How to feel at home in a new city when you move around a lot
I think being a young adult is one of the most exciting parts of life. For many of us, it’s a time to learn who we are and figure out what matters most to us. But it’s also a time of some serious uncertainty, especially when we are trying to figure out what to do for work. Because, you know, rent ain’t cheap!
Sometimes, to pay the bills or to chase our dreams, we have to pick up and move to a completely different or faraway place. Even if we’re not moving to advance our careers, there are many other good reasons to move — love, quality of life, and the pursuit of adventure.
Moving to a new city is super exciting! But it can also be terrifying to live without the comforts of home — our routines, our friends and family, and everything else that has made our lives tick since forever. Like most things, we learn by doing and with practice.
In my case, when it comes to moving around, I have a lot of practice! I moved from Reno, Nevada to Washington, D.C. after graduating college — and in the five years since, I’ve relocated to Santa Barbara, California, to Seattle, and now back to D.C., with a summer in L.A. under my belt as well.
If you’re about to move to a new city, or recently have, or did a long time ago but still feel like you could use some help settling in — here are a few ways I learned to feel at home in a new city:
Whether you’re in a city chock-full of tourist-y things to do (like D.C. — think visiting national monuments and the Smithsonian) or you’re in a small town, there are a handful of things that visitors will enjoy. And there are probably things that most locals have grown up doing — or at least know about.
If you’re looking for ideas, hit up the local City of Commerce or visitor website online. When you tell people you’re new in town (which I highly recommend doing as a conversation starter), ask people about their favorite sites — then check out some of them.
You won’t necessarily meet a bunch of locals at these kinds of tourist spots, but you’ll get a better sense of the area.
Introduce yourself to a stranger
Speaking of telling people you’re new in town (with discretion – I don’t recommend marching up to people in dark alleys and introducing yourself), doing so is a great icebreaker when you’re out and about. I find that people are much more open to random folks trying to become their friend when they know you just moved here and don’t have a homebase yet.
Go to happy hours in your neighborhood, join the gym — go any place where you can drum up conversations with people. And definitely accept co-workers’ offers of hanging out after work (if you have a job already, that is.)
In addition, let your extended network know you’re moving and ask if they know people in the area. Allow friends and family to set you up with their contacts to make connections and friendships this way, too. Joining local chapters of national organizations — such as professional or volunteer groups — can help you make friends.
When you only go to the usual places (even if they’re new-ish to you), you’ll experience much less than what an area has to offer. Pick a new place to visit — a tourist attraction, new restaurant, or anything that’s different for you (which shouldn’t be hard to do since you just moved there), and study a map before you leave the house. Try to find it without using your phone, preferably during the day. Or take an alternate route somewhere.
The point is, if you allow yourself to wander, you may find some gems along the way — outdoor scenery, unique shops and restaurants, etc. Obviously, be aware of your surroundings, and if you’re hopelessly lost, go ahead and look up directions. Safety first.
Search for deals
Another way to find new things to do in a new-to-you city? Search apps like Groupon for deals. If you attend a class or event that you normally wouldn’t, it could open the door to new hobbies and friends.
Start a routine
Part of feeling at home in a new place is establishing a routine. Aside from getting settled in at work (or finding a job, if you’re looking), start to create your own habits — whether it’s sitting on your new front porch drinking coffee in the mornings, walking to a neighborhood park in the afternoons, joining an exercise class on the weekends, or hitting up your favorite bar on a Friday night. Having a routine can help you feel at home quickly.
Being new to a city can be scary, but it can also be super fun if you learn to step out of your comfort zone.
Soon enough, you’ll be settled in like you’ve lived there for ages. You may keep it that way or move to another place and start over! And you’ll know what to do to feel at home when you do.