Gretchen shares with us from the northern border in New York:
Soooooo….you’ve packed up all your belongings and moved to a new area where you don’t know a soul. You’ve moved your stuff, secured housing, got a new drivers license, filled out a million change of address forms, and unpacked boxes. So NOW WHAT???
How do you make your new environment HOME? Try these surefire tips and tricks from a veteran mover. Feel free to adopt this as your ten point plan for a smooth transition!
1. Get online to get connected
Many communities have an endless array of online forums and groups for almost any interest. Many local groups will post on Craigslist, other community online bulletin boards, or in the local paper to advertise their group or forum.
2. Read the local neighborhood news
Subscribing to one or more local newspapers, such as weekly “shoppers,” neighborhood publications, and suburban publications, is worth its weight in gold. Only a very local news source will have actual information on your neighborhood.
One of the best things about these publications is that they often have space dedicated to local history and feature the work of town historians. Learning as much as you can about the history of your community can help foster a vital connection to it.
These publications, often weeklies, typically profile local businesses, people, and places and also have calendars for community events. They may also have important public service announcements and classified ads. These papers are a vital source for being “in the know” where you reside, no matter how long or short you have lived there.
3. Embrace the familiar
When you move to a new community, a familiar routine that sustained you in the last place you lived can be helpful in once again finding your groove. If you attend any kind of religious services for example, it can be of great comfort to attend services again in your new locale. It might also be a great thing, particularly if you have children, to maintain and enhance any already established holiday traditions to foster a sense of familiarity and continuity from place to place.
Many places you will move to have some of the same organizations that you have known and loved in your previous home. Personally, I have enjoyed Toastmasters International in many of the states that I have lived. The comfort of the basic structure for any meeting throughout the world has always made it feel like a little piece of home wherever I have lived. Kiwanis, Rotary, American Legion, friends of the local library, book clubs, gardening clubs, community ed classes, and local history and culture groups are more examples of these types of organizations and activities. Many of these will have websites and will be very happy to welcome potential new members! They may even be interested to learn what their sister organization was like in your last home.
4. Map it out!
My kids and I like nothing better when moving to a new region than to spread out local maps (many that we get free from AAA, local governments, or tourism bureaus!) all over the living room floor and put our finger on new areas to explore. We size up our new region and make a plan to explore what looks interesting. We enjoy seeing the topography of a new place while identifying rivers, borders and other important features.
I also put the maps on a bulletin board on the wall, at kid level, so they can easily access them whenever they want. We have posted maps of biking trails and county park systems and have highlighted or put stick pins on the places we have been. It is great fun to see your destinations grow!
Great maps, again many free of charge, are available for many interests. Many locales provide maps for hiking trails, golf courses, historical sites, recreational sites, county parks, tourist attractions, bodies of water, and more.
Another way some people enjoy getting to know their area is through geocaching, which is described here: http://www.geocaching.com/guide/
Don’t be surprised if you hear locals marveling at the local places that you have been that they have not! As a new resident you are forced to move beyond your comfort zone and may find that you enthusiastically try to learn about your new surroundings and will not take for granted that you “know it all” because you have lived here all your life. I guarantee that if you blog about your exploratory adventures, you will have locals subscribe with interest and you will make new friends, too!
5. Go to yard sales
One move in my transient life style involved an 1800 mile move from semi arid desert to four full seasons, to include one of the harshest winters in the country. Needless to say, garage/yard/estate sales were a total necessity. We had quite a few small children who did not own winter boots, coats, hats, snowpants, sleds, skates and just about anything else you can think of to keep WARM and enjoy winter!
The Saturday morning ritual involved multiple sales each week until we had enough cold weather gear to survive, but the experience really drew us closer to our community in ways we never would have guessed. In chatting with the people that held the sales we met neighbors, arranged for play dates, and got lots of great advice for our new area.
You can learn about local sales from Craigslist, community bulletin boards, local newspapers and even just following street signs.
One of the best ways to become immediately vested in your community is through volunteering at soup kitchens, food pantries, nursing homes, volunteer fire departments, town planning boards and other great causes. Volunteers are often solicited in your local newspapers or on community bulletin boards at area libraries, grocery stores, other public buildings, churches, and word of mouth.
