Finding your place wherever you are: Tips on how to make the most of a move

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 6.03.25 PMA friend recently learned that her husband got a promotion and her family of six would be moving to Australia. The four kids are between the ages of 10 and 15. Even though they’ve moved several times as a family, this new experience will surely change all of their perspectives for life.
Because she’s always done such a good job of moving, I was surprised when she wrote me not long ago and said, “You’ve moved several times as an adult and I’ve always been impressed with the way you integrate yourself in a community. What advice do you have for us as we get ready for this move to the other side of the world?”
She’s right in that I’ve moved several times as an adult — 10 different cities since I was 16, including the city where I went to college. Clearly, I thrive on change more than most and have approached each new locale with great anticipation. In fact, the only move that was a struggle for me was our move here to Lafayette. We’ve been here for a dozen years now. It’s the only home our daughters know. Even so, I have lots of thoughts on moving to a new place and starting a new chapter of life.
From the moment you learn where you’re moving, become a student of that place. The Internet makes this process much less complicated, but there are still several steps in that process.
1. If there are guidebooks, buy them. Study them. Get a feel for the fun things to do in what will soon be your new home. If you’re a list maker, make lists of the things you want to do and the order you want to do them in. I will confess that I have a guidebook addiction problem, but you would be amazed just how much you’re able to learn from them — from exactly what to order in great local restaurants to hidden trails that take you to special vistas. I recommend first focusing on the area within a 60-minute drive of your new home. Then branching out from there for weekend trips and getaways. Look for diversity of activities. Keep at the guidebooks, long after you’ve arrived.
2. Start reading their newspapers and other publications. Get a feel for their news, politics and culture. Find out about big events in the area that are happening now. Next year, you’ll be familiar with them and already know which ones you want to attend. Like the guidebooks, keep reading the paper once you get there. It will give you insights and connections to that place and people that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
3. Start reading and watching good fiction set in your new home. No, it’s not all accurate and some of it is over dramatized, but it will offer you insights and familiarity that is impossible to get otherwise. Especially with your family going to Australia, there is so much literature and film based there. The possibilities are wide. I’d recommend a family movie night once a week until you knock out the big movies of Down Under.
4. Start seeking out music from your soon-to-be home. No matter where you’re moving, there is bound to be a variety of local music — new and old that will give you a sense of place that you simply can’t get any other way. (As far as Australia goes, The Waifs — a band that came to Festival International a couple of times years ago, is a personal favorite!)
5. Start researching the school and sports options for your children now. Figuring out where you want them to go to school now will help in the house hunting process. If you contact schools, they will often put you in contact with other parents whose children already attend school there. I recommend communicating with those families in advance to help determine where your children will go to school. Plus, it’s a great way to have some pre-connections for activities once you get on site.
6. Research clubs, groups, churches and other organizations you might be interested in joining once you arrive in your new home. Once there, join them and get involved.
7. Once you’re in your new home, instigate outings and dinner parties with new friends. Even though you’re the foreigner, don’t wait for others to invite you to do things. In fact, the best thing about being a foreigner is that you’re not expected to understand all the local customs. So don’t worry about that kind of stuff at all! Invite people into your home and lives — and they will do the same. Of course, every outing won’t be a love connection, but in time, you’ll find your people. And your world will never be the same!
The bottom line is to get engaged with that place and its people. Volunteer. Ask questions. Seek advice – especially from people who have lived there a long time. Personally, I love to talk to old people in a new place. They also offer a sense of place that you just can’t get from another source. Listen to everyone’s stories — people love to tell their own stories. In those wonderful exchanges, you will not be able to help falling in love, bit by bit with your new home.

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