words, they have a support network when times are hard,
  • they have jobs that provide them with meaning and a sense of purpose and have certain degrees of autonomy in these jobs with access to a level of income that allows them to cover all their needs and certain pleasures.

Mobility often does not clash with the last point. In fact, it may even improve the last point. Though, it is hard to argue for a positive relationship, at least in the first couple of years of re-locating, for the first three points.

In the last 9 months, I am trying to relocate from Manchester, the UK to Helsinki, Finland. One way or another, this has been the most challenging move in my personal history. Because life has changed since Covid and the Brexit. How? Look at the recent story. I returned to Manchester in December to empty my flat…