Move along?
December 29, 2012 7:31 AM   Subscribe

So you survived your 20's, and part of it involved moving to a new city where you didn't know anyone. Recommended?

Sorry if this question has been asked a hundred times.

I'm almost 3 years out of college, employed full-time and have my eyes peeled for a new job that will suit me better. I'm considering looking for work in other cities to expand my job search as well as "start fresh" somewhere. I'm also interested in a change of scenery and a cheaper standard of living (I currently live in a wildly expensive major city, and I've lived in the area my entire life).

My main reservations though are that all of my networks are based in my hometown - family, friends, professional contacts. I already struggle enough to keep in touch with my very few close friends here and haven't really made many new ones since graduating college, and all I keep reading about is how it only gets harder to make friends and establish a social network the older you get, and how lack of a social network can exacerbate issues like depression. I realize that if I were unhappy I could move back after a year or so, but I fear losing touch with everyone just because I wanted cheaper rent and a "change of pace".

Did you give in to your desire to move somewhere else, at risk of being alone and losing touch with friends from home? How did it work out?
posted by windbox to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I moved to London from my northern English home town when I was 21. Didn't know a soul down there. Soon made new friends at work, but I'm also the sort of person who can be quite content with or without friends, so I was covered either way, really. Give it a go. Life is short. Try things. Take yourself out of your comfort zone. This is how life gets interesting!
posted by Decani at 7:43 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did this twice - DC to Boston, Boston to Portland, OR - and second it. The mysterious, long lasting power of deliberately challenging yourself w/new places and new experiences when you're young shouldn't be underestimated.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:57 AM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

I packed it up and moved from a small New England town to Seattle with a partner right after I graduated college, like a week after. Me and the partner split up after a few months so I was suddenly in a new city sort of on my own. I really enjoyed it because there was always something to look at and do. I did spend a chunk of time on my own but I kept in touch with friends and family and eventually a chunk of my friends would up moving out to Seattle as well. The weirdest part, for me, was making sort of newish friends who were people I didn't always have that much in common with at first and eventually making more solid friends further down the road. I started out in Seattle doing a lot of volunteering and general do-gooder stuff and eventually decided to go to grad school out there. Still later I moved back to a small New England town but with more certainty that I actually wanted to be there and wasn't just staying there because I hadn't been anywhere else. I find the making-friends-is-tougher thing to be more true when your peer group are settling down and having families which for me happened more in my late 30s and not at all in my early 20s. You have a lot of time and now is the perfect time to try things out.
posted by jessamyn at 8:11 AM on December 29, 2012

When I was in my 20's, I moved from NYC to Albany ostensibly for a job, but I think there were other things prompting the move. My best friend had left the city, and I think I was yearning to feel freer physically. I moved again to Boston three years later, this time definitely for a job, and I stayed in MA.

I'll admit that the first year in Albany was miserable, mostly because I didn't know anyone and I didn't really know how to be by myself yet; I'd always had a roommate. But at the end of year three, when it was time to find another job, I was planning on staying. Now, I don't regret either move. I will say that the Albany=>Boston move was a lot easier than NYC=>Albany - lots more young professional people roaming around in the Boston area. I'd also become much more comfortable living alone.

Like ryanshepard says, challenge yourself while you're still young and before you're tied down. I now own a house, which I'd have to get rid of in a crap market if I wanted to move anywhere else. Also, I'm older and my job mobility is a lot less than it used to be.
posted by Currer Belfry at 8:17 AM on December 29, 2012

Absolutely. It was the best decision I've ever made in my life.

I lived in Oklahoma City, in the same 5-mile radius of my parents and grandparents, the first 23 years of my life. On July 7, 2003, I packed as much as I could into my car and drove to Houston. I had about $500 in the bank and no job prospects. My thinking was that Houston was far enough away, a big city (I'd always been a city girl) and close enough that if I failed spectacularly, I could drive back home in the event I couldn't afford a plane ticket.

