“Any community is a dynamic, evolving, delicate organism, full of contradictions and tensions. It’s a place where people’s personal dreams sometimes harmonize and sometimes collide.” -Hugh McKay
It’s a strange and wonderful feeling when you make a decision to move somewhere new. They say the first three months are the hardest. Who ‘they’ are precisely I can’t tell you, but I can tell you I concur with their sentiment.
My latest living adventure has planted me somewhere entirely new, and decidedly unexpected. It has been a little over three months since we moved to our quiet mountainous home in the heart of Tasmania, and much like the pace we find ourselves surrounded by, the process of settling in here has been a slowly slowly one. Tasmania was never a place we expected to find ourselves living, and yet, here we are.
Despite the wonder of forging the next chapter of your life, collisions — in the words of Hugh McKay — are abound. There is a distinct difference between traveling in new lands and living in them. The nuances of a city, town or community can only be uncovered in the action of living.
This is not the first time I have made big relocation changes in my life, but each time I do I learn a little something new about the process.
A few lessons I’ve learned about the art of moving somewhere new and unexpected:
- The thrill of traveling should not be confused with the chaos of relocating.
- But that doesn’t mean you can’t explore with the eyes of a tourist.
- There is something to be perpetually mourned about selling half your worldly possessions and packing the rest. The decision process can be rough but the delight of finding parts of your past life in a secondhand bookstore, holding a loved book, read long ago, forgotten and passed on, is immeasurable.
- However long you think packing will take, allow yourself double that amount.
- Never underestimate the benefits (and cost) of a good removalist.
- Flat hunting: Check for powerpoints in each room, locks on doors, cracks in windows/window frames, run the taps, and ask when the boiler/air conditioning unit was last serviced. Always.
- Where does the sunrise and set with respect to your new home location? It’s a small thing that makes a big difference. Trust me.
- The bathroom and kitchen are the two most important rooms in the house. If relocating with a partner, make sure you’re on the same page about standards.
- You don’t have to fall in love with your new surrounds immediately, but you do have to give it time.
- Get the basics right: find that coffee shop with the barista who ‘gets it’. Likewise with a hairdresser, dentist, doctor, greengrocer, bartender, and inexpensive restaurant you can always get a table at when it’s been a long day.
- You can’t recreate an old life in a new place. This will feel like a threat, but it’s the greatest opportunity.
- A little hope is a good thing. Too much will kill the experience.
- Unrealistic expectations will cost you more than any new piece of furniture.
- Upending your life for love is no easy task, but there are far worse reasons to do so. For it to work it has to be your decision and your decision alone. You do it for you and ‘us’, not them.
- If relocating alone, put relationships as a low focus. Date yourself. A lot. It’s the best way to connect with who you are and learn about your new city in the process. Build a map that is all about you and your discoveries.
- Never, ever, underestimate the value of social connections. Find the community you want to be a part of. If you can’t find it, build it. It’s the most successful way to feel like you belong.
- International family and friends: make the effort.
- Everywhere is different. Everyone is different. You don’t have to love a place because someone else tells you, you should. The same applies to people.
- Nostalgia is okay but use it as fuel to seek out what you are missing.
- If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Life is too short to lose years in a place that doesn’t serve you. A new adventure is waiting for you to make the right decision.
“The process of learning how to fit into a particular geographical neighborhood — and then do it again and again as our circumstances propel us from place to place — is one of life’s most challenging lessons.” -Hugh McKay
Any new village, town or city can be your home, your network, a calling card, and reason for being, or it can be the loneliest place you’ve ever existed. Discovering how and why any place you live fits into these categories is one of the most exciting and challenging processes to go through in life. In my experience, settling into a new city has been easy and fluid, like butter melting into all the right creases. But on another occasion, it has been fuzzy, difficult to grasp and more like treacle sticking where it shouldn’t.
The art of moving somewhere new is about knowing what works for you as an individual and the community you want to be a part of and build. Not everywhere will afford you that space. You will have to work with what you have to hand. Does it mean you don’t enjoy it? No. Of course not. Does it make you nostalgic for what you once might have had? Yes. And that’s okay too.
I’m fond of citing that the difficult moments in our lives often lead us to our greatest paths for growth. I feel confident my past experiences have set me up well to take on the new challenge of settling into my new home. It’s one I’m attempting, for the first time in my life, to approach heart first, as opposed to like a puzzle I need to solve as quickly as possible.
And I think it might be working.