Where Do You Belong?
As we continue to cautiously emerge from the bunkers of our pandemic isolation, it feels good to fall back into familiar routines once again, reconnecting with the world. In many areas of the country, we can go back to the movies again or have friends over for dinner. It feels good, but it also feels different. So many things have been affected, altered – or changed forever – over the past 18 months: families, jobs, traditions, hopes.
You may feel like railing against all these abrupt changes and doing everything you can to reclaim your former life. After all, even if it wasn’t perfect, at least the challenges were familiar and the workarounds you had devised got you through.
A new place, a new life
On the other hand, you may see the post-pandemic situation as an opportunity to make some major personal changes. Learn new job skills and switch careers, maybe get a dog or get married – or get a divorce – and reset your life. For many people, it’s a chance to jump-start working on their bucket list of YOLO experiences.
Now that we are mostly free to “move about the country,” as the old airline slogan goes, many people are not only traveling again, but actually relocating to new areas of the country, or world, where they’ve always wanted to live. Remote-working opportunities have made this kind of freedom – once only available to restless digital nomads and carefree van-lifers -- a reality for thousands.
Where do you really fit in?
If you’ve made the decision to leave home or leave the place that has been your community for many years, how do you choose where to go next? Aside from accepting a new job in a new town, how do you find a new place to live where you really belong, fit in, and maybe even feel happier?
Is it a matter of narrowing down to a city that fits your budget and checks off the most must-haves on your list? Or is it just a positive vibe you feel when you visit a potential new home base, look around, and meet the other people who live there?
We all need to live somewhere that we like – a place where we feel that we belong and can be our best selves socially and creatively. The feelings of belongingness and love are core human needs, after food, shelter and safety, that motivate our human behavior, according to renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow.
But perhaps you truly belong where you already live.
Melody Warnick, the author of “This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are,” has a suggestion. She and her husband and two kids had moved half a dozen times all around the U.S. before settling in a small town in Virginia. With each move, they learned many valuable life lessons, most especially how to go about putting down roots and developing “place attachment” or at-homeness where one lives.
Before tossing darts at a map and packing up the U-Haul, Warnick suggests that you first determine if where you currently live may be the best place for you to be.
In her book, Warnick includes a list of 24 statements to help determine your attachment to where you currently live. The more you answer “true” or “false” will help you make the decision to stay or move. They include statements such as,
I feel like I belong in this community
I know a lot of people here
The people who live here are my kind of people
I’m really interested in knowing what’s going on here
I like to tell people about where I live
I can rely on the people in this town to help me
It feels like home
Warnick’s book is a great read and will help open your eyes to the possibility that you may already be living where the grass is greener.
‘Dating’ apps for cities
If you’re dead set on relocating and staring a new life in a new place, don’t just hit the road without doing some basic relo homework first. Check out guides like Livability which ranks the top 100 places to live each year. Their rankings take into account community amenities (“Best Free Ways to Have Fun”), education, sustainability, transportation, housing, and economy (“Best Dream Job”).
Niche.com is another great resource to use. It’s a treasure trove of info that makes scoping out thousands of towns and cities across the U.S., from Albany to Key West to Vancouver or Plymouth, easy and quick. Users can zero in on potential new locations by filtering, dating-app-style, info about public schools, walkability, cost of living, job opportunities, political climate, crime, and local amenities like cafés and parks.
The locations are also rated and reviewed by real people who actually live there. Sifting through their comments and opinions will help give you a better idea of the true vibe of any new location.
Try out a new country
If living as an ex-pat in another part of the world is a big change that you’ve been contemplating, check out WowTravel’s 2021 Happiest Cities in the World list to explore a potential new home. Their top 10 locations were selected from 158 locations around the globe that scored best in the areas of GDP per capita, absence of corruption, generosity, social support, freedom, and healthy life expectancy.
Living in a city highly rated for happiness is bound to make a difference in your life, right?
Likewise, Condé Nast Traveler’s 10 Best Places in the World are their picks for the most livable cities on the planet currently. The selection was based on information about five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
InternationalCitizens.com is a great resource to consult to find out exactly how one emigrates legally from the U.S. to other countries like Mexico, Great Britain, or China, for work or to retire, or simply start a new way of life. It’s a bit more complicated than packing a bag and hopping on a plane, so you’ll want to make sure you’re well-prepared and satisfy the particular qualifications that each country requires of new residents.
Visit before you commit
Before you pack up your life and relocate anywhere, visit your top-choice new towns in person and explore the territory thoroughly. If you already know someone who lives there, even better – they can give you the real scoop about the place, show you around, and help connect you with the locals if you choose the place as your new home.
Also check out Winona Dimeo-Ediger’s 5 Tips for Getting to Know a New City Before You Move There on Livability.com. These are probably the most important tasks you need to do before you make your big decision.
A new road
Moving to a new city won’t automatically make you happier, but you may find a new community that suits your style better and offers more amenities, like beaches, mountain hiking trails, cultural events. You may also discover a better place to live that provides more business or career opportunities.
Once you make a decision to change your life either by moving to a new town and starting anew or staying put and putting down meaningful roots, you’ve already taken the first step down a new road on your life’s map, and that’s always exciting!
Photos (from top): Woman on boat by Te lensFix from Pexels; Grand Central Terminal, NYC by Lorenzo Moschi on Unsplash; Telluride, CO; Telluride.com; Woman in window by Brady Knoll from Pexels; Man at Restaurant window by Reyalan Munsamy on Unsplash; Man at Café by furkanfdemir from Pexels; Backpack man by Jake Ingle on Unsplash; Cycling; Keywest.com.