How to Love Your New Town

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Maybe your university is way across the country. Maybe your job just relocated you to a new city. Maybe you’ve moved to a different town for a relationship, to help out family, or just because you needed a change. Whatever the reason, getting used to a new place and starting all over can be equal parts exciting and stressful. You may love it, but you may not. Since so much of our health is affected by our happiness and stress levels, it’s important that we love (or at least like) where we live.

Since high school, I’ve moved cities and started over 6 times. It’s rough starting over, but it’s always worked out. I’m compiling my  “best practices” just in case you’re in the same boat. In no particular order, here’s how I came to be content in each new place I’ve lived in:

 

{Embrace the Local Stuff}

It was Steelers football when I was in Pittsburgh, field parties when I was in eastern Kentucky in college, surfing and sushi in San Diego, and ALL THE WINTER SPORTS now that I’m in a tiny mountain town in Canada in the dead of winter. Whatever the locals do for fun, try that ish out! It may not wind up being your favorite (i.e. surfing scares the shit out of me and I still don’t like football), but if you give it a whirl, you might find something you like. Also, the locals will appreciate that you’re trying and you might make some new friends.

Imagine if an out-of-towner just moved to your hometown and turned their nose up at everything you know and love. You’d probably be done with them. So open your mind and think like a local. It’ll give you some new perspective on your city and its inhabitants.

 

{Get Ready for the Post-Two-Month Slump}

For some of us, moving can be incredibly exciting, especially if you’ve been in a funk. You now have a new plan! A new place! You’re meeting new people and exploring your town, BUT it’s been my experience that after about the two or three month mark, the novelty starts wearing off. There’s a bit of an excitement slump and you start to feel lonely. You might start thinking that maybe you were better off where you were before. You stop making an effort and can easily fall into a funk.

Don’t worry! If you happen to fall into that slump, just know that it goes away, I promise! Once you realize that you’re there (as in you’re living there for a while and not leaving), you’ll actually be forced to make a plan. When you have to choose between putting yourself out there or being depressed, most of the time you’ll put yourself out there.

Maybe you won’t hit this slump at all, but I’m a pretty extroverted person and even I’ve fallen into it a couple times. I think it helps to kind of expect a dull period. If I’m ready for it, I’ll be better prepared to handle it.

 

{Be OK Looking Like A Newb}

You should have seen me the other day at the Nordic Centre – I went for my first cross country ski alone. I sat in my car for a few minutes so I could watch how other people were carrying their skis and poles so I could copy them. I had to have the lady at the ticket counter show me how to attach my day pass. WTF was I supposed to do with a sticker and a wire? I remembered how to get my boot clipped into the ski, but couldn’t remember how to get out of it at the end. I was such a kook.

“An L 7 weeeeenie.Oscar Meyer even. Foot-long. Dodger Dog! A weenie!” <- Name that movie.

The thing is… nobody cares because nobody’s paying attention to you anyway. Remember this: Trying out the new things is important, just know that you’re probably not going to be super smooth. My MO:

1: Let people know that I’m new here (opening with “I’m from Kentucky” usually helps) so they know I’ll need assistance, which they usually offer up.

2: Ask for help. “Sooooo how does this work?”

3: Sign up for a lesson or join a group of also-beginners.

4: Not give a shit how I look.

 

{Get Comfortable Going Alone}

This one also has to do with “not giving a shit how you look.” I need alone time at home too, but staying in all the time will feel isolating and depressing.

When I first moved to San Diego, I was 21 and BROKE AF… but the beach was always free, so that’s what I did every weekend. It was super weird posting up all by myself at first, but then after a while, I loved going, getting a tan, and reading a book on Saturday afternoons. Since then, I’ve gone to movies alone, eaten dinner at restaurants by myself, and gone to events solo. The best part: you end up discovering your city and most times… meeting people.

If you go somewhere with a friend, you two usually just talk to each other the whole time. You might have little side conversations with other people, but you’re really there with each other, so you stick together. When you go somewhere alone, people talk to you (especially other people who are alone). They start conversations, ask questions, etc. Yes, it can feel awkward at first, but you get more comfortable with it over time.

