Why Moving to a New Place Where You Don't Know Anyone is Awesome

My name is Jon Beardslee and I’m from a town outside of Flint, MI (great vacation destination…Jk that’s the only bad advice I’ll give). I graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in advertising and a specialization in sales. I interned for Altria for two years while in college and ended up getting a full time offer to move to New Orleans, LA to start my career with them. Now I work for NOLA Media Group (a digital media company) in downtown New Orleans, Altria is the reason I left Michigan to move to a city where I didn’t know anyone and I’m loving every second of it. 

Why it can be difficult but why you shouldn’t worry

There’s no denying moving to a new city can be extremely stressful. What part of town should I live in? What is there to do? What is there to eat? Is there a Qdoba here? (No). Is there a Taco Bell within walking distance? (No). How am I ever going to make any friends? Is my career worth moving 1,200 miles away for? (Yes). What better time in life is there to go out and see if there are other places you would rather be? If you don’t have a family, a mortgage, or anything else holding you back, you might as well give it a try. Remember you can always move back if things don’t go as planned.

Finding a place to live really is nothing to worry about. Remember that a vast majority of people have found a place to live when they move somewhere. Chances are you won’t have to live out of your car with the college degree you earned. Most likely, you’re going to end up finding a place that might be a little more expensive than you would have liked, but once you meet people that are from the area or have been here a little longer, they will gladly point you in the right direction. If you haven’t met anyone and need to find a place ASAP, I suggest using zillow.com, craigslist.com, calling a real estate agency (I did this and it worked great. The agent makes a commission from the apartment complex or person listing the house, so it is free for you to use them. As a bonus, my agent gave me a quick tour of the city and even a list of a bunch of things to do and see), or just driving around and looking for “for rent” signs. There are a lot of older people that don’t even know Craigslist and Zillow exist so they make a sign and hope for someone to see it. They also tend to have better rent prices than massive apartment complexes.

Figuring out what there is to do is something that you will learn very quickly. With apps such as Meet Up, Yelp, Google Maps,…Tinder, and I’m sure a lot of others, you'll have no problem finding stuff to do and people to do it with. Another great way to find stuff to do is to read the local newspaper or go to their website. Every place you go, no matter how big or small, will have a website that lists events, festivals, social gatherings, sporting events, art fairs, social bike rides, and any other going-ons that you might otherwise have no clue are happening. Or you could always just play PokemonGo and meet people that way but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. 

Making friends comes with time. If you move to a place where you don’t know anyone, there is going to be a little bit of time before you develop a good friend group and that is perfectly acceptable. You will spend time on weekends watching Netflix by yourself…not to worry. You’re going to put yourself out there and you will most likely meet some people you don’t like. This delays developing that friend group you can always count on to hang out with at a moments notice. That’s all part of the fun. Eventually, you will make that awesome friend group and there are a few great ways that I’ve learned to do that: 

  • Join a group - If you like to run, play sports, ride your bike, bowl, drink, eat, talk to people, read, hang out at the pool, plan events, enjoy animals, volunteer, listen to music, make music, explore, travel, or anything else, there is a group for that. Personally, I like to play sports, ride my bike, and explore my new city. I decided to join a co-ed social kickball league and it was the best way to find friends. I’ve played 4 seasons now and almost all of the people I hang out with on a regular basis are from my kickball team. I signed up as a free agent, not knowing anyone, and was surprised at how many other people are in the exact same situation. 
  • Explore on your own - Take a walk, bike ride, or drive around the city whenever you get a chance. This is the easiest way to find the cool little places you would regularly pass right by and never visit. If you see a place that looks interesting, go inside and check it out. Chances are you could meet some interesting people and they could tell you even more cool places to check out. For instance, I found a place that only sells umbrellas on a walk down the street. There are only two stores in the entire United States that only sell umbrellas. For some odd reason, I think it’s the coolest thing and I take everyone that visits me there to check it out. Plus, the people that work there are awesome and I learn something new about the city every time I go in. 

