Sometimes opportunity knocks. Other times it sends you an email and a plane ticket from across the country or around the world.
Especially for the young, following your passion or building your career can mean physically relocating far from home (take it from me--I've lived in five cities in the last decade). That's exciting but also terrifying as you're forced to build a social life, professional network, and calendar of activities from scratch.
Handily, there are plenty of people out there who have, like me, been nudged by life into moving who can offer wisdom to speed up the process of settling in. Here are some of the best tips from veteran movers to help you minimize loneliness and dislocation and start feeling at home in your new town ASAP.
1. Ban repeats
You'll never experience new people, places, or tastes if you keep opting for things you already know you like. Therefore, while you're settling in to a new city, put a temporary ban on repeats and fire up your inner adventurer, suggests author Nicole Williams. "You'll never figure out your new favorite Chinese takeout by ordering the same lackluster wontons every time. Don't be afraid to try a little of everything," she writes on her blog.
2. Leverage your network...
You may be in an entirely new place, but your old friends and acquaintances can still be useful to you. "Can't think of anyone you know in your new town? That doesn't mean you don't have connections. Use the networks you already have-- post on Facebook and ask if any of your friends have buddies in the area. Are you a Couchsurfer? Reach out to interesting people who might make good tour guides. Have you served in the Peace Corps or volunteered with a national organization? Find the local chapter of your group and drop them an email," Dorie Trimble advises young folks living in new cities.
3. ... but don't be afraid to do things alone
Even if you work your connections tirelessly, they'll still be times you just can't find anyone to hang out with. Don't stay home! "Doing things alone is satisfying, empowering, and totally underrated," Trimble adds.
Writing on LinkedIn veteran mover Austin Pogue agrees: "I've met more people eating alone than I have while on the move in any context aside from bar-hopping. If you carry yourself well and are naturally curious (looking up from your phone to see what's around you), people will be intrigued by who you might be, and you shouldn't shy away from starting a conversation."
4. Default to yes
This is perhaps the most essential piece of advice you'll get about happily relocating. Invited to an activity that's way outside your comfort zone? Not sure if you'll get along with the acquaintance asking you to coffee? Who cares, say yes anyway! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
"An old friend of mine who practiced improv called this saying yes to your scene partner. If your scene partner says, 'We're on a boat! And it's sinking!' you don't say, 'Actually, we're at high tea with the Queen of England,' you say, 'Pass me the life vests!' Everyone you meet, every opportunity that's extended to you, that's your scene partner. Say yes!" Trimble urges movers. "Though you may feel like you don't belong there, take a chance," agrees Dan Healy on Brazen Careerist.
5. Walk it
When you move to a new city, the first order of business is naturally to master the practicalities of getting around. Where's the nearest grocery store? What's the easiest train to take to work? Questions like these need immediate answering, but as soon as you have a moment to breathe, it's a good idea to step out of your car or the subway and roam your new home on foot. Not only do public transport maps and driving often give you a distorted picture of the distances between destinations, but walking is the only way to truly suck in the small details and easy-to-overlook establishments that will turn a blur outside the window into your neighborhood.
"The best way to see a city--any city, at that--is by walking directly into the heart of it and following whichever road looks most interesting," insists Pogue. While that may be true of more European cities than American ones, the basic principle is sound wherever you've relocated--find areas you can explore on foot and lace up your walking shoes.
6. Cut yourself some slack
No matter how savvy you are about settling in to a new place, it always takes time. You will experience moments of loneliness and dislocation. Don't beat yourself up if you're not 100 percent comfortable quickly after arrival. There is nothing wrong with you. It will get better.
Likewise, if the move was forced by circumstances beyond your control, you'll do yourself no favors by pining for your old home or viewing your time there through rose-tinted glasses. "If you've had to relocate due to circumstances of life," Tola Shasanya advises on Levo League, "make the most of where you are. Always remember that things will get better from there. Part of finding peace in your new environment includes living in the present."
7. Resist the urge to comfort shop
The inevitable confused feelings and occasional loneliness of a new city can have you looking for quick-fix comfort. You can't make your best friend who lives across the country magically appear, so you might be tempted to do something you can control--pull out the credit card. For the most part, resist this impulse. Shopping is an always available distraction, but that certainly doesn't mean you should always indulge.
"Without a packed social schedule, sometimes you'll find yourself substituting spending for living-- and while there's some satisfaction in building up that business casual wardrobe, financial excess should not replace real activity. So leave your house, but leave your wallet at home," suggests Trimble.
8. Get a "third space"
If you don't yet have enough to do outside of the house, you can start to get the feeling that the walls are closing in on you. Or sometimes life can seem like a dull alternation of office and home. Fight those feelings by incorporating a "third space" into your routine. "I found a comfortable 'third place' where I could work outside of my home. For me this is the local coffee shop, but there has also been an explosion of great community coworking spaces for freelancers and creatives to share a workspace and connect with one another," suggests two-time cross country mover Kim Lucian on blog Apartment Therapy.
9. Plan things to look forward to
"New city or not, it is important to always have something to look forward to. When we were kids, it was the first day of school, or a baseball game or golf match. These events were handed to us. Our parents put us in school and signed us up for sports. Now it is necessary for us, as adults, to create these new opportunities," Healy says.
That can be a simple as a weekly exercise class you really enjoy, but you should also "plan large (even if it's only large in your mind) events to look forward to," Healy suggests. "For example, my girlfriend came out last weekend; I looked forward to that for a month. In a few more weeks, I am going to a fraternity brother's wedding and I'll be catching up with old friends. I keep a calendar that marks both large and small events in my life that I can look forward to, and when days seem endless, it helps to look up and count the days until I get to do something new that I enjoy."
Do you have any other tips to add to the list?