Tips for Learning a New City

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So you’ve just moved to a new city – congratulations!  Whether it be for a promotion, new career, or even that you’re opting for a change of pace from your previous lifestyle, you are embarking on a new adventure and that is incredibly exciting.

However, change can often bring about common fears and doubts, so I thought a post such as this could come in handy.  Having just uprooted my life from New York City and replanting it in sunny Los Angeles, California, I figured I’ve got a wisdom nugget or two to share on the matter.

#1 – Plan Your Days

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Depending on the scenario for which you’ve moved, your schedule in your new town may look very different than the one you’ve grown accustomed to.  You may find large pockets or gaps of time with nothing to do.  Perhaps your job doesn’t start for a few days – hell, maybe you still need to find a job – but the fact remains that pockets of empty time allow one to sit around bored, slowly sinking into feelings of homesickness and doubt.  Therefore, my tip is to actively fill up your schedule.

“But I’m new to this town – I don’t know where to go or what to do!”

It may be a new town, but the drive comes from you.  I’m not saying you need to fill up your schedule with the hottest “to dos” around the city, but rather build up your day with simple tasks that will get you out of the house and away from those mopey, sad thoughts of all you “left behind.”

Go grocery shopping and find your nearest market.  Build your nest – what extras do you need to go shopping for?  Schedule the smallest, menial tasks such as going for a walk, doing laundry, or even grabbing a coffee in a new cafe.  These small actions may read as busy work or chores, but I promise they will keep your energy moving and momentum building towards feeling part of your new home.

#2 – Slowly Increase Your Radius

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I’m assuming in moving to a new place, you’ve at least got your home base…if not, that’s Step #1.  Once you know the place you’ll be hanging your hat, slowly work to increase your perimeter.  It will start small – down the street from me is 7-Eleven, I’ve got 7-Eleven and home.  Further down the road is Whole Foods – now I’ve got 7-Eleven, Whole Foods, and home.  Where’s work in relation to you?  Find the most direct route to start with, and then as you get more comfortable with that, find where even that can be expanded.  I.e. If I take this turn instead, there is a great coffee place for me to get my morning brew, or if I take this road, there is often less chaotic traffic.

Filling in the gaps between the steady markers on your map is how you’re going to learn your new world and slowly begin to find your new favorites.  However, when I say “increase your radius,” I’m not only referring to a literal map.  A radius in terms of relationships is another important thing to grow and develop.

In moving to LA, I was lucky to already know a handful of people.  My brother has been a local for 10 years, and a small smattering of high school friends have also had life lead them west.  Each of these parties have been kind enough to take me out, show me the ropes, and even introduce me to some people within their own inner circles.

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But say you move somewhere and don’t know a soul.  All you’ve got is your work and your home.  Given this scenario, I purposefully chose to move in with roommates.  It’s not my typical MO – I’ve gotten very accustomed to living on my own, but in a new city with very few connections, I knew I wanted to have a couple people immediately in my back pocket.  Living with strangers can be a daunting process – if you choose this route, be sure to interview carefully and know your non-negotiable living preferences.  First priority should still be about making home your safe haven – whatever that looks and sounds like to you.  Happily, my scenario has worked out exactly as I wished.

But even sans roommates – go to work, meet people, see who you jive well with.  Perhaps you can grab a quick drink after work.  Perhaps they’ll have friends they’ll want to introduce you to.  Even starting small at building relationships can see exponential growth, but you have to be willing to dive in…which brings us to point #3.

#3 – Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

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Now if, like myself, you’re a secret (or not so secret) introvert, chances are I’ve already listed a thing or two that have made the hairs on the back of your neck prickle.  When you know, understand, and trust the safety of your own four walls and bed, it can be a challenge for some to even venture far enough out to find their new super market.  And while my heart and understanding goes out to those of you for whom this rings true, I’m going to lovingly urge/encourage you to continuously break out of your shell.  Keep focus on the aspects that are exciting about your new scenario vs focusing on what appears intimidating.

You’re in a brand new place, you may not know anyone….sounds like you’ve got very little to lose.  Plan those OkCupid dates – even if it’s not a love match, you’ll be meeting new people and finding new places.  Accept as many invitations out as possible.  My first week in LA I was invited to a coworker’s belated bridal shower.  I was tentative to accept at first, thinking I couldn’t possibly know the girl well enough to attend, but I threw caution to the wind and accepted the invitation.  Turns out that night has been one of my favorites in LA thus far.

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Yes fellow introverts, going out can be intimidating – what if I get lost, what if I say the wrong thing, what if no one likes me?  But start flipping that script to find what’s more exciting – I wonder what new place I’ll find, I bet we have so much in common, maybe this person will become a lifelong friend.  The golden opportunities are out there, but you have to be daring enough to go after them.

#4 – Try New Things

In many ways #4 on this list goes hand in hand with #3.  In fact, many of you might argue that they are the actually same thing.  Regardless, the point is important enough that I will happily spread it across 2 spots on this list.

New town, new experiences – how will you know if you don’t like something if you don’t possibly give it a try?

I thought I hated hiking.  I was a through and through city girl whose ideal version of nature was the carefully crafted and contained Central Park in Manhattan.  Then I went on a few choice vacations, each of which saw some epic hiking…and guess what…I loved it.  I loved being out in wild nature, I loved getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and I loved the mental recharge that each experience provided me.  Because of all this, new hiking trails and routes are something I actively seek out now, but it’s something I would have never found had I not been willing to travel somewhere new and try something different.IMG_0332

New place, new rules, new you.  Reach, develop, grow.

#5 – Be Kind to Yourself

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No matter how exciting your new chapter may be, there will no doubt be moments of inconsolable heartache/homesickness.  (If there’s not, you definitely made the right choice in moving 😉 )

I’m not ashamed to admit, I sobbed my first full morning in LA.  Everything was new and unknown.  I felt disoriented and confused, and all I wanted was some familiarity of the city and friends I’d known for the previous decade of my life.  At this point today, LA remains new enough that I still have small moments of feeling this way – so how do I get around it?  I don’t.  I show myself compassion and kindness as I wade through the muddy waters of homesick feelings and sadness.  I cry and slowly process the change.  I remind myself the reasons I chose to move and the opportunities I’ve provided myself in doing so.  I reach out to the friends I’m missing – thankfully advances in modern technology practically insure you won’t lose touch when moving away.

Change is hard, and this article was never intended to help you cheat around the emotional component.  Feelings of homesickness or loss are completely normal in this type of scenario.  So my biggest advice to you is to feel those difficult feelings – don’t runaway or distract yourself when you find them bubbling up.  The sooner you spend some time working through these murky emotional waters, the sooner you’ll find yourself on the other side with plenty of mental clarity and a deeper sense of self.

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