Nomad Life,  The City

How to Find Your Feet When Moving to a New City

moving to a new city

These days, my grandma calls me a hero for moving 1300 miles away from home as a single female. And that purity is why we simply don’t deserve grandmas…Anyway, thanks Grandma, but I’m not a hero. I’m an introvert and escapist who has never felt comfortable staying put. This natural inclination to leave my hometown definitely helped when moving to a new city, but it was not a perfect transition. In fact, there were so many things that went wrong, it’s a miracle that I made it three years out here. 

For starters, I was moving to a new state for my first big girl job. Unfortunately, I was convinced by my company to compromise and move one hour outside my dream city of Denver…close enough I guess. Next up, my company told me a start date and then that start date didn’t come until nearly 6 weeks after my move. We’re talking $0 income for 6 weeks. This was by far the biggest blow. Not only was grocery shopping anxiety-inducing, but spending money on gas, exploring, and eating out was not an option. I had SO MUCH free time and SO LITTLE money. It felt like a helpless situation. 

And the final kicker? My company then placed me in Denver…therefore, I would now be commuting with traffic into my dream city from the apartment that I was unable to break the lease on. I just can’t make this shit up people. In hindsight, my move was destroyed by toxic corporate recruiters who will tell you anything you want to hear. They preyed on my naivete and desperation to finally make some money and move away. They offered little to no compensation for gas by the way. 

So, how did I make it through this shitstorm of moving to a new city you ask? I literally had no idea until I recently sat down and wrote about this. Sometimes when you’re going through it there’s nothing to do but survive. Only after some reflection do you realize how brave and resourceful you are. 

Wait…am I a hero?

Step 1: Research Your New City

The good news about my move to Fort Collins vs. Denver is that I had visited a few years prior. I actually really liked FoCo. It’s a smaller town with tons of character and close proximity to the mountains. That’s partially why I was convinced so easily. I also understand that making a trip to your new city prior to moving is not always within the budget. Not to mention, even if you’ve visited, you’re probably not privy to all the neighborhoods. In order to find the perfect fit for you, I encourage you to do some research and know what you want. For example, as a single millennial moving to a new city alone, I prioritized living in an area where I could be around peers and maximize opportunities to make friends. I needed hip and happening. 

Where to Research

Of course, the first place to start is Google and searching “best neighborhoods in…” or “best neighborhoods in…for…(insert priorities here)” etc. Use blogs, neighborhood, city, and government websites. You’ll start to get a lay of the land pretty quickly. Next, think about whether or not you know someone who lives or has lived in that city. These people can offer a wealth of first-hand knowledge about the city and give you recommendations based on your list of priorities. And no, it is not weird to ask them questions, honestly, they’ll probably be flattered. The last thing I’d recommend is to use social media. Begin to follow influencers from your new city and save those recommendations they’re posting about. Also, shoot your shot and DM them for some advice! Again, it’s the purest form of flattery.

Step 2: Plan Your First Few Weekends

If you’re moving to a new city alone, the weekends can often feel longer than your 9-5 weekdays. Admittedly it’s lonely, even for an introvert. If you plan weekends ahead of time for the first month or two, you can avoid feeling like a capital “L” loser and keep the excitement for your new city alive. For me, this looked like a lot of day trips to the mountains and hiking. You might plan for something more low-key like finding your go-to grocery store (or farmers market), reading in the park, or trying out that coffee shop you’ve heard so much about. I’d also recommend planning ahead with your hometown friends. See if anyone is available to come out and visit you within those first few months. These are great opportunities to try out the nightlife and other activities you may not feel comfortable doing on your own.

Step 3: Get to Know Yourself


“I’m my own soulmate, I know how to love me”

Lizzo

While moving to a new city can feel lonely, you don’t immediately have to know how to make friends. It’s okay to take time to warm up to your new lifestyle and learn about what you really want to make of it. So often we don’t take advantage of the periods of rest and downtime in our life. These periods that seem boring or lonely can often be ripe for creativity if you allow them to be.