I ended up staying with someone I knew from college for a while but we weren't "friends." I got a job bartending right away and so was able to make decent money while I saved and looked for my own place. The job came with a small amount of social benefits. Before moving I'd also joined an online forum for people that shared a hobby of mine, and so was able to meet them in person pretty quickly after I moved. Within 2-3 months I met the man who eventually became my husband.

Moving to Texas was literally the best thing I've ever done. I had traveled overseas before and knew form a very early age that I did not want to spend the rest of my life in Oklahoma. I was, in part, running away from some problems, but getting farther away from them gave me a lot of perspective and allowed me to be much happier with my own life. Moving literally changed my life. So much so that I celebrate my Texas anniversary every year. About to hit a full decade in 2013!
posted by Brittanie at 8:25 AM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

What happens if you don't move in order to stay close to your friends and then they start moving away? It's highly likely that your friends & professional contacts will peel away as they marry, have children, pursue job opportunities, etc. I've been in NYC for almost 9 years and have lost more close friends to other cities than I can count. Will you still be happy with your decision when that happens?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:38 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I moved from a college town in New Zealand to Baltimore just after i turned 26. The idea that i might not establish a great group of friends never occurred to me. And this was before the ubiquity of Facebook etc, but it was still easy to keep in touch with people i left behind. Nowadays, it's harder to drop contact with someone on purpose than it is to fall out of touch with them.

11 years later I'm in the car to Baltimore typing this as my husband drives us down to catch up with people I've been friends with since the first week i lived in the usa. Don't worry about it, just go!
posted by gaspode at 8:40 AM on December 29, 2012

I moved from New York City to Birmingham, England; from Birmingham to Washington, DC; Washington, DC to Berkeley, CA; and now, Berkeley, CA to Birmingham, England for work. Facebook has helped me immensely to filter news from home through clear glasses and not get too worked up about missing things. Networks are more precarious than should be believed and its relatively simple to gain access to new networks in new places. Of course local rules apply, which you will learn as you go.
posted by parmanparman at 8:48 AM on December 29, 2012

From rural Northern California to SoCal at 18. All my belongings packed into a VW Beetle.

Spun my wheels a bit the first few weeks -- didn't know anyone, didn't know where to find anyone, didn't know what my options were -- then landed a job at one of Pasadena's grubbier institutions (the eBar, in Old Town, before redevelopment, now long gone), and the world opened up and welcomed me to people and experiences I could not have found "back home."

I'm still here.

Do it.
posted by notyou at 8:51 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hell, I spent most of my 20s bouncing around the country in places where I didn't know anyone. If you don't do it now, you sure as hell aren't going to do it when you're in your 30s and have kids, a mortgage, debt, and all those other things that turn you into the dude from a Springsteen song wondering how he never got out of his hometown.

Facebook, whatever its flaws may be, is an excellent way of keeping in touch with everyone.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:59 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

My experience in moving for a cheaper standard of living was not as successful as some of the folks up-thread, but nonetheless valuable. We moved from Portland, Oregon (not crazy expensive, but expensive to us) to Portland, Maine over a year ago. We're now planning on moving back, because we've realized about a million things about where we came from versus where we live now that we value more. We both lived in Portland Oregon for years (my whole life, and my wife's whole college+gradschool life) so we didn't really realize what we had in that little bubble. Needless to say, we want our old life back, even though on paper, it's a bit more 'expensive' and a bit faster paced than the life we have now...but our quality of life will be much, much better.

I'm totally grateful we did this though, because, like you after college new connections in my social and professional networks slowed to a snails pace, and I pretty much forgot how to forge those connections. Now I talk to strangers, acquaintances, co-workers & just about everyone very differently to broaden those horizons and hone that skill. It's pretty awesome, and totally worth a year or two away from home. Even on visits back to PDX, I now actively cultivate those connections and relationships; if you're careful, you don't lose the skill once you come back to 'home.'

The best advice I've had during this time: You can undo a move.

