Destination Anyplace New: The Advantages Of Moving To A City Where You Don’t Know A Soul
Twice as an adult I’ve moved to towns where I didn’t know anyone. Both moves occurred within the United States; consequently, I don’t know how applicable this list is to anyone who has relocated to another country. While I suspect these experiences are similar in certain regards, the potential language barrier—some might call it a language opportunity—could complicate matters. I must mention that I am a naturally friendly person, and therefore moving to a place where I must make new friends and establish contacts isn’t as daunting to me as it would be to certain others. Nonetheless, I believe the process of relocation—especially if it involves crossing state lines and moving to a different part of the country—can encourage personal growth. With the right attitude it can be an adventure which could involve hikes into the back country of Colorado or locals who don’t understand why you can’t properly pronounce the name of your new town.
The first advantage begins in your current city of residence: You have the opportunity to downsize before you pack up your belongings. Last summer a good friend observed that moving helped remind her that she didn’t need that many things after all. In my experience, I tend to evaluate my possessions more closely the further I will be moving them. If I am relocating over 1000 miles, therefore, my sizable book collection is considered in need of pruning. I’ve also found the urge to downsize happens once in a new place; indeed, after my last move, I donated several items of clothing to the local thrift store after I was finished unpacking.
If you were to move 800 miles away next month, which items you own would you be most interested in downsizing?
Another benefit is being forced out of your comfort zone. Even if you don’t plan to meet too many people or join a book club or church, you still need to learn where the grocery store, library, and so forth are. You may have moved from a town where the streets form an easy-to-follow grid pattern to a place where numerous one-way streets translate into less efficient errands until you determine the best route. You may also find yourself in a vastly different culture which will take some getting used to. Add in the likelihood of a change of weather conditions from your last town of residence, and you may be temporarily out of your element. This can be a gift in disguise since being out of your element will force you to pay more attention to your current surroundings. You may notice that they have pear trees in your new neighborhood; in addition, you may be surprised by some of the local wildflowers which do not grow where you used to live. The potential for such discoveries is great, and these surprises, if you have an open, grateful attitude, can enhance your life.
The fact you don’t know anyone in your new town provides you with a great deal of freedom. You are not, in other words, beholden to spend ample quality time with your college friend who happens to live in the same town. You also can decide—depending on work and other factors—how social you wish to be and what this may look like for you. It’s possible you would rather explore your new surroundings solo while deciding if you want to join any organizations. Living where you don’t know anyone also means you can spend certain holidays—usually the more minor ones like Easter and Memorial Day—however you please because you aren’t expected to arrive at the home of your parents’ because you live too far away to enable you to drop in. With this freedom you may decide to start a new hobby or resume an old one; it could be time to dust off your acoustic guitar and take lessons or learn how to quilt.
A fourth advantage is you learn how to better appreciate the places once lived. For instance, I’ve learned to better appreciate the strong winds I grew up exposed to because I’ve lived in less blustery areas of the country. I’ve also discovered that living in more than one state can expose you to the sociological differences between these locations. I’m from an area of the country where many Scandinavian immigrants settled; as a result, I’ve noticed that in other areas of the country people aren’t always as tall as they are where I grew up. It’s also possible you will discover that your personality and values are a better fit in a different part of the country. I’ve a friend from New York City who, during his many years of residence in Salt Lake City, savored the relaxed atmosphere of this western metropolis; similarly, I have an outdoorsy friend who loves living in Oregon because of the many opportunities she has to hike, bike, and explore. She relocated from a place where outdoor activities weren’t as valued, and, as a result, she was thankful to find more like-minded individuals once in Oregon.
Salt Lake City, Utah
This type of relocation also offers the opportunity to create new routines. Or, if you have unhealthy routines you wish to discontinue, you can try to break before reaching your new surroundings. For instance, if you watched too much TV before, now you have the chance to sell your TV on Craigslist and start anew. You also have the option to find favorite places to eat, shop, and walk your dog when you relocate. I experience great satisfaction by discovering hole-in-the-wall diners or learning the best time of day to visit the discount grocery store. If you are a fan of local brews, you may find a local brewery to frequent. The possibilities for new routines are many, and depend largely on your needs, resources, and interests.
The opportunity to uniquely decorate the apartment or home you move to is another bonus. Granted, this is a perk even if you move across the street in the same town. Nonetheless, you are in a new city (and possibly a new state) and this means you may be inspired to decorate your place completely differently than you decorated your former place. You may also be lived in a markedly different dwelling than before. This can mean anything from an old house which has been converted into apartments or to living in someone’s basement. When I last relocated to a town where I didn’t know anyone, I learned that I require a certain amount of blank wall space since there are other areas of my apartment which are more heavily decorated. This advantage is possibly not as applicable to all people, and I recognize I may be biased because of how much I enjoy decorating any new living space.
Learning to greatly appreciate spending time alone with yourself is another advantage of moving to a place where you don’t know anyone. Regardless how quickly you are able to establish connections, it’s likely you will spend a certain amount of time by yourself. You may even make unexpected discoveries about yourself. For instance, you may learn that you prefer to meet new people in smaller settings. Since before you were accustomed to joining larger groups where you already knew a few people, this may surprise you. You may also discover that you like living in a smaller town or closer to the ocean or in a place which receives significant snowfall most winters.
The final advantage of relocating to a town where you don’t know a soul is this may inspire you to stay in better contact with your friends and family. Whether you do this using Facebook, email, writing personal letters, making phone calls, or otherwise, you may learn to better appreciate those you used to live closer to. I’ve found the more intentional I have to be about my friendships, the more they mean to me. As a result, since I currently live far away from most of my family and friends, I’ve noticed I am willing and happy to exert extra effort to keep in touch with them.
Moving to a place where you don’t know anyone isn’t possible or plausible for everyone. I’m certainly not suggesting people relocate just for kicks, and that there is anything inherently wrong in staying where you are. However, if you must—for whatever reason—relocate to a town where you don’t know anyone, please remember that, with the right attitude, this can be a positive and stretching experience.