It can take some time (2.5 years?) before you really feel comfortable living in a new city. Some people jump right in, others need time. Even though I’m pretty nomadic and love things like bikeshares and coworking spots and Amazon Prime for purposes of pretending I live in places I don’t, I’m emotionally more in the latter camp.
I moved to San Francisco yesterday to try it out for a bit, and even though I’ve been all over the area on previous trips I haven’t been a good explorer these past 24 hours. For example, today I made the conscious decision to take a right hand turn for the sole purpose of breaking my one-street life thus far. It’s Catherine D’Ignazio’s thesis in real-time — she’s working to create a Fog of War for real life to encourage geographic serendipity.
I’m chatting with a friend in a new city going through the same thing. Her city is colder and darker. But I told her I’d write up my list of shortcuts to feeling like you belong somewhere. Here’s what I’ve got:
- Go for runs and get lost until you don’t get lost any more
- Buy a bike / get on the bikeshare and drastically expand your radius
- Allow yourself a period to be an Obvious Tourist: hit the obvious museums and sights and do the obvious things so you have a shared understanding with everyone. Also because sometimes these sights, while cliche, are actually some of the coolest things about that city. I avoided the Tower of London until my last day living there, clearly failing to recognize that it’s a functional medieval castle sitting there in downtown London with its own crows.
- Invest the time and money to take a couple of daytrips outside the city — knowing the region is a shortcut to feeling like the city’s your home
- Swim in the river. In DC, this meant doing the Nation’s Triathlon. In Boston, I wasn’t really in tri shape, so it meant flipping our Tech dinghy a few times a few months prior to the Charles River being declared swimmable. The point is to form positive memories related to major geographic features.
- Take a walking history tour (or art walk). Maybe I’m a nerd. Maybe the twice-weekly history walks we did in London infused this in me. But I don’t truly feel home somewhere until I can spout off the fun facts about how the Starbucks we’re in used to be a Pagan temple.
- Work out of some coworking spots, public libraries, and other shared public spaces (rather than say, your studio sublet)
What obvious things am I missing?
Also I spent the plane ride making a Bingo board of fun places and experiences to achieve. What should the prize be when I hit Bingo?