Setting sail to a new city solo

Moving to a new city can be overwhelming. If you’re anything like me, sometimes the universe dictates where you go after a mass job apply. Who wants me?… Bueller? Bueller?

But sometimes the type A side of me takes over and lists of assets and pitfalls of cities have filled all the paper in my house. Yes there is crime, but do I need to carry a gun? How many vegetarian restaurants are within 2 blocks of my new office? Can I ride my bike around town or will the local yokals run me off the road? All this is running through your mind and onto the paper — Until you just put your big girl panties on and MOVE… It’s never going to happen unless you do it!

It’s okay to move somewhere just to move. I do it a lot. It is cleansing (and that’s in these days, right?). I’m a bit of a modern day gypsy. The thought of owning a mattress really freaks me out. I had one once and it was nice, but not as nice as the feeling of not owning anything that doesn’t fit in your car. On the flip side, it’s pretty nice to have an actual reason for moving to a new city, just for when those nosy neighbors ask. If you don’t have a good story, hopefully your drive is long enough that you can make something up fabulous. After all, isn’t there a rare species of birds that only exists in the pocket wilderness outside of your new said home?

My first big solo move was from Alaska to Chattanooga. Life caught up with me and adulthood muttered those seductive “go back to school” words in my ear. I went from living in conjunction with the birds and bears to living 1 block away from the rowdiest bar in Chattanooga. Whatever glasses you have on, there are obstacles and foreign specimens. Late night noises were made by skateboarders instead of bears. But what’s new is new. And what’s new can be really freaky if you don’t have the right attitude.

A couple of years later, the gypsy in me re-emerged and I decided it was time to move again. I moved from Tennessee to Montana in August. Most people wanted to know “why?” but I knew that my time had expired in Tennessee and to be honest, it was just way too dang hot for me.

I did a mass job apply in a bunch of Western states and found a firm that wanted to hire me based on a couple of phone conversations. I had never stepped foot in the great state of Montana so obviously this move seemed a bit bizarre. Loaded up my car and ten days later, Dorothy wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I went from 90 degrees of humidity straight into a pretty intense wildfire season. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I had forgotten what it was like to be totally vulnerable and green again. But here I am, a Tennessee girl learning to survive her first Montana winter (and boy it is an adventure!).

So as frightening as it may seem, there’s something amazing about finding a new yoga studio, making a new friend that is so like you it’s scary, finding a secret route to work, discovering what the locals do, a new dive bar, a whole new you, and a totally different normal.

Lucky for you I’m a sucker for a good move, so I have composed a few tips for you-

Before you move 

  1. Go to a restaurant that you have never been to, leave your phone at home, and eat alone. Watch what is going on around you, how people act, chew your food, and contemplate being… if you’re not totally freaked by this, you have my permission to move.
  2. Don’t leave on bad terms. Face your issues before you go, tie them up with a cute pink bow, and make sure to not leave any skeletons in your closet.
  3. Look on ole Craigslist for a short term rental, unless you’re going to check the place out first. It’s great to get a feel of the city and what your hood will be like before you make a huge adult commitment, like signing a lease.
  4. Google Street View – 98% reliable about what your new city is going to look like.
  5. Do some soul searching. What do you like to do? What do you want to do? If you don’t know, then it’s best time you make friends with your inner you and find a hobby. Chances are other people like to do that too. So decide what you like to do and I guarantee there are people in your new city who do that thing you do.
  6. If you’ve already landed a job, ask for a moving bonus. What’s the worst they can say? No.
  7. Weigh your pros and cons of selling your stuff or moving it. This is totally dependent on when/where you’re moving. There are a lot of great services out there that will move your stuff by cargo box. Or if you have enough chest hair, maybe you want to drive that U-Haul. If you go the sell your junk route (my personal favorite), download the eBay ap/Craigslist/local FB selling page and start taking photos. You would be amazed the people that want your junk! If you’re not hungry for money, local thrift stores are the way to go. Most will even pick up your unwanted furniture in their own moving truck but don’t wait till the last minute; you must call and arrange it. Have a yard sale. Have fun with it!
  8. Relax and remember to do everything you love before you go. Don’t stress out and forget to ride your favorite mountain bike trail one last time- you never know when you are coming back.

What to do when you get to your new city

  1. Get settled, but not too settled. Playing house is fun but can be super time consuming. Remember you’re in a new city, don’t hide in your apartment.
  2. Get your butt out of the door and explore. The Internet is actually pretty lame representation of where you live.
  3. Become a member of the library once you get your first piece of mail. You have never had that much time to read before? Now the page has turned.
  4. Send some post cards to let your friends know you’re alive, where they can find you, and tempt them into a visit (this is not an SOS – you will survive).
  5. Get lost. There is nothing better than stumbling upon something. It suddenly becomes yours. Your own secret spot, the place you bought an umbrella once to save your white t-shirt, the Chinese restaurant you can’t pronounce, where you met your new best friend.
  6. As soon as people hear your accent, the will know where you hail from. Don’t always feel like you have to explain yourself, it’s okay to be different but with that being said, don’t be too hard headed…
  7. Get local—eat local food, drink local beer, paddle local rivers, explore local trails, talk to your mailwoman, meet your neighbors, buy some raw denim. Fake it till you make it.

Chances are, this is going to be the best first day of your life. Take a first day of school day photo and march your way out the door. You will be so amazed at what you find in yourself when you finally get away from “normal” and enter those uncharted waters. “I know you can be underwhelmed and you can be overwhelmed, but can you just be whelmed?” Maybe in your new city…

It’s been three months since I first parked my car in Montana. I have learned more about myself than I bargained for and have made some pretty amazing friends while I was at it. As it turns out, Montana isn’t for the faint at heart and ice is slippery. I frequently ride my bike past the horrendous smell of freshly hit deer, have frozen my toes in a glacial fed river while attempting my best/worst fly fishing cast (I promise I watched A River Runs Through it First), and have learned the best way to carry my bear spray on my mountain bike so I don’t accidentally spray myself. Most importantly- I have loved every minute of it of the new explorations.

I’m still trying my hardest to accomplish #15- getting “local” and “normal” is pretty hard. I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way. Cotton is not really a base layer and people outside of the south generally aren’t as friendly. But what I have learned the most, is that fitting in isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Sticking out like a sore thumb is actually pretty cool. Most people want to learn about you and the new stuff that you can bring to them. And someone eventually will teach you how to drive in the snow…

Overall, how would I have ever known that I would be ice skating on the most beautiful frozen lake in Glacier National Park last weekend? I didn’t. You can try to plan for it and make plans but the best things happen when you just let life happen. So take my above “suggestions” and stay wild. And if you need to move, I fully support you.