And if you don’t want to talk to anybody, you don’t have to, but at least you’re outta the house. I think the best part about going alone is that you get to play the ‘new kid on the block’ card and can cruise around looking mysterious and cool and shit.

 

{Say Yes To All Invitations} 

The best way to get acquainted with your new town is to accept all invitations. Sometimes it’s a bust: Like the time I joined a roommate and her 6 friends for dinner. I think the only thing we all had in common was that we were homo sapiens. It felt like the longest dinner ever. But another time a friend of mine invited me over to watch Game of Thrones. I hadn’t watched the first 5 seasons and I covered my eyes and ears through half of it, but it became a social event I looked forward to every Sunday. We’d have dinner or drinks together, watch the show, and get caught up. Dinner parties, gallery openings, festivals, whatever it is, just say yes.

 

{Seek Out YOUR PEOPLE}

A huge part of liking a new place is the community aspect of it. It’s not just about finding people so you’re not lonely, it’s about finding YOUR people that you connect with on another level. You might need to try out a few places of worship, arts groups, gyms/sports facilities, etc, until you find a great crew, but it’ll be worth it when you do.

Was there something you loved to do when you were a kid? Chances are there’s an adult group that meets up and does the same thing. Adult kickball leagues are a thing! (I’ve joined them twice.) Is there something that you’ve always wanted to learn to do? Sign up for lessons. Maybe you’re a painter and don’t even know it yet. You won’t hit the jackpot every time, but eventually you’ll find the people or the activity that you’ll really click with.

 

{Take Note of What You NEED}

I know that I need physical activity. I need to be outside most days of the week. Whatever it is that you need, take note of it. Sometimes we don’t even know we need something until we don’t have it… So if you’re feeling funky, lonely, or like you want to leave, ask yourself what you would do if you were back home or with your other friends. Then, figure out a way to replicate it in your new city.

I have to search out dance studios that have open adult classes so I can keep dancing wherever I am. I need to find parks and open spaces that Tango and I can go play in outside. I need girlfriends to hangout with and I need to be able to chat with my family members or friends back home on a regular basis. I need to live within five minutes of a freeway entrance.

Knowing what I need and making sure I get it means I can be happy wherever I am in the world.

 

{Remember You Have Freedom to Leave}

Unless you’ve been taken hostage, you always have the freedom to leave. Just because you are in a new city that you hate doesn’t mean you can’t go back home or try a whole new place. I mean… I think you should always give it at least year in a new place, but if you’ve been there a while and still don’t like it, then go. Don’t worry about how you’ll look. Your own happiness is paramount. So it’ll cost you some money and a few more months of starting over. So what? In the grand scheme of life, it’s just a blip.

Now, maybe you can’t leave so easily, or at all. I, for example, have just married a Canadian who has two sons. He can’t leave the country so I had to move here if we wanted to live together. It’s not like I’m going to bail on him and the kids. However, we did talk about the foreseeable “sticky points” prior to me moving here. Winter depresses me and I do not enjoy extremely cold weather and it just so happens that it gets really cold here for a really long time. I let him know that I might need a couple trips to San Diego each winter. I also LOVE my hometown. A lot. I’ll want to go home to Kentucky in May for the Derby and in November for Thanksgiving with my family (things I found out made a big difference over the years). We discussed it, he’s aware and cool with all of it, and we’re good to go.

 

Moral of the story: You can be happy almost anywhere, you just have to be a little proactive.

We may not be in control of why we’ve moved, but we are in control of the effort we make.

Have you recently relocated? What are some of your go-to practices?

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Comments

  1. Kelli says:

    Amen to all of this. I’m trying to think of anything to add, but I think you’ve covered them. The biggest thing I found is like you said – get comfortable being alone (this actually helps me a ton with my work travel right now). And of course, find someone who watches Grey’s and listens to country music 🙂 Hope alll is well – miss you, friend!

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