7 ways to feel more at home in a new place
To start with I should probably explain that I do NOT do well with big life changes.
This was not a realisation that came easy. I love the idea of them; the excitement and endless possibilities that come with moving to a new place. But I find the day-to-day transition from familiarity to foreign lands difficult to handle.
It took one move to Leeds for University, a stint in London living with friends and few house moves with my (now) fiancé to realise that I, in fact, do not love having a change of scene. And my despite my best efforts to be adventurous, moving really throws me out of whack.
So with this big move to Australia I really was expecting the worst.
I’ve never moved country (let alone continent) so I was expecting to feel extremely homesick. I was anticipating feeling like a fish out of water and a LOT of tears.
And sure, some days I feel every one of the 9,000 miles away from London and I want nothing more than to spend a day with my girlfriends. But actually, I mostly feel at home here in Perth.
The past eight weeks have taught me some life lessons about how to settle in, a few of which I really wish I’d realised sooner!
Whether you’re starting over in a new city, going off to uni or taking a long trip abroad, it really takes a few small intentional steps to make our new place more feel like home.
Here are a few of mine - I really hope you find them useful.
Embrace the change.
As a wise professor once told me on my first day of university, you’ll only get out of the experience what you put in. Those words didn’t fully sink in then (I spent most of uni counting down the days until I could next go home) but they resonate with me now. Take the experience with both hands and squeeze as much out of it as you can. Jump in with arms wide open and commit to the change. Because if you keep pining for home you won’t fully see the amazing opportunity that’s right in front of you.
Get into a routine.
I didn’t know how much I needed routine until I didn’t have one! I quickly realised that if was to stay sane whilst job hunting I needed to have some kind of structure to my day. Routine helps us to feel grounded and secure. It rhythm to our days. And most importantly, routine creates a sense of familiarity and dependability that we need more than ever when everything else is in flux. And if you didn’t have a routine before, now is a great time to start a new one!
Find your new favourite spot
Whether it’s the park where you take your morning run, the coffee shop where you pick up your daily flat white or the bookshop you browse on a Saturday afternoon, find your new favourite spot as quickly as possible. Here’s why - 1. it helps you to feel like this new city is yours. You’re no longer a tourist when you have your regular spots! And 2. having a go-to place means one less decision to make. When you’re in a new city the possibilities are endless. So having default option can provide relief at a time when we are plagued by decision fatigue. I quite quickly found a regular place where I go whenever I want to stretch my legs and clear my head - the only decision I need to make is what music I want in my ears!
Talk to your people
Having a fresh start is exhilarating and full of opportunity, so it can be easy to neglect long standing friendships or catching up with family members back home. But it’s so important to keep in touch with those people who’ve known you for an eternity.
A month or so after I arrived in Perth my brother and his girlfriend came to visit from Melbourne for a week and we took a trip down to Margaret River, just us three. And it was GREAT. As much as I love meeting new people I really underestimated how much I was craving seeing some familiar faces. And how at home we can feel just being around people that know us. So Skype your girlfriends. Call your family. Even if you’re making lots of new connections it’s important to make time for the people who’ve known you forever.
Nest - make your new home feel homey!
One of hardest parts about moving into a new home was not having my things around me or any control over my immediate surroundings. I am really affected by the space I inhabit and where mis-matching bedsheets or a makeshift laundry basket don’t make my fiancé bat an eyelid, they really affect how relaxed I feel in a place. So one of the first things I did was run out to target and buy the wherewithal for a cosy bedside table in my new room. It’s the first thing I see when I get up and the last place at night. And as we are staying my family in the short-term I don’t have much say over the rest of the house. So having a little corner all to myself has a made a massive difference!
Take time for self-care.
Yes you’re in a new place, but you’re still the same person. It’s important to take time to do the things that you love and restore your sense of equilibrium. I love the definition of self-care as anything that makes you feel more like yourself (stolen from one of my favourite podcasts) . For me it’s yoga, reading and taking long walks with my earbuds in. So I’ve made an active effort to do as much of these activities as possible. Being in a new place is stressful - be kind to yourself!
Don’t rush it
Don’t forget to be a tourist before you become a local. It can be tempting to want to press fast forward from being the newbie. But settling in takes time. So try and resist rushing the process - you will miss out on the sense of adventure that comes with being somewhere new. As much I was eager to land a job as quickly as possible, I made sure that I spent the first month or so exploring my new home - and I’m so glad I did.
I’ve learnt that one of the best ways to feel at home somewhere is to get to know the lay of the land - so get out there and explore. And you never know - you may stumble across that perfect coffee shop/park/bookshop that quickly becomes your favourite!
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