Creating A Home Away From Home

Play Among Friends
Play Among Friends

I recently made the exciting-but-also-extremely-nerve-racking decision to pick up my life in Boston and move down to New York City, as I turned the page to a new life chapter.

While it was an empowering decision, and one that I will always look back on and smile about, it was also pretty daunting to think of how my life would be turned completely upside down – and I was forced to start anew.

Leading up to the big moving day, you can probably imagine all of the emotions I experienced. I was thrilled to try something new, experience this city that I was already in love with and make my dent in the Big Apple.

Any mid-twenties female can probably understand that my thoughts, hopes, dreams and expectations of this new chapter directly resembled episodes of Friends and Sex and the City. Spoiler alert: it’s nothing like that (even if I’ll sometimes explain a recent NYC moment by referencing a popular episode).

So, here I am, nowhere near an expert, but I feel like I have a good grasp on what it takes to make my NYC experience enjoyable, fun and very much my own. And because I wish I had someone telling me this before I moved here, I wanted to suggest a few things to make the transition as successful as humanely possible:

1. Volunteer

I moved here on my own. Yes, I had a couple of people I knew to reach out to – but, for the most part, this was all me, all the time. That’s pretty stressful and lonely. And, I’m not one to just lock myself in my room and shut the world out, so I took a friend’s advice and signed up for New York Cares.

These events take you out of your comfort zone, and offer an opportunity to meet new people and explore new places. Even if it’s just once a month, you’re breaking up the work/gym/eat/drink/sleep routine that can get a little bit plain and very quickly expensive.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t secretly hoping to one day tell my future children that their parents met while volunteering at an event, too. Who knows – stranger things have happened, right? But I’m not counting it out just yet.
Join a [insert interest here] Club

We all have hobbies, and they are best enjoyed when done with others who share the same passion for those hobbies. You can try and drag your friends to a poetry slam and hope they have a good time, but chances are they probably won’t be totally into it. And that takes away from your experience.

I love my friends, but I’m the only one who still has a passion for soccer. I’m not going to force the turfs on them just because I’m looking to rekindle my relationship with the field. There are so many teams to join! Which, in turn, means so many people to meet. You don’t even have to be really good at it; just have fun and keep an open mind.

I should probably be honest here, too, that I have considered the following scenario: one of the opposing strikers, handsome and built like a machine, challenges my defense skills, gets shut down and loses miserably, ends up being my one-and-only Prince Charming. I don’t totally hate that outcome, either.

2. Visit Your City Bar

I should be clear here. I don’t mean ‘find a bar in your city’ because, let’s be honest, there are way too many to choose from. However, here in New York, we all come from somewhere else – and this leads us to city-specific bars. No matter where you’re from, one exists. Being from Boston, there are a couple in Manhattan. It’s nice to go to a place where you can openly cheer (not that I don’t do this anyway) for your Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics without pissing anyone off (but pissing people off is half the fun, right?), or even just talking about places back home.

Maybe your city doesn’t have a bar for your city. But my point here is simple: find a local watering hole where people you connect with, and have something in common with, congregate. It helps make the big ol’ city feel a little bit smaller.

3. Budget for Dining Solo

This is something I’ve recently gotten into and something that, a few months ago, I never would have done. The concept of sitting at the bar by myself, drinking and eating alone, depressed me. But, now, it has sort of become my theoretical reset button.

This is a great way to explore your new neighborhood, and make friends with the staff. The food and drinks are typically good, and the bartenders are pretty great eye candy, too. People watching makes for a great pastime as you sit there with a full glass of wine and a heaping salad. Catch a seat in the corner so you can watch the entire show.

It’s a nice way to unwind after work, without breaking the bank, and puts time back in your hands. You’re in no rush – consider bringing a book with you, too, if you get antsy just sitting there.

4. Download All of the City Apps

There are always so many things to see and do, that it can get a tad overwhelming – or nearly impossible – to keep up. So I always check in with a few different apps and websites that have me covered. Outside of the Eventbrites and Foursquares, there are usually a few that are unique to each city. Here, in New York, we have two of my favorites: TimeOut New York and SoSH. Each of these have lists upon lists upon lists of anything and everything you can imagine attending. I promise there is something for everyone.

It is very easy to spread yourself too thin, though, so make sure you recognize when you need a night off. NYC is always on the go, and its easy to fall into that trap – FOMO may be a real thing, but so is sleep deprivation and overstimulation. Fortunately, there is ALWAYS a ‘next time’.

5. Put Your Tourist Cap On

Again, I’m nowhere near being a qualified ‘New Yorker’; some pieces I’ve read state that you need to live here for something like 10 to 15 years before you can officially claim that title. Obviously, I have some work to do here. But it’s easy to feel like you’ve lived here for years, without actually taking advantage of all the beautiful things there are to see.

Take a weekend afternoon and go where the tourists go. There’s a reason why people come to visit this city, and if you live here and have never been? How can you really appreciate where you are? It’s like going to this world-renowned restaurant on your honeymoon and NOT ordering their famous dish. You’ve missed out on part of the experience. It may be crowded, and you may throw a few ‘bows into an innocent passerby, but at least you can finally say you saw it with your own two eyes.

6. Carve Out Alone Time

Moving away from home is hard. Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and into the world of the unknown is difficult. No one said it would be easy, but major props to you for doing it.

Ninety-two percent of the time, I feel all Beyoncé about this experience and could not be happier. But, sometimes, the stress and insecurities creep their way in and break me down. This is normal, and it’s only a small hiccup in the scheme of things – but it’s important to recognize when you’re worn out and need to take a step back. Sometimes I have to tell myself that I’ll continue to run the world tomorrow, but tonight I just need to press pause.

You’re the only one who knows exactly what you need, so look internally and reset. Giving yourself the time to check-in with yourself to realize that you’re more than okay, and you can handle whatever craziness is tossed at you tomorrow, will lift that huge weight off your shoulders.

Above all else, though, take advantage of this amazing opportunity and have fun with it! This is the time to do it all and live it up. I hope your adjustment is well-worth the blood, sweat, and tears during your journey. Your home away from home will feel comforting in no time. TC mark

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