June 2014. Route 70, the middle of Kansas. I’m halfway through my cross-country move. I look around and I’m drowning in a sea of corn. Led Zeppelin blares on my car speakers, and the snow-capped Rocky Mountains are far in the distance. That’s the moment when it hit me: I was moving to San Francisco, 2,800 miles from home. I didn’t know a single person in San Francisco. I kept thinking, “I could’ve worked five minutes down the road from my parents’ house! Instead, I chose a five-hour flight home. Why?”
To be honest, before accepting my job offer, I didn’t really do my research. I only spent a few days in the Bay Area for interviews, and I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect. Four years later and still living in San Francisco, now I keep thinking, “There are so many things I wish somebody had told me to prepare for!”
Well, I guess now I’m that somebody. Whether you’re a new graduate or an established professional moving to a new opportunity, here are some tips for how to survive and thrive in a new life.
Don’t sign a long-term lease (or buy a home) right away.
As you start to familiarize yourself with the area, look into renting an Airbnb/VRBO for the first few weeks, or if possible, find a month-to-month lease. If you’re moving with a lot of stuff, you may want to consider storage. There are services like PODS, which will conveniently move and store your belongings until you’re ready to move them into a more permanent location.
Explore different neighborhoods (and even cities) near your office, both during the day and night. I recommend running an online crime report (SpotCrime is a great resource) to make sure the area you’re interested in is safe. When you identify an area, your monthly housing cost shouldn’t be more than a third of your gross income (i.e. before taxes). You may need to consider having a roommate. I had the interesting experience of living with people both double and triple my age, but I was able to save a lot of money!
Take public transportation (if possible).
For those cities who offer public transit, try to take it (and preferably during the day). When you take public transportation, you’re exposed to more local and diverse individuals. You’ll also learn the streets and neighborhoods of your new city more quickly. In today’s digital age, it’s easy to rely on your GPS and apps. But if your phone died, could you get home? Many companies now offer to pay for your transit passes or an opportunity to fund them with pre-tax dollars, so check with your HR department. I’m saving $900 this year in taxes!
Be social and consistent.
Once your living and transportation arrangements are sorted out, find opportunities to be social. Whether you join a sports league, volunteer for a local non-profit, or create a Meet Up account, you should set a reasonable goal to attend–at minimum–two social events each month. So, find a kickball league in your city. Join a Meet Up for “Young people who just moved to San Francisco!” — or if you like drinking without the hangover, “Coffee Concessioners.” Find a few different things that interest you and broaden your social circle.
Don’t be discouraged if your first few experiences are less than amazing. They might even be terribly uncomfortable! At least you’re getting out of the house and finding your way in your new city. No matter who you are, it can be challenging to meet the right people in unfamiliar territory. Just keep interacting, keep trying new things. And don’t be afraid to venture out on your own. Be bold and embrace the awkwardness! Because regardless of the group, if you’re open and being yourself, you’re more likely to connect with like-minded individuals and discover long, lasting relationships.
Set a budget for travel.
You will get home sick and plane tickets can be expensive, especially around holidays. Additionally, depending where you live, there could be tons of nearby interesting weekend getaway destinations. Contributing to a travel budget will allow you to explore more of your new area so that someday, the homesickness you have won’t be for where you grew up, but where you live now.
No one but you can create your life, and the more you embrace and explore what’s around you, the easier it will get. Finally, whether your company has a restricted or open vacation policy, it’s essential to give yourself a break from the challenges of this transition and recharge.
Nearing my four-year anniversary as a transplant, I can happily say I’ve become a California Convert. I still miss my family and friends every day, but I’m so glad I took a chance on myself. I have a whole set of West Coast friends and family now, too. Be bold, be brave, and embrace the unknown. You won’t regret the adventure.