Moving to a new city is challenging for almost anyone, even those who are filled with wanderlust. I’ve lived in fours “corners” of the U.S.—the Southeast, the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest, and currently, south Texas. Every time I’ve moved, I’ve had to navigate the difference between my expectations of my new home and the reality of it.
For example, when I was preparing to move to Oregon for graduate school, I imagined the Oregon of my childhood summers when I went to visit my grandmother there. Once I settled in, I realized that my fantasy of my new home was just that. As an adult, I encountered many aspects of my new city that I couldn’t have possibly imagined that ranged from less than pleasant to neutral to wonderful.
This common experience contributes to why moving to a new city can be so jarring. Add to that missing your old digs and feeling separated from friends, and you can quite quickly feel out of sorts. Whether we like it or not, our identity is tied deeply to the places we call home, so when we move, we need to reorient more than our belongings.
While I’m not a serial mover, I’ve moved enough to know that there are a few things one can do to make the transition a conscious one. My last move, from Oregon to Texas, taught me some of these strategies the hard way. While I was thrilled that my husband found work here, I missed my last home terribly, and it took years for me to feel more comfortable here (and to be honest, I’m still working on it). If I ever have to uproot myself again, I think I’ll be better emotionally equipped.
Practice old rituals in your new place.
Do you have favorite rituals, hobbies, or traditions? Be sure to bring them to your new place if possible. For example, I’ve journaled and created collages all of my life, and when I’ve moved to different parts of the country, I’ve made sure to whip out my journal and glue stick and get creative. It’s been a helpful reminder that I’m still me and that I still love many of the same things I always have.
Find a new ritual.
Creating a new memory in your new city can help you build a personal attachment to it—and trying something new will remind you that you’re experiencing personal growth in your new place. It doesn’t have to be major—it could be a weekly walk in a local park or a self-care ritual you practice in your home. In my case, I’ve become very invested in tea since moving to Texas (becoming friends with a tea aficionado didn’t hurt). I love enjoying afternoon tea in a china cup.
Keep in touch with old friends.
One of the hardest things about moving is missing out on one-on-one time with your once-local friends. It’s especially important to keep in touch with your old friends. Schedule Skype calls, and text from time to time. Staying connected can help you feel less alone in a completely new place. That said, it’s okay to let go of some relationships. Some friendships are temporary or simply based on shared location or workplace, and that’s okay, too!
But make an effort to find new friends in your current location, too.
Nothing provides a sense of belonging quite like making new friends and feeling like you’re a part of a community. Don’t be afraid to actively court new friends if you feel like nothing is happening organically. Sometimes, the person you have a friend crush on is just a little shy but would love to meet for coffee. It’s worth asking!
Be a tourist in your new city.
Explore your new digs like a curious tourist—even if your new city isn’t exactly a “destination.” Chances are, you will still find interesting and exciting spots—a cute café downtown, a fun used bookstore, a hidden park—who knows! Keep an open mind and you may be surprised.
Try to avoid comparison as much as possible.
I struggle with this often. I continually compare my current spot to places I used to live (and often find it lacking). While it’s important to acknowledge that you do miss your previous residence, it’s unproductive (as I know from experience) to play the comparison game to the point of resenting your new home. Accept that there are differences between the two places, and try to dwell on the more positive aspects of the change. For example, my husband and I often lament the climate in the PNW–it’s cooler and way less humid for starters, but we also enjoy a good thunderstorm here or watching the waves crash along the shore on our way to work.
Remember that Home is mostly a feeling, less so a place.
We often hear that home is a feeling, not a place. I think this is true-ish. Ultimately, whatever feeling that home is, it’s likely influenced by place, too, so it’s probably impossible to fully separate the two. However, while you’re getting acquainted with your new city, focus on the other things that make home feel like home—your cherished belongings, your routines, your favorite hobbies, your favorite meals, etc.
Have you moved recently? How did you make the adjustment?
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