On the eve of my third major relocation, my father quoted Yogi Berra: “You see a fork in the road, you take it.” A strange and somewhat cryptic saying for sure, but with my life packed into boxes and worry on my mind, it was a reminder that moving is an opportunity for adventure, a chance to shake things up. Three years later, those words ran through my head as I once again boxed everything up, and drove five hours to Philadelphia, my new home.
Moving to a new city or town is exciting, but it can also be a stressful and somewhat scary experience if you’ve never done it before (or even if you consider yourself an old pro). Whether this is your first move or your fourth, it’s not easy packing up everything you own and pointing your compass in the direction of the unknown, especially if you’re headed to unfamiliar territory. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from constantly moving, it’s that the experience is what you make of it, getting to know your new home can be one of the best parts of the adventure, as long as you have a game plan.
Reach Out: Before my last move three years ago, it was such an off-my-radar location that I didn’t expect to have any connections whatsoever in the city, but it turned out that a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend lived there and was willing to connect with me. As soon as you know you’re going to be moving, reach out to family and friends to see if they can put you in touch with anyone they may know who lives in your new destination. Put it out there on social media. Even if you think it’s a shot in the dark, you might be surprised; the most remote connection can still be a life line. Get in touch early and ask about neighborhoods to check out, where to hang out, and favorite haunts in and around your new town.
Read Up: Check out the travel section of your local library or bookstore to find titles that specialize in the area you’re moving to, and read up. If you like to hike, be sure to get your hands on some local trail maps, or if museums and cultural spots are more your thing, look up travel guides that feature those destinations. While you’re at it, scope out hashtags and tagged places through Instagram, or connect with a few favorite local users to get an insider’s take on where you’re headed. From there you’ll be able to make a light itinerary for your first few days, and maybe even set up a couple of coffee dates with people you’ve connected with.
Get Out: Once you’re all moved in, it’s time to make use of all the info you’ve gathered and get out and get exploring. Walk or ride your bike around your neighborhood, check out local music venues, use the Roadside America app to find weird spots you wouldn’t expect, pay attention to the community board in your local coffee shop. Spending time out and about will keep you busy and present plenty of opportunities to connect with people and meet locals. One of my favorite days in Philadelphia so far was spent just walking through the city with no destination in mind, I discovered an amazing farmer’s market that way, where I was able to pick up a bunch of locally crafted items.
Get Lost: It’s tempting to use your GPS for everything from finding the closest grocery store, to finding your way home, but every once and awhile, turn it off and just let yourself go. The fastest way from point A to point B isn’t always the most interesting. Let yourself wander and I can almost guarantee you’ll discover something new. Walk down a side street, pop into a cute cafe, turn the wheel left instead of right. Allow yourself an afternoon every once and awhile to get lost, and soon you’ll know your new town like the back of your hand (and you’ll look like a pro when tourists ask for directions).
Take Time: It’s tempting to hit the ground running and go-go-go as soon as you move in. But you live here now (awesome!) and will have plenty of time to do everything on your most-likely growing list of things to do, so set aside some time to focus on yourself and slow down, whether it’s through yoga, daily meditation, or keeping a journal. Remember to take a moment every now and then to stop and appreciate the incredible adventure you’re on, moving is tough but you did it!
Do you have tips for getting to know your new home?