It kind of sucks, and it's stressful (as is any big move) but if it's not what you wanted, or turns out that you're values are in different places, you move. Your network will still, largely be in tact, and your friends and family will love having you closer, IF you move back to an area. Don't let this be a fear.

Totally do it, just do it smart.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:03 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I graduated from college in Tallahassee Fl and took a job with the state govt... Within a year I was asking myself, "There has to be more to life than THIS, right?"

So I joined the Navy and never looked back.

Hands down both the hardest decision and BEST decision I've ever made in my life.
posted by matty at 9:10 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I moved from a large city (Dallas, after a couple decades in an even bigger city (Houston)) to a smaller city (Seattle) where I didn't know a soul in my mid-20s, and it was great. Loved it. Did me good.

The three things I'd keep in mind if I had it to do all over again:
1. Keep my original goals in mind and don't get too swayed by the new environment - I'd intended to go to school, but got caught up in all of the employment and social options.

2. Remember to keep exploring the area around the new place - day trips, hikes, festivals in other's just too easy to get caught in a rut in the new place and forget how much value there is in truly exploring all of a place.

3. Have some idea of the local entertainment/events - I actually did do this, and it helped so much in relieving the loneliness when I first got there...and this was before I was able to be online ('96), so it's even more doable, now. I took note of the festivals, entertainment districts, fairs, and all that sort of things so I could soak up the atmosphere and avoid loneliness. It helped so, so, so much. The one thing I'd do differently is look up fan/hobby conventions in the area, because that ended up being a great relief that I could have done earlier.

And furnace.heart is right - you can always move back. No shame in it, and can even be fun.

Whatever you decide, good luck!
posted by batmonkey at 9:31 AM on December 29, 2012

I too did this 10 years ago, successfully, and I'm throwing in my two cents because I was genuinely surprised by the sudden onset of loneliness.

In my college town I had many friends and an active social life, and even in the absence of plans and activities I always knew that I could head alone to the pub, find some familiar faces there, and have a nice time.

The task of making arrangements for the move (800 miles) and the excitement of actually doing it distracted me from the realization that I would be losing all of that. I settled in a little apartment in the new town, empty but for a few boxes, and I set about starting my new job, establishing services, and acquiring necessities.

When all of this activity finally settled down, the realization of alone-ness hit me all at once. Like a ton of bricks. My mind still holds the image of what I was seeing in that moment. I'm in a grocery store, carrying a basket, picking food. I can still see the long aisle, and I'm looking down it toward the door. It's very yellow. There are no friends, and not yet a place to go to find them. The moment was pretty crushing.

I was a strong-willed kid from a good family, and it was the first time in my life when I felt unconnected to anything. I rationalized the feeling as necessary and expected, and I moved on. I would do nothing differently.
posted by rlk at 9:32 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I did this twice and am about to do move number 3 (in less than 2 weeks). The first move, and the upcoming one, also involve new countries. I totally recommend it - and that's coming from an introvert whose possibly least favorite activity is meeting new people for the first time.

I think batmonkey's advice is really good, especially about getting a little bit of an idea about the place to start with. With the internet this is dead easy, obviously. You do have to have a little bit of willpower to force yourself to go out to place where you know no one (at least if you're me), but if you follow up on stuff you're interested in anyway - or even stuff you want to be interested in - you'll meet like-minded people.

One thing I've found with each of my moves is that you can get stuck in a rut beforehand of "what I'm moving away from" rather than "what I'm moving to", and it can really make you question your choice. When that feeling hits I know I need to stop and reset my focus towards the future excitement in store rather than all the good things/people I'm leaving - because they are good things, I'm just seeking out something new. Another way of thinking about this might be remembering that you're making a choice to do it, and you can make other choices about how to do it, or whether you want to change your mind, later on as well - this kind of thing is not generally an irrevocable decision.

