If you’ve found yourself considering a relocation to a new place, whether by choice or because of a job, you’re probably thinking about things like packing, shipping, utilities, selling a house, buying a house, registering for schools, and the list goes on.
Most don’t consider the emotional complexities that come with a relocation.
In 2017 I moved for the 3rd time in my adult life. The first was from Ontario, Canada where I grew up to Virginia to go to university, the second was within that same town after I graduated, and now within 5 months of being married we were making an out of state move to Aiken, SC.
It was a big time of change, and here are the things I found the most challenging after arriving in Aiken:
I think the most frustrating thing for me during the first few weeks in town was learning how to get around. Everything is new and nothing is automatic or familiar. Sheesh, I can only imagine what this was like before GPS. Even with a GPS, you take for granted how much easier you life is when you don’t have to consciously think about how to get from A to B.
Ever heard of decision fatigue? James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes about this in his book. An interesting research study done by the National Academy of Sciences found that the time of day had a very strong correlation to whether or not a convicted criminal would be granted parole. At the beginning of the day criminals had a 65% chance of being paroled, but as the judge made decision after decision, their chance of being paroled dropped all the way down to 0% by lunch. After lunch, the odds of being paroled popped back up to 65%, and then plummeted back down to 0% by the end of the day.
In other words, every conscious decision you make in a day is a tick in a short belt of mental energy. So having to use those ticks for 50 things before you even get to where you’re going, is hard.
Right after a move, the conscious decision making part of your brain is always on. It’s on as you decide what time you need to leave, which route to take, where you should park, whether or not you need to pay for parking and on and on. And it’s exhausting.
Maybe you’ll have to learn to navigate one way streets. Make a tricky left hand turn. Drain your phone battery with your GPS.
Getting around will be a frustrating part of getting used to living anywhere, but the good news is that it only lasts a few weeks. Well…it only lasts a few weeks if you make an effort to learn. Turn off the GPS if you’ve already gone once or twice. Make wrong turns and find your way back. This is the best way to shorten the learning curve- and soon you’ll just be hopping in your car to get to the south side Starbucks without a thought.
Finding your community
Some people call it the 6 month slump. After all the newness and adventure wears off of your relocation, you’ll start to feel the hole. And that hole is community.
Are you moving somewhere with ZERO connections? No friends already there? No aunts, uncles, or cousins to soften the blow? That’s really hard.
My husband and I didn’t know a soul in town when we relocated to SC from Virginia. Even if you do have a connection or two nearby, it will be essential that you find a community to be a part of during the coming months and years.
If you’re a little guarded like me, this sounds awful. And it is hard. But most amazing things are hard at first.
Before you make your move, join a few of the local facebook pages. Start by searching “‘town name’ information” or “‘town name’ yardsale.” You can also search by niche like “‘town name’ x church” or “‘town name moms club”
Join these online communities and observe. Can you see yourself fitting in here? Do people seem to care about the same things you do?
Keep in mind, this is the internet, where the worst of the worst tend to converge, and take everything with a grain of salt. The ugly people are usually not a true representation of a town.
Beyond online observations, see if you can get connected to a real person who lives there, and find out more about how you could become a part of the community.
If you’re working with a real estate agent, especially one who specializes in relocation, this should be your first call.
Ask questions like:
-“I want to find a church community, do you know of someone I could talk to about that?”
-“I like to play tennis, where should I call to learn more about a league?”
-“Where are the best parks for me to meet other moms? Do you know a mom who would be willing to have a call with me so I could ask some questions?”
You’ve got to build your own community in a new place. There’s no school or college roommate situations to lean on. It’s on you to get out there and find your people. Be patient with yourself, because it does take time, but know that it will come.
Acclimating to a New Climate
It may sound crazy to some of you northerners who are dreaming of throwing your snowblower in the trash, but I am still struggling to adjust to the SC climate.
I knew it would be hot when my husband took a job here. In fact, we visited in the middle of August, so I knew what the worst of it would feel like.
But knowing does not equal prepared.
It’s not so much the heat I can’t handle, but the length of time it stays hot in a year. Spring ends with April, and it’s already quite hot by May. It’s insufferable through most of July and August, and although it cools to a tolerable temperature in September and October, it’s not quite the autumn you’re desperate for at that point.
Besides the never-ending summer, It’s just hard to not have four distinct seasons. Depending on where you grew up, this may be a non-issue for you, but it’s difficult for me to not replicate parts of my childhood with my daughters. From building a snowman to apple picking on a cool day, I miss my seasons.
If you’re relocating to a new climate, try to plan a visit in the most extreme part of the year. If you’re moving to Aiken from Pittsburgh, come in August. If you’re moving to Minnesota from Virginia, visit in January. This way you can get a taste of the worst of it, and start adjusting your mindset for a different way of life… or change relocation plans. 😅
If you’re having a hard time with the climate in your new town, my advice to you is to try as best you can not to change your traditions. If you decorate for autumn at back to school time, it’s still worth doing in 80 degree weather. If Christmas just isn’t Christmas without some snow, try the spray can stuff on your windows.
This may seem silly, but it’s empowering to stop dwelling on the things you miss, and make your current situation magical.
homesickness can pass as quickly as it came on, and having these little reminders of the way things used to be can help us to associate those same feelings of “home” with our new spot.