Get to Know Your New City (Like a Tourist)
If you’re planning a move to a brand new city, you’re probably feeling some mixture of both heady excitement and serious fear. After all, you’re leaving your friends, job and potentially family behind for an entirely new place– who wouldn’t be a little afraid? But in your first few months, as you begin to get to know your new city better, that fear will fade.
Handling a big move is all about becoming familiar with your new surroundings as quickly as possible, and one of the best ways to do that is by acting like a tourist. Think about it: Tourists have a very limited amount of time to see an entire city. However, they make the most of that short timeframe in a variety of ways. Here’s how to get to know your new city like a tourist:
Try a Short-Term Lease
Tourists don’t commit to a long-term residence, so you may want to consider a shorter-term option yourself. If that sounds a little unconventional, think about how difficult it is to really know what neighborhood you want to live in or find the perfect apartment from states away. You won’t know exactly what areas are an easy commute to your workplace, for instance, until you spend some time in the city.
If you don’t have much experience with a city, a short-term lease (say, six months) will allow you to start getting familiar with it without committing too much to a specific neighborhood or apartment right away. Plus, you’ll likely have the option to renew the lease if you decide you love the area after all.
When you’re on vacation, you probably spend a little time after checking into the hotel exploring the area around it. Do the same thing when you move into your new apartment.
After you’re mostly settled in, put on some comfortable shoes, and just start walking. Take in some of the amenities nearby, like a grocery store or an independent coffee shop that look promising. Become familiar with your neighborhood, then start widening your scope.
Utilize Maps, Guidebooks and Brochures
We all love our smartphone navigation systems, but they really aren’t the best way to become accustomed to a new area. You can still use it to figure out how to meet up with some friends at a specific bar or restaurant, but try not to rely on it too heavily.
Instead, make use of old-school paper maps, along with guidebooks and brochures. Finding your way on a paper map will help you understand the lay of the land a little more, and guidebooks and brochures will generally give you just the information you need to get around.
If you plan on taking public transit, you’ll want to study a map of the transit system for awhile. Figure out the best ways to get to some of your main destinations, like work or a friend’s place, and become familiar with those routes. Then start branching out from there.
There’s nothing better than a tour to get you familiar with an area without becoming lost. Look up walking, Segway, and boat tours in your city, and see what options are out there.
It’s likely you’ll find a mix of food tours (like chocolate or pizza) along with informational ones (about architecture or history, perhaps). Choose one that sounds interesting to you, invite a friend, and be a literal tourist for the day.
Places like tourist attractions and museums may be full of slow-moving hordes of people, but they’re a very good way to get to know your new city. In fact, I’m from Chicago, and it’s pretty much required to visit places like the Field Museum and Wrigley Field before you can call yourself a local.
Check out what the top tourist attractions in your city are, and even enlist someone from the area to be your guide. You’ll start learning some cool stuff about your city, and will likely be able to visit several different neighborhoods in the process.
Every tourist knows how important safety is, so don’t get too comfortable in a new spot just because you live there.
Stay smart by avoiding walking alone at night in areas you’re unfamiliar with, keeping your headphones out of your ears while exploring, and making sure your purse or backpack is always zipped up and close by.
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