The 6 Stages of Moving to a New City

It’s new, exciting, invigorating, stressful, overwhelming, hard . . . “Oh shoot, did I make a huge mistake?”

Probably not. (You can breathe).

The reality is that moving is difficult, especially if you’re doing it on your own.

In your head, it’s like a scene from one of those movies that takes place in NYC. You see the skyscrapers, the lights, the yellow taxi cabs, and hear Frank Sinatra’s voice crooning in the background. Maybe an attractive stranger offers to help you carry your boxes.

Hollywood tends to romanticize things (and we eat it up hook, line, and sinker—and attractive stranger).

Real life looks a little different. There are typically six stages that occur over the course of a move and the adjustment to a new city. While moving can be a wonderful, exciting event, there is also much of it that isn’t remotely Instagram-worthy.

I know because I am in the midst of it myself (and probably like you, have many friends going through the same thing). From my experience, here are the stages we experience when we move to a new city—including what Hollywood conveniently forgets to mention.

Stage One: The Fantasy

“I got the (insert reason for move)!!!”

“Holy cow! This is going to be incredible.”

*Happy dance*

“Wow, look at all these super pretty pictures of the city!”

“Ooohh, this bar looks fun!”

“Coffee shops for days.”

“Here are the five million things I want to do as soon as I get there.”

“YAYAYAYAY!”

Stage Two: The Hullaballoo

“Oh shoot. Where’s my (insert missing item here).”

“WHERE IS IT?!”

“Oh, it’s right here. Okay—I FOUND IT.”

“Did I pack my charger?”

“I need to use the bathroom before we go.”

“Did you pack the snacks?”

“Just put it wherever.”

“I’m going to check one more time to make sure I’m not missing anything.”

“IT’S TIME TO GO!”

Moving is an emotional rollercoaster. I like to call it the emoticoaster.

Stage Three: Cold Feet

*Silence*

“What was that?”

“I wish I were home.”

“Why did I do this?”

*Silence*

Stage Four: Wonderland

“Wow this (insert coffee shop, bar, restaurant, park) is right by my house!”

“Everyone is so nice here.”

“This is so cool.”

“Wow!”

“I LOVE my new place.”

“I’m so glad I moved here.”

Stage Five: Disillusionment

“Oh, (insert new friends’ names here) hung out without me . . . that’s cool.”

“Oh no . . . I missed my turn. Again.”

“I wonder how much a flight home this weekend costs?”

“I wonder how much a flight anywhere this weekend costs?”

“Why is this so hard?”

“Did I do the wrong thing?”

Stage Six: Adaptation

“Hey, (insert barista’s name here)!”

“That was fun!”

“I’m glad we got to hang out!”

“I love this spot.”

“I’d love for you to come visit and show you around.”

“I did the right thing.”

You begin to realize that the difficulty doesn’t make it wrong, it makes this a beautiful challenge.

I’m not sure how long getting to this stage will take. I imagine it varies with every person. But you will eventually get there. It requires patience and perseverance and a whole lot of hope. Uprooting your life is no small thing, and, understandably, it takes time and effort to adjust. One day you will feel comfortable in your surroundings; you will be excited to go to your favorite park or coffee shop or meet up with friends after work. You will know how to get most places without a GPS (praise). You will know the bartender at your favorite watering hole and the drink specials on Thursday night. You will know where to park downtown and the best place to get your hair cut. You will have memories and pictures of good times and the people you shared them with.

In the meantime, here are some strategies to get you through.

1.Explore

You’re here. It’s new, overwhelming, daunting . . . I know. The sooner you get out there and begin to familiarize yourself with your surroundings, the sooner it won’t feel so foreign:

  • Look up the closest parks.
  • Take an Uber downtown and just walk around (but be safe).
  • Look up the best coffee shops in the area.
  • Hit up a farmers’ market.
  • Look up upcoming events and find one you might enjoy.
  • Ask anyone for recommendations, whether it’s a hit or miss doesn’t matter—you need to get through the dirt to find the gems. I have found so many spots I love by just getting out. I’ve also found places I never care to go to again. Don’t overthink, just go.

2. Soak up the little things

Your favorite song, meal, movie, book . . . a nice-smelling candle, a manicure, a new outfit, a text from a friend—these things will give you a taste of familiarity when everything else feels strange and unknown. In those moments when your heart aches for home or you doubt your decision, give yourself something that brings you home and reminds you of who you are and what you love, regardless of where you are.

The more you see this stage of life as an adventure, the easier it is to embrace the good with the bad.

3. Reach out

Being the new kid just isn’t fun, but there’s no way around it. People have their own established routines and friend groups which you have to break into as gracefully as you can. If you’re lucky, people will approach you, knowing you’re new and wanting to help you out. That won’t always be the case. Before you get offended, just remember that it most likely is because of their busy lives and entrenched habits and has less to do with them wanting to exclude you.

Inside and outside of work, strive as much as possible to find and nurture community. That will mean uncomfortably putting yourself out there often. Ask someone to lunch, look up young adult groups in your area and show up to the next meeting, attend an exercise class, running club, or networking event. (Later on, you can pick and choose what you want to go to, but right now you can’t afford to be picky. If it’s happening and you know about it, you’re there.)

4. Embrace

Some of it’s going to be good, and some of it is going to be really freaking hard. But the good news is that it’s what you make of it. How happy or unhappy you are largely depends on your attitude.

Yes, it’s super frustrating when you get lost every other day. Yes, it hurts when you realize a bunch of your coworkers went out without you. Yes, homesickness hits you like a ton of bricks . . . I’ve found the more you see this stage of life as an adventure, the easier it is to embrace the good with the bad; to feel all of it.

You begin to realize that the difficulty doesn’t make it wrong, it makes this a challenge—a beautiful one. And then, when the good times come, you appreciate them all the more—because you know they are a gift, not something you’re entitled to. Next time you’re overwhelmed with that distinctly unpleasant feeling of being unsettled, just close your eyes and sit with it.

It’s okay to hurt sometimes, it’s part of being human. Embrace it, it won’t last forever.

Moving is an emotional rollercoaster. (I like to call it the emoticoaster; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll consider getting on the next flight home.)

But hang in there—you’ve got this.

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