Of course, being creative will look different for everyone. I love the idea of overhauling your wardrobe for some fresh looks. What about prioritizing your new living space and making it as true to you as possible? Or, make some art for your walls. As a more budget-friendly option, I got some cookbooks from the library and tried out easy and healthy recipes. Many of the recipes I learned during this time, I still make today. Before you know it, time will be flying by and you’ll be meeting your best friend in the yarn section at the craft store. For those of you who plan to move to a new city to start over, alone time is the most precious time that you have.

Step 4: Capitalize on Your Interests

Now that you have a better understanding of who you are and what you want, take your interests and turn them into outings. Using the cooking example again, you may feel inspired to find your city’s best farmer’s market, go on the hunt for your favorite restaurant (take-out counts if you’re not comfortable eating out solo), take a cooking class, or volunteer at something like a soup kitchen. When I lived in Fort Collins, I volunteered at FoCo Cafe. A nonprofit restaurant that offered meals to the community who could not afford to pay. Patrons would then either volunteer time or donate whatever money they could to the kitchen. It’s important that you don’t put pressure on yourself in these situations. You’re not always going to meet your best friend, but these outings can help you feel more connected to your community and provide a sense of belonging rather than feeling like an outsider that’s just visiting. 

Step 5: How to Make Friends in a New City

This is the million-dollar question especially if you’re planning to move to a new city alone in your 20s. My best advice? Do not skip solo outings (see step 4 ^). It can feel really scary and vulnerable at first, but practice makes perfect and you can start small. Don’t forget to capitalize on your interests and you’ll certainly find like-minded people.

Use Apps and the Internet

When I moved to Fort Collins, I was lucky enough to have 2 successful experiences using apps. Meetup.com is an awesome way to search for social groups based on your interests. For example, I joined a hiking and yoga Meetup group and made my first friend! The Nudge is another incredible way to get out and meet new people. Once you download the app and sign up with your city (there are currently 10 major cities), they will text you weekly things to do. I’m talking about 2-3 step plans that will take up your whole day. They’re typically unique hidden gems around your city too! Finally, they’ll often hold “nudgers only” events that only others who have the app can attend. The interesting thing about both Meetup and The Nudge is that many of the people in these groups are in your exact situation. They are newbies in the city and attempting to make friends just like you. This makes the opportunity for a reliable buddy more likely.

While dating apps are highly disputed and definitely not for everyone, they can also be a way to meet new people. My biggest caution when using the apps is to have an intentional mindset about it…and maybe wait a few weeks until you’ve had your alone time. Overall I think going into dating apps with a fun and open mind when you move to a new city is important. I went in expecting nothing more than to meet a cool person, get a free meal, and gain a new experience. And then, I came out with a boyfriend of course. Anyway, I must admit that having him as a buddy made the remainder of my newbie experience a bit comfier.

Use Your Coworkers

Say yes to happy hours, volunteer to be on the party planning committee, and *gasp* go into the office if that’s a possibility. It can often be easier to relate to coworkers as you all have a shared language and experience working for your company. All you really need is one go-to person to vent and gossip with. But also, this person can be someone to hang with outside of the work setting. Invite them out and then maybe they’ll invite you to their social outings. This can widen the possibilities to make friends with their friends. Before you know it, you’ll be planning a weekend getaway with your new group of besties.

Step 6: Call Your Mom

Or your dad or grandparents or best friend or whoever you selfishly left behind. Only kidding 🙂But really, these people are there to hear about the good, the bad, and the boring. Instead of lamenting to yourself that you “have no friends” maybe call your bestie to remind yourself that you most certainly do. And while no one could ever be as perfect as her, there’s always space for a close second. If it weren’t for the support and tolerance of my long phone calls from family and friends I’m not sure how long I would’ve lasted. Even if we talked about absolutely nothing, I always left those phone calls feeling lighter. 

Step 7: Give Yourself Grace

So, after everything we’ve learned here today…is it hard to move to a new city alone? Yes, yes it is. Many of us are moving to a new city to start over in some capacity. We seem to think that as soon as we cross a state line or walk into our new apartment all of our troubles will simply fade away. We will finally start to live our best lives. The truth is that moving to a new city, making new friends, and establishing your identity in this new context takes a lot of time. The time that we have convinced ourselves we just don’t have. My advice is not to rush things. It literally can take years to feel comfortable and “at home”. So, give yourself some grace and have patience. Things will pan out exactly as they’re supposed to. And guess what? If you hate it, you can always leave.

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