About keeping in touch with people - Skype is a miraculous piece of software and has improved dramatically since I first moved abroad 6 years ago. You should keep in mind that as the one moving away, people will expect you to be the one to keep in touch - not very fair but that's been my experience completely. However, they want you to keep in touch, and making an effort to do that will really help in the first month or so in a new place when you don't know anyone. It might also be a way of motivating yourself to do new and interesting stuff, so you can tell your friends back home about it.

This got a bit long-winded but I really want to encourage you to DO IT! Moving someplace new can really help you grow as a person, and even if you decide afterwards that you want to move home again, I don't think you'll regret the experience.
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 10:02 AM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I moved from a flyover state to NYC in my 20s. The first few months were difficult - I acquired and lost jobs and friendships and it was a very difficult adjustment, but overall I'd say it's been worth it. Before I made the move I was antsy and dissatisfied and always feeling that I was missing out on the awesomeness of the world. NYC keeps me from ever being bored.

I haven't lost contact with my circle back home. Facebook will help you stay in touch, and when you go back to hometown you can visit with folks. I have been here for almost a decade and I feel I could comfortably go back to my hometown and still have many good friends there. It would be a big adjustment and I would have to work on my friendships etc but it would definitely be easier than moving to a new city.

I recommend having an exit strategy for yourself, it makes it a lot easier to make the leap if you have a plan for how you can return if it all goes horribly wrong.
posted by bunderful at 10:54 AM on December 29, 2012

I've done the "big move very far away to where I knew no one" at least three times, plus two other "big moves" to cities I had never lived in. It gets easier and doesn't. Every move has left me with another network. I sometimes feel like I've been able to live a lot of different lives before my 30th birthday (in a good way). This is really all I have:

(1) I have a three month adjustment rule because I've observed my first three months in any new place, near or far, for various reasons tend to be more difficult and in the third month things inevitably buoy up to a better level. So now during the first three months in a new location I just tell myself a grey lonely day is part of the three months and limit my wallowing to maybe five minutes. This has improved the experience.

(2) My personality really likes certain places from go, so I tend to make wildcard big moves after doing at least a weekend of in-person scouting. No internet research or guidebook can really give you a sense of how a community or city feels and how you might fit in it and whether it will make your heart soar or drive you insane. It's worth a couple hundred bucks.

(3) Bring money. If at all possible, for the love of Huey. Being in a new city is tricky. Being broke in a new city with no network is utterly crap.

This is going to sound weird but I think maintaining certain already distant networks from a distance is sometimes easier than maintaining them up close because you don't have to put in face time and technology allows you to monitor the relationship. On my last move, I took advantage of a network I really hadn't tapped since University other than through half-present social media and on arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find it easy to step into the parts of that network that I had missed.
posted by skermunkil at 11:23 AM on December 29, 2012

I repeated: “I can always go back to being a shepherd" during the lonely moments.

Remember, in addition to your networks and all the strengths, there's also a lot of momentum and baggage. It can be a good thing being lonely for a while. Each time I've made a major move (3 times thus far), the result has been both embracing things that I really enjoy about life, whilst simultaneously letting go of a lot of things that I had outgrown.
posted by nickrussell at 11:49 AM on December 29, 2012

Millions of people move across their countries/across the world every day to cities where they know nobody. In my opinion, this is not a big deal. Not knowing anyone isn't a reason that should stop you. Every time I move I move continents, not just to a new city in a new country. There are people everywhere. You just meet new people when you move.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 12:02 PM on December 29, 2012

I'm in southern Ontario (where I grew up) right now, visiting my parents. I lived in Vancouver, Canada for the past two years, and tonight I am getting on a flight to the UAE, where I will "start fresh" again. I'm not running from anything but I really like "starting fresh" and getting set up somewhere new. Since I've been home visiting, I've noticed something: everything here is pretty much the same as it has always been. Some stores have changed, some of my friends have moved, some roads have been re-paved, but things are pretty much just as I left them. I don't feel like I missed anything.

