Last December, I rode my bike from my brother’s apartment to Union Station in Chicago and took a 52-hour train ride to San Francisco. It was my fifth move in as many years.
I’m in my twenties and I’ve moved a dozen times. Since college, due to work and school, I have lived in Boston, Lusaka, Delhi, Chicago and now San Francisco. I did these moves alone, and while I received incredible support from my friends, family, and co-workers, it’s still quite a different experience than moving with a family or partner.
I understood that learning to make the most of frequent moves is learning to make the most of an imperfect situation: all kinds of relationships are difficult to maintain equally across distances and time zones. . Being mobile is just one way of living life, and by living that way – for those of us who have the privilege of choosing to move or stay home – we inherently miss out on all other ways of live and build a community. But it’s the only life I know, and it’s a life I love. I have found great joy and meaning in moving, exploring new cities, meeting people very different from me, and working all over the world. And I learned a lot from people wiser than me about how to move well as a young bachelor.
Chances are you’ve already sorted out at least some of your logistics; you know in which neighborhood you will live or what your job will be. Maybe you even already know where the grocery store is. When it comes to the more ineffable things, however, it can be a lot harder to plan ahead. You might have questions like “How can I make friends?” “How do I look after my well-being?” “Where do encounters come in?” And it can be daunting to answer them on your own.
Here are some tips from my own moves, bolstered by the insight of a handful of friendship experts. There are a few tactics you can use, especially depending on where you end up living, and they break down as follows: do everything, stay in touch with people, and take time for yourself in a way who is not lonely – but understand that sometimes you will be alone, and that’s okay.
The most important thing for me, being in a new city, is to get down there to meet people. This can be through work, exercise groups, dating, social media, volunteering, or even dating apps. It shouldn’t break the budget. In every place I moved to, I was able to find activities, such as outdoor exercises and volunteer groups, which are completely free to join. If your budget allows, you can also contribute a small amount of money each month to a social fund for these activities.
I spoke with Marisa Franco, a psychologist and friendship researcher, and Gillian Sandstrom, a researcher at the University of Sussex, about transitions. Both discussed thelove the gap– people love you more than you think! Entering unfamiliar events and conversations with strangers can be a better experience, even for self-identified introverts, if you realize it’s likely to be a good experience where people like you. Sandstrom found that older adults, having accumulated this knowledge, “expect a conversation with a stranger – any stranger – to be better than younger people” because they expect a better outcome from such conversations.
My first days in Delhi, I was invited to three events by a colleague of mine, and I dragged my tired, jet-lagged self to each one, where I made friends with my colleagues, met someone who invited me to join a football club ( I always hide on WhatsApp group from all over the world), and I joined a board game/tech group for development. Finding sustainable communities that you see regularly and can invest in, as Allie Volpe writes for Vox, is key to thriving in a new place.
When you meet people, Franco told me, it’s often good to meet people who are also in life transition stages. It could be other people who have just arrived in a city or country, people who have just graduated from university, or people who have recently been through a breakup and are looking for friends. “It’s a shame if you avoid certain means of connection because you don’t think they are good,” she said, reiterating the importance of connecting through different channels, whether social media, a group of country or city people. where you’re from, or an exercise group or other hobby.
Loose connections are also important. It’s easy to live in a bubble of only people who live and think like you, but it robs you of diverse connections and ideas. Sandstrom worked on a great study in kindness with people from 150 different countries and found that people often report kindness in interactions with strangers. People can also find conversations with strangers emotionally fulfilling – if they can talk about a particular emotional experience – or learn something from talking to people. through the generations.
To stay in contact
Staying in touch is important. Reconnect with your friends/acquaintances/friends of friends in the city where you are and communicate virtually with your distant friends and family.
I spoke with Jeff Hall, a researcher at the University of Kansas, about sustaining friendships over time. He told me that young people who prioritize mobility in their lives often struggle to maintain friendships, learning to treat the friendships they have “as impermanent because they are; you learn the impermanence of life. But while friendships can be fleeting, they don’t have to end when you walk away from a place.
One thing to keep in mind when reconnecting with old friends is that if you’ve lost touch, it’s not necessarily your fault. It’s common, Hall told me, “to believe that you’re in the driver’s seat in friendship.” “What we do know, he says, is that the design is not exact; other people choose to be your friend and choose to reciprocate. People might fall for a busy job or a relationship or other things that don’t concern you, he told me, but they will be happy to see you years or even decades longer. late.
“At the end of the day, if people drift away from each other because of life, it’s really important to generate an attitude of sympathy and understanding towards others…because it’s not about of you. If you do everything for yourself, you miss the opportunity to push back and renew yourself. On the other hand, if you are the one who has lost touch due to a move or life, c It’s totally fine to reach out to people even if a lot of time has passed. They’ll probably be happy to hear from you!
Now that I’m back in the United States, where I grew up, I’ve found the truth in there. My friends in San Francisco are people I’ve met here, people I’ve stayed in touch with over the years, and people I’ve lost touch with for years for various reasons, but who I reconnected with when I moved to town. . I also try to introduce my different friends from different stages of life to each other. It allows me to keep in touch more easily and create new friendships between them.
As for staying in touch with distant people, I spoke with Hall about the different modalities of communication. He spoke of the importance of “rich communication channels”, such as phone or video calls, to stay in touch first. Text is second best — like texting someone when something reminds you — and finally, passively liking social media posts. Putting time and energy into long-distance friendships and other relationships is essential to maintaining the friendship.
It is also important to visit family and friends when financially possible. I found that my relationship with my family actually grew stronger while living away. Because I can only visit them once or twice a year, I spend a lot of quality time with them when I see them. I have other friends who call their family every day, and although my family calls less often (although we have an active group chat), it’s been great to see how different families find cadences that work for them .
This tip is also related to the first one! Staying in touch with old friends, Franco said, can make you feel more grounded, secure and authentic, which will give you even more confidence to put yourself forward and make new friends.
Take some time for yourself
Taking time for yourself is especially important for self-identified extroverts like me. It’s easy in a new city to get into a cycle of daily encounters and activities, which is great but unsustainable for all but the most social of us.
To me, it looked different in different places. In Delhi, that meant eating kati rolls on my balcony at sunset and spending weekends taking the metro to different historical sites. In Chicago, it was biking by the lake every day. In San Francisco, it’s all about roaming the city and trying to find every public stairway in town.
“Whether we consider our alone time alone or solitary depends on things like how we mentally cope,” Franco said. “Honestly, part of it is just taking care of your mental health more generally so that you feel replenished rather than threatened by alone time.” So going to therapy, exercising, keeping in touch with friends or family “are all things you can think about so you can really enjoy alone time.”
It could be exercising, reading a book, cooking, or watching TV – basically, doing something you enjoy on your own. Having alone time without being alone is essential to making a healthy and sustainable relocation.
That said, even with the smoothest transitions, there are downsides to being on the move. “Loneliness is going to be part of the process,” Franco said. “It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong.”
Whether you’re moving to a new city for a year or the rest of your life, the first few months can be a daunting time. Learning to balance alone time, new friends, and existing relationships won’t make a move perfect, but it can make it that much better.
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