24 Tips on How To Adjust to a New City and Find "Little Sanctuaries" in the Process

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I've moved around a lot in the past 7 years... Minnesota, Virginia, London, NYC, Las Vegas, and now Seattle.  It's been quite the journey.  In each of these places, I went there without knowing a single person.  While it was jarring at first, I quickly had to figure out ways to adapt.  The key to adjusting (for me) seemed to be creating little routines, little habits, and favorite spots in each new city. Doing this created a sense of normalcy and comfort.  When I lived in London there was a street sign I would pass by nearly every day called "Little Sanctuary."  A sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety.  In a way, routines, habits and favorite spots become "little sanctuaries."  They create a feeling of peace, safety and refuge in a new environment.

I love the photo above.  I took it in London about a block away from my flat.  It represents to much to me.  Every time I look at it, I remember how many times I've gotten through the adjustment process and how fun that process is, particularly in hindsight.  Here are my ideas for how to create your own "little sanctuary" when faced with change, a new environment, or a new city.

1. Burn your favorite scented candle at the same time every day.  Scent sparks powerful memories.

2. Get to know the cashiers at the local convenience story or grocery store on a first-name basis.

3. Find a go-to coffee shop and become a regular customer.

4. Schedule regular, weekly phone or Skype dates with your closest family or friends.

5. Familiarize yourself with everything in walking distance.  Know the street names, the fastest routes, and what times stores and restaurants open and close.

6. Simplify and streamline your wardrobe.  Fewer choices makes for less stress and more familiarity with what you have.

7. Create a morning routine.  It sounds simple, but it sets a tone of stability for the day.  It will help you rest peacefully when you have reliable expectations and a plan for the next morning.

8. Get to know your property manager, the front desk person, or security.  If you live alone it's always nice to know that someone would notice if you didn't show up for a few days.  

9. Completely unpack.  Even if you are only staying for a month, take your clothes out of your suitcase and hang them up.  Put toiletries in the medicine cabinet.  Put socks and undies in the drawers.  Don't let yourself live out of a suitcase.

10. Find a common thread between your old home and new home.  For me that has been a) Starbucks, b) McDonald's ice cream cones, and c) Subway. Thank God for franchises.

11. Observe the leaves changing colors and the flowers blooming.  When you take time to notice the changing of seasons, you observe life moving forward around you.  Suddenly your new world seems less foreign.

12. Have basic medicine on hand.  Getting sick and trying to hunt down medicine in a new city (or country) is the worst.

13.  Create some signature meals. Fun fact: In London I ate Special K every morning for breakfast... with water on it (not milk). I don't know why. Special K with water became a comforting, signature "meal" for me.

14. Create a bucket list of places to explore.  It's easy to get swept away with the newness of a new city that you wind up realizing you've been there 3 months and have hardly explored yet.  A bucket list will help you stay on track and feel like you're accomplishing things, one step at a time.

15.  Locate your passions.  Love reading?  Find the library!  Love dancing? Find a studio!  Love art?  Find an art gallery!  Love music?  Find a local concert!  Love movies?  Find the movie theater!  Don't stop doing what you loved before.

16. Decorate! Color coordinate your towels and shower curtain. Have nice pillows and a throw blanket on the couch ready to welcome you home at night.

17. At least once a week, intentionally set out to discover a new spot or area in the city.  I do this on Saturdays.

18. Find a new people watching spot.  In Las Vegas it was Starbucks.  In New York it was the gym.  In London it was Green Park.  In Seattle it's been the Sculpture Garden.

19. Take care of yourself.  Whether it's weekly facials, manicures, or bubble baths, don't stop doing those things. 

20. Set a laundry day for yourself.  You'll feel more like you have life in order.

21. Pick a few theme songs for your new start in this new place.  Listen to them while you walk.  Sing them in the shower.  Play them in the car.  These songs will always remind you of this new place and give you comfort over time as you attach memories to them.

22. Have some sort of exercise routine.  If you're used to working out and you stop then you won't feel "like yourself."  While you might feel tired or overwhelmed by your new surroundings, exercise will give you emotional benefits that far outweigh the initial inner battle.

23. Set out to create new "stories" for your book of life.  I take this approach towards trying new things or meeting new people if I'm feeling wary.  What is the worst thing that could happen?  I walk away with a good story and more life experience.  To me, that's a win.

24. Reminisce and look at old photos.  I've always found that looking at all of my old photos while in a new place makes me feel empowered.  It reminds me that I've come this far, I'm loved, I'm here, and I can totally do this.


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