Moving is a pain in the ass, but the experience is nearly always worthwhile.
posted by gursky at 1:39 PM on December 29, 2012

Double down on what 'matty' said... joining the military; um, change from within can be a wonderful thing; and 1/3 of the people will be more or less just like you... balanced, peaceful, educated. Far from any movie book bar-ridden-bozo-storyteller or repeated internet OMG OMG OMG THE MILITARY THE MILITARY THE MILITARY OMG OMG OMG imaginable.

Choose your training wisely; there are some honest to deity proper skillsets out there ... DLIFLC, HVAC certs, heavy equipment ( seriously. Think the crane guy got OJT? Most welders? Small, low paying, unskilled jobs? Uh. noes. )

A defined benefit retirement? Good gawd. Worst case scenario you can all but say "Gee. This sucks. Can I go home" in a post war sequester world; and they say "OK. There's the door. Bye.". DAMN HOW DOES THAT STUFF WERK? HATE YER JOB? POOR MEMBUR? ok. we have the good that will always be here. do well and thanks, good luck. .

Do it. Do it now. Make the move. As above; once you have kids, mortgage, debt, and/or a really swell job; can it happen then? Nope. Do it.
posted by buzzman at 2:48 PM on December 29, 2012

At age 23 I moved from Durham, NC (where I was in grad school, and miserable) to Boston. Didn't know a soul there; didn't even have a job. What helped me was moving into an apartment with four other women who needed a fifth roommate. Obviously YMMV on this kind of thing, but I met them beforehand and felt comfortable with them, and they were obviously friendly people. I ended up becoming friends with some of them and meeting their friends and so on. They even helped me with my job hunt. So-- my advice would be: go for it!
posted by tuesdayschild at 4:42 PM on December 29, 2012

Your home town is the city you currently live in? And you're having trouble keeping up with people and fear loneliness and depression?
Honestly, I don't know if moving cities is right for you just now. Maybe you'll move to a smaller, cheaper, friendlier and more laid-back city and find it suits you in a way your hometown doesn't. You might get lucky and meet great people straight away. But you might also find you miss a lot of things about your hometown you took for granted, and you would actually be better off working on connecting better with people there.
As someone who's moved a lot, I've had the whole range ofabove experiences. And yes you can move back. And moving generally turns out to be an interesting experience in one way or another. But... it can also be a difficult and painful way to achieve personal growth. Maybe that's what you need right now, maybe not.
posted by 8k at 7:07 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I moved to a very large city when I was 21 and have been here ever since. On the upside, I met my husband here. On the downside, it's been over a decade and I still don't feel like I have any close friends here. I have pretty bad social anxiety, it's true, but on the other hand, I've made lifelong friends in other places, so I feel like the large spread out city I live in is at least half to blame. It is true that it's really hard to make friends after college. In all honesty, if I had it to do over again, I would have set down roots where I already had friends.
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:15 PM on December 29, 2012

Do it. I moved from the US to Australia on a whim a few years back. Didn't know a soul. After the initial raw excitement wore off there was a bit of loneliness and missing everyone back home, but I've worked through that and now it's awesome!
posted by adamk at 8:36 PM on December 29, 2012

I did it. It is great. I have a family in New City now.
I have two recommendations for you:
1. Leave your home / apartment. Nothing interesting will happen to you inside your four walls. Once you set foot out the door, anything is possible.
2. When you start to meet people, stay away from people who are negative about New City. It is easiest to meet other people who have just come to New City. There are two kinds of them. One of them is positive about New City. The other finds a problem with everything. Stay away from the latter - they will bring you down. (also, don't become the latter).
good luck!
posted by jazh at 5:02 AM on December 30, 2012

One other thing to think about is whether your friends/siblings are starting families in your hometown, and if you are at the right time to do that, too. I moved away from home for college and just stayed here, 1000 miles from my home and 800 miles from husbands. We thought it would be best to just stay in the middle rather than choosing one side or the other. But we spent every single vacation visiting family in one direction or the other - never went anywhere else for almost 15 years. And now that they are grown, I am seeing that my kids really missed out by not having day-to-day interaction with their cousins and grandparents, like the rest of my siblings' kids did (we both come from large families).

