I thought of writing this post because of my experience moving to different places. Universally, I’ve found that moving is extremely difficult. Where are my new friends? What quirky thing are we going to find out about where we live? These are 5 ways to love your new city from the experiences I’ve had after two complete cross country moves in my 20s.
My husband and I were born on opposite sides of the country, met in a different state for college, became engaged in California, and then married in Devin’s home state of Arizona. We applied for jobs in Phoenix and Nashville to be close to our family and where we grew up… and we ended up in Atlanta.
Yeah, that’s kind of what we thought too. Atlanta was way not in the plan, but it seemed like an adventure and it was the job Devin was offered. I had been to Atlanta once as a six-year-old and Devin had never been here until his internship. We knew no one in Atlanta and we found ourselves kind of scratching our heads a lot: where do we live? will we make friends fast? what will be things we like? what will be things that we don’t enjoy? Really, everything about Atlanta was a big question mark.
We’ve now lived here for 4.5 years, navigated the roller coaster that is making friends as an adult, and have a mortgage. I’ve done a lot of research, I’ve had plenty of tears, and I’m going to share 5 things that helped us love a new city. At times when I become homesick, which is still surprisingly often, I rinse, cycle, and repeat these steps to help me feel connected again.
1 | PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
For me, it was super easy for me to hide because I was intimidated by our situation. Devin traveled more than he was at home and I was unemployed a lot longer than I even foresaw. Because my church community was all I had to invest in at first, I made a point of taking meals to people when they were sick or had a baby, I went to things when I was invited, I went to play group (even without children) and went to book club and every church activity I could. I made it a point to say hello to every new family I saw at church, invite them over for dinner, and just genuinely try to get to know people.
Graduate school provided me friendshipping opportunities as did blogging. I’ve made great friends from blogging in our area that has been a great joy to me. Of course, it wasn’t without normal insecurities of beginning of friendships, but it has helped me build the confidence to branch out. Recently, I have been connecting with other Etsy makers in our area and I plan on doing some lunch dates with them. Other options that I chickened out of were using websites like Meetup.com where you can find other people with similar hobbies as you!
These are all things I initially would not have done since I was so comfortable socially in high school and college, but I had to just keep putting myself out there over and over until I finally clicked with some people.
2 | DISCOVER THE HISTORY
I felt connected to where I grew up not only because I had history there, but I had pride in living there because of the history there too. The type of history you have from living somewhere a long time can only be duplicated with time, but you have control over learning about your new home.
Our first few weeks of living here, I made a point of looking up historic neighborhoods, museums, and talking walks learning about the area. I read up about my town. You’ll notice when you read my 101 in 1001 goal list that I’m still making a lot of effort to get to know our Georgia home (it turns out that it is easy when your state boasts places like Savannah!).
I promise you that no matter where you live there is amazing history. In the small little town where I grew up, we had an impressive amount of civil war history and monuments in the middle of nowhere; I promise you have little things that don’t initially meet the eye too.
3 | FIND A FAVORITE _____.
For us, that blank space was restaurant. We love eating out at hole in the wall restaurants and even though we raised our eyebrows thinking that there wouldn’t be, our town more than delivered. For you though, that blank space might mean finding a favorite coffee shop or book store. Think really hard: what is the one thing that makes you feel at home? Where is that space where you like to spend time by yourself or meet others? If one of your friends visited, what kind of place would you want to show them to say how amazing it was?
In addition to restaurants, I discovered as a small town girl living in now a huge suburb, I wanted to find a much smaller local town that felt a little bit more like what I had grown accustomed. When family came, I drove them out to that little town to see the cute little lake cottages, the unique historic churches, and enjoy the downtown there. I’ve noticed that when I have a down day, I crave to go to that little town and walk around like I was supposed to be there the whole time.
4 | STOP COMPARING YOUR NEW HOME
I’m going to tell you a secret. Your new home will never be your old one and it will never match the expectations you brought with you either. Keep your expectations low and allow your new city to be exactly what it is: new. Your new city will have interesting and wonderful thinks to offer you, if you let it. It will also have negative things too, but for me, I learned when I stopped romanticizing where I had lived before I was able to see the negatives were actually very comparable.
When we moved here, I imagined it like a suburban version of where I grew up. I expected that I would make friends quickly and we would do random quirky things together on the weekend or meet up at restaurants. Well, the problem was that was high school and now I was 23 and had a husband. That alone would never be the same. My first visit back to my college town, I naively thought everything would be the same. The friends I messaged didn’t meet up with us and the ones that did we were already staying with. It was eye opening to realize that even if we went back to the places we lived, they wouldn’t be the same. Our relationships? They were also different. What I learned? If people want to keep up with you, they’ll still invest, but it will still look different.
5 | INVEST IN YOURSELF
While this one may be the hardest to do when you feel you feel drained and anxious, it is the most important. It is hard to make new friends when you are feeling depressed or are lacking hobbies. More than that, the types of friendships you will develop when you aren’t investing in yourself aren’t healthy ones you’d probably want to keep investing in later on. For me, investing in myself looks like reading books, buying a face mask and maybe a tube of new lipstick. Another thing that really helped me was investing in the surroundings of my home (I didn’t make this a separate section because aesthetics doesn’t matter as much to everyone). I’m the type of person that is very impacted by my physical surroundings and having a home that I felt happy in helped me feel happier; I spent a lot of time in thrift stores curating things to hang up.
What I’ve learned in this time is where you live should not be dependent on if you’re a happy person or not. While your new city may not be an exact fit, you still have control over how you feel even if you are grieving leaving your old home behind (which is okay to the point that it isn’t stopping you from growing where you have been transplanted).
We’ve now lived in the burbs of Atlanta for 4.5 years and I won’t tell you it looks like what I thought it would at this point, however, I can tell you that it is good and I’m happy. I’ve found that Atlanta is a wonderful road trip location that is central to a lot of amazing historic cities, that the airport has amazing deals, and that there are so many different kinds of hole in the wall ethnic food restaurants that we can’t visit them as often as we think of them 🙂 . Do I wish we lived closer to family still? Most days. Do I miss friends I’ve made in other places? Definitely. Do I appreciate the growth that we’ve made because of here? Always.