One of my favorite ways to get to know a new town is through any kind of service to seniors. I love hearing longtime residents of the town tell stories of its history. Listening to seniors is a great way to feel connected to a place and its residents.
Another of my personal favorite volunteer activities is to coordinate local play dates for my moms group. It forces me to get out of the house and explore in ways that I might not otherwise have done. Each activity I host is a special gift of exploration and friendship.
7. Explore your new cuisine!
Perhaps my favorite source for all things local in my current locale is having breakfast frequently at the lunch counter in one of the local, independently owned restaurants in my small village. I have learned a great deal about my new community by just striking up conversations over coffee.
There is nothing more fun than to explore all the independent restaurants in your new area. These experiences will help you get a real feel for your new culture. Each locale seems to have its own special array of traditional and ethnic dishes. Even the decor in an independent restaurant will tell you about your new region.
Every day for us in South Texas was a wonderful adventure in Mexican foods. We loved the tamales, breakfast tacos, and Texas barbeque. We also delighted in the simpler things like fried pies, kolaches at Buc-ee’s™, Frito™ pie, and Big Red.
In Western New York, we are over the moon with the variety and taste of local pizzerias, buffalo wings, gourmet hot dogs, and beef on weck. Sponge candy and Loganberry pop are new favorites.
In the bustling Washington DC metro area, we enjoyed a variety of great regional and ethnic foods. Much of it with an international flair because of the influence of the embassies.
Local farmers markets are also a great way to get to know the local foods and people in your new locale. Healthy foods that are previously unfamiliar can become part of your new tradition. Most vendors will help you with recipes and tips. This particular culinary adventure is a great place to meet the people that grow your food and is always a learning experience.
8. Stay in touch with friends
To ease your transition to a new place and minimize temporary feelings of loneliness, stay in touch with your friends on social media, e-mail, text, phone and in other ways. It is important to maintain a support system when you might be feeling lonely so that you can always have someone to share life’s ups and downs. Encouraging your children to write postcards and email with their old classmates can help them through a difficult transition, too.
Where social media is concerned, however, it is also wise to avoid spending too much time on the Internet during your transition. You must also make time to get out and get active in your community if you really want it to feel like home. Thus, it might be good to be mindful, or set a limit, on how much online interaction you choose in a day.
9. Try not to be discouraged in the short term – think about the long haul
A new setting can feel lonely at times. You may even feel like you hate your new home at first. But before making any decisions about yet another transition to a new place, or even going back to the place from whence you came, you might consider giving it a good, long trial. I am always surprised by how much a place can grow on me. Some place you do not think is for you may turn out to be your little corner of paradise in the long run! Hang in there!
10. Savor the solitude….the bonus side of transitions
When you move to a new place and do not know anyone, you will get to experience a wonderful honeymoon. Enjoy the experience of “getting away from it all’ right in the privacy of your own home! Your calendar will likely soon enough be filled with commitments, social obligations and the general busyness of life. The transition period, when your calendar is less full, can be a great time to enjoy some alone time and a much needed break from your busy routine.
If you are solo, it can be a wonderful time to travel, catch up on books and resume neglected hobbies.
If you have a partner, it is a great opportunity to reconnect and enjoy the time with each other. If you are each other’s only friend in a new place, you can cultivate that “you and me against the world” feeling that can reinforce bonding.
If you have kids, it can be a great way to cocoon with them and spend more quality time than you have in years! I particularly like having a summer alone with the kids in a new place before school starts and their lives get busy all over again with activities. We can manage an easygoing schedule and play lots of simple games and really reconnect with one another again in these wonderful “transition summers.”
During one such summer, since the kids didn’t have much scheduled yet, we committed to trying out two new county parks each week. We even developed our own informal rating system and had a grand time!
We are also big fans of just plain meandering in our new surroundings. It is our greatest adventure when we have the luxury of a flexible summer schedule to just point our car in a general direction and just DRIVE to see where we end up and then try to navigate back. (Of course this is better in daylight hours and avoiding commuter traffic times.) We have found many treasures this way. We also delight in getting hopelessly lost and then plugging our home coordinates into the GPS when we are ready to head for home.
Best of luck in your NEW HOME with all its exciting possibilities!