Most people do not take chances on a new city for the fear of starting over in a new place. What if you don’t make friends? What if you don’t like the community? What will happen to your friends back home? As a wanderer of 14 years and having over 50 addresses, I picked up a few tricks on how to instantly feel at home in a strange new place. The idea of starting over can be exciting and not as scary as you might think.
I moved to the lovely state of Virginia two weeks ago, even though I never planned on living here. After touring Asia, Europe, the Pacific, the Caribbean and living in Hawai’i, NYC, Boston and 3 other states, Virginia wasn’t my first choice- or even on my top 1,000 places to see. Sometimes life doesn’t care what your plans are and I know I can make the most of any state because the only state that matters is your state of mind! Ok, that was a little cheesy, but it’s true : )
Here are 4 steps to feel at home instantly, no matter where you are in the world.
Step 1: Unpack the senses. The fastest way to feel at home is through the senses. Whether you have a backpack or a house-full of items be sure to unpack the things that make you, you; first. And I don’t mean the silverware or the knickknacks.
My routine is to first clean my new home with the cleaning supplies I’m familiar with and/or light a candle/incense to awaken the senses into the feeling of a familiar place. To me, a home doesn’t feel like home until it smells like your preferences. Make your own upbeat unpacking playlist (music can transfer you to any moment you choose instantly) and immediately unpack your closet items. Nothing says home like knowing where your clothes are.
Step 2: Make Friends. Sign up for a FREE account at Meetup.com and RSVP to events in your area that are attractive to you. This is a great way to make business contacts, friends or even casual acquaintances to join you on adventures. I had three friends in VA before I arrived (which is 3 more then usual) and they have lives so I know I cannot rely on them to make all my friends for me. As soon as I landed in Virginia I updated my location and signed up for 4 events in January including an overnight backpacking hike on the application trail. Super Excited.
Another great way to make friends is to look for Part Time/Temporary jobs- even if you don’t need the money (especially if you don’t). In Massachusetts I picked up a PT restaurant job in addition to my career and made some pretty awesome memories with some life-long friends which got us into some epic adventures.
Step 3: Get to know your community. The quickest way into a community is to Volunteer. Sharpen your leadership skills, make connections, improve the community, make friends and heck, you may even change a life for the better. In Hawai’i I volunteered to be the President of the National Association of Professional Women and the VP of Business Networking International which grew into supporting a lot of other causes. I won’t say it wasn’t hard work but I met some really wonderful people and helped improve my character drastically.
Social Stalk your Neighborhood. Simple, free and you don’t even need a car. Start checking out your neighborhood Social Media pages where you will find a great deal of detail on what events are happening. This week in my VA neighborhood I found free entrances to parks to work on my photography skills, museums featuring Artists I like and a holiday light show– score!
Step 4: Get to know your surroundings. If you have a Part time job, volunteer and attend events you will most likely get to know the surroundings pretty well. Another fun way to get to know the roads is to get lost, literally. When I visited San Francisco I pointed at a map and said ‘I want to go there.’ This place just stuck out on the map and with no prior research or planning I hopped in the car. It turned out to be this mind-blowing 2 hour drive alongside the cliffs to this small little hippie beach town. I did the same thing on foot in Portland and on the metro in NYC where I met an actor from Portugal. You’re already in a new place, just go to places that sound cool and see what happens.
Geocaching is a fun way to get to know the local parks and trails as well as get to know your neighborhood. You can download their free app and participate- there are 498 in Chesapeake alone and I have found 1! 497 to go…. The best way to describe Geocaching is like having a neighborhood treasure hunt all across the country. Its fun for singles, couples, groups or families.
Don’t have it? Be it! If your community or current circle of friends aren’t offering you what you think you need, then take the lead! In Maine I started a Book club and in Hawai’i I created and ran Destination, ART! A fun art group that would meet up all over the island to create works of art. There is no reason why you cannot live the life you want no matter where you are. Sometimes you just have to take the lead and create it.