And, now that my parents are getting older, I fly in for a long weekend and I help make the schedules about who is going to drop in every day for lunch to check on them, but I can't participate in that because I don't live there.

So, yeah, you are young and adventure is great. But when you start to settle down, you should think again about where you are and what you want to do.
posted by CathyG at 12:33 PM on December 30, 2012

In the same way that it's good to date a few different kinds of people to find out what is important to you in a relationship, I think it's good to live in a few different kinds of places to find out what's important to you in a community. Do you feel calmer and more relaxed in a less densely populated area? Is it really important for you to be able to stop home on your way home from work and do something fun and interesting on a weekday? How much driving can you tolerate? Etc, etc.

Right after college I moved from a small town to a giant city, with no friends, job or apartment. I was really lonely and not sure I'd made the right decision for the first several months of the move. But it worked out over time - I got a job in the field I'd moved to the city to work in, built up a network of friends, and grew to love the city. And after several years I realized I didn't want to live in the city for the rest of my life, and moved to a smaller city.

The point of which is to say that I definitely recommend it -- not necessarily as the thing that's going to make you happier than you are now (you may not be) but as a thing that will help you figure out what's important to you. And as others have pointed out, it's much easier to do in your twenties than when you're older.

And as a matter of practical advice, I really recommend finding a situation with roommates when you first move -- even if you don't end up being bosom friends, even if you end up not talking to them much-- the simple physical presence of other people where you live can be really reassuring in a new place where you don't know anybody yet.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 6:26 PM on December 30, 2012

I've done this three times : once before college, twice after. All three times it was the right decision to make. Thing is, it really boils down to who you are, how you socialize, and where you move.

Are you shy or outgoing? If you're not outgoing, can you push yourself to become more outgoing? The idea that "you can't meet new people after college" is a total canard. It's easy to meet people in college because you're randomly thrown into situations with strangers. You can totally do this after college! It's just that you have to throw yourself into those situations without relying on some external force to do it for you.

Realize that after you move, you WILL be lonely for a while. This can suck a lot. Can you deal with this while you're still getting situated and making friends? You'll have lonely nights when you've texted the five people you know and none of them are around. You'll curse yourself and say, "Whyever did I move here?" At that point, will you throw in the towl and move home? Or will you persevere?

Where do you want to move? This DOES make a difference. I lived in NYC for 3 years before I found a good group of friends. San Franciscans are friendlier; only took me 1.5 years here. Not bad, but still, that year and a half was TOUGH.

Now onto the good stuff.

Starting over was so completely, totally worth it to me. When you start over, you can be anyone you want to be; you are no longer bound by the mistakes of the past. You can choose your own fate, instead of making do with the hand you were dealt. Also, you can move someplace really, really cool! I started out in St. Louis, and I would've preferred chewing off an appendage to staying there. Can't say my opinion of the place has changed. Since then, I've lived in NYC and SF, two of the best cities in the world!

So I'd say go ahead and do it, as long as you're truly in it for the long haul.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:37 AM on December 31, 2012

I moved from Manchester to London, pretty much on a whim because I was unhappy, when I was 23. It was a LOT easier than returning to Manchester as I'd done a year earlier - returning to a familiar place makes one think they'll be surrounded by friends, only to find that people have moved on.

I have a love/hate relationship with London, but I liked it enough to stay, and I felt it was a move I needed to make in order to grow up a little and see if living in the capital was for me. If I was doing the same thing now, I'd even think about living overseas for a year (for a number of reasons that wasn't an option when I was 23) because it is a good idea to do this stuff before you have ties.
posted by mippy at 4:09 AM on December 31, 2012

« Older Just say yes?   |   Doctor says not to worry about findings on my CT... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.