It’s worth the move for so many reasons. I’ve met so many great people, eaten some very different foods, and done so many crazy things I never thought I would do (wear a red dress and walk down Bourbon Street with almost 100,000 other people doing the same thing, ride a Mardi Gras float, participate in a charity event called Running of the Bulls where you are chased by “bulls” [roller derby girls that hit you with whiffle ball bats]), and countless other bizarre things I would never have gotten to experience if I didn’t decide to move somewhere totally new. 

Why it’s Awesome

I kind of explained why it’s great to move to a new place in the last section, but the truth is, if I had a chance to do it all over again, I would do the exact same thing. The experiences you will have in a totally new place are those you remember for the rest of your life. Moving to a place you have never been is going to force yourself to get out of your comfort zone which I think is a good thing for most young professionals. This will also help you get ready for your new career because I guarantee you're going to be forced out of your comfort zone on a daily basis in your new office as the new guy or girl. You’re going to meet really interesting people that you will remain friends with for the rest of your life.  As strange as it is, most of my friends are not from New Orleans. Because of this, we are all doing new things together and experiencing what it’s like living in a new city at the same time. One of the best reasons to move away is letting your friends visit you so you can share these experiences with them as well. 

Work Life

Like I mentioned at the beginning, I no longer work for the company that brought me down here. I work for a new company that I found out about while living here and it has been amazing. When you move to a new city, your first few weeks are going to be working, getting to know the place, and trying to figure out a routine. Everything is going to be new and the people you work with can be your greatest resource for just about anything. They have lived there longer than you and will know valuable stuff that can help you with your transition. Reach out to as many people as you can with questions. Chances are, they have gone through a similar situation as you and know exactly how you feel. I’ve never met someone that didn’t want to tell me about their favorite place to eat or hang out. Most of the time, if they are of similar age, they’ll see if you want to hang out with them. I recommend hanging out with them. They can introduce you to new people and this is a great way to start growing that friend group. Train yourself to have a major fear of missing out. If you just worked ten hours, have to grocery shop, but people want to go out that night, say yes. You don’t have to go out and get hammered at the bar the night before work, but if you go out, you’ll meet more people and find out about more cool things going on in the city. 

Different cultures can be a shock. Try to embrace the culture as fast as you can. This will only help you with your transition to a new place. For instance, the south…is…very…slow… I’m not saying that Michigan is the fastest paced place in the country, but this was the biggest shock to me. I had to understand that priorities in the south can be a little bit different. Wherever you might end up, grasping the new culture will be a huge benefit for you in your professional life. If I need a co-worker to get something done for me, I make sure I send reminders. If I’m meeting a new client, I say “sir” or “ma’am”. If I’m meeting an older female client, saying “Miss” before her first name is a sign of respect. Most of all, if someone offers you food, you take it, and you eat it. 

How I’ve managed to stay in touch with friends and family

The biggest thing that you start to think about before the move is how much you are going to miss your friends and family. This will happen and you have to do as much as you can to keep in touch. Call your parents, extended family, and your friends from home as much as you can. It’s always great to get a taste of home every now and then. I always want a Vernors and Koegel hot dog, but unfortunately I can’t get that in Louisiana. Just talking to friends from home can make you feel like you're right there again. 

With any job, you’re going to have limited vacation days. My biggest tip is to plan as far ahead as possible because before you know it, you have 8 trips planned and most of them won’t be trips home. I usually try to make my trips so that I see my friends and my family, and also get to a couple locations on the same trip. Use the multiple location tool on Kayak and you can find a lot better deals than you think. I realized I can get home and to another location on the same trip for the same price as it would be to just go home and back. 

Get people to visit you. If you have to fly to 10 different places each year, the money is going to add up. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends and family that it might be too much money. Most of the time, they’ll have no problem taking the time to come visit you (just make sure you provide a place for them to stay and show them a good time). 

Top 5 Tips:

  1. Find a place to live that you will be comfortable with
  2. Explore your city every chance you get
  3. Join a group or a club
  4. Learn the culture and adapt as much as possible
  5. Plan your trips home and to other places well in advance

As they say in New Orleans, laissez les bon temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)