Getting to Know a New City Before Moving There

I’ve collected some tips and tricks along the way that might be useful to you on your trip. Here are five bits of advice for evaluating a new location as a possible home base if you’re trying to determine if it’s correct for you:

Explore the area as though you were a visitor.

Although downtowns and touristy areas can provide insight into a city’s vibe, getting a real sense of a community requires venturing beyond the gleaming main streets and into the neighborhoods where people live, function, and play. How can you go about doing this? You get intrigued. You ask baristas, drivers, bartenders, and concierges for recommendations about what to eat, where to hang out, and how to see the world from the eyes of a resident.

When I visit a new location, I like to ask locals the following questions:

• Where do the residents go on weekends?

• Where is your favorite park that isn’t too crowded?

• What are some of the best areas of town that visitors seem to overlook?

• What is the city’s finest “lost gem”?

• What’s your go-to dive bar, brunch place, or locally-owned shop?

As you travel, collect information.

You don’t only learn about a city from visiting various locations within it; you often know a lot from physically traveling to and from such sites: Is it easy to move around here? What public transportation alternatives are there? Is the city readily available and well-connected?

When I visit a new town, I want to stroll as frequently as possible — there’s no such easier way to get a feel for a community than pounding the pavement.

Look for a connection (trust me, you have them).

It’s essential to engage with locals while considering a relocation to get relevant facts and perspectives into what it’s like to live there. You may believe you don’t know someone in a particular place, but you almost definitely do, and thanks to social networking, it’s simpler than ever to make those links.

Become disoriented.

When you’re planning a move to a new city, you’ll need to collect a lot of details. It’s enticing to approach this method from a rational standpoint: collecting particulars and facts and sorting them into binders, itineraries, and pros and cons lists. But here’s the thing: being content in a position isn’t necessarily a rational or quantifiable concept. A ton of it boils down to how a location makes you feel.

The time it takes for everybody to adapt is different. While one individual might be able to happily move into a new city after just a month, another may need more time to adjust. According to my own experience, it takes about three months to feel entirely at ease in a new neighborhood. By now, you should know where to locate the best coffee shop and take-out outlets in your area; you should have found the best running routes around your streets; you should have worked out the specifics of the public transit system (hopefully) – and you should have learned the quickest way to get to work. After six months, you will have a good idea of which neighborhoods to visit and which to avoid in your new place. You’ve even developed a few informal or personal companions, whether they’re teammates, colleagues, or neighbors.

However, it takes about a year to feel at ease in a foreign city after witnessing all four seasons. You’ve seen your community in all four seasons – autumn, winter, spring, and summer – and you know what to expect. Your friendship circle is most likely healthy and/or eventually forming, and you are at ease with your new career.

So, if you have the opportunity to explore the location you’re considering, set aside your lists, guides, and binders and get lost. See what you can find by wandering around, taking wrong turns, and talking to strangers. You could come across a destination, meet someone, or experience a moment that makes you think, “Hey, this is home.”