I never intended to be someone who moved around often. As a young girl, my life goal was to live within walking distance to my mother my entire life. But—as is so often the case—things have not gone according to plan.
Soon after having our first child, my husband and I purchased a starter home in my beloved home state of Utah. Not long after, my husband was accepted to graduate school, an adventure that relocated us across the country to the beautiful state of North Carolina. Two years later, an exciting job opportunity brought us to America’s heartland in the lovely state of Iowa. Five years later, another job opportunity took us to the southernmost tip of the country where we currently reside, Miami, Florida.
Over the last ten years, our now family of six has lived in four different states—a far cry from the life I’d always planned. There have certainly been days, weeks, and even months scattered throughout our moves when I have struggled to feel at home, because home kept changing zip codes.
But looking back, I can honestly say that I’ve grown to love each and every place we’ve lived. I believe there is beauty to be found in every destination. Today I’m sharing three tips on how to love where you live: find your people, find your place, and find your thing.
First, find your people. This might be the hardest tip to implement but creating a sense of community is key in making any place feel like home. When moving to a new location, make a deliberate effort to reach out and create connections. There is no right way to do this and it can be as casual or formal as you’d like.
In the past, we’ve been most comfortable inviting a family from church, work, or grad school over for dinner. I like to keep the menu simple and often invite our guests to bring a side dish or dessert.
Also, if I happen to meet another mom at a local park and see that our kids are hitting it off, I’ve asked if she’d like to meet up in the future for another park play date. You could also attend a local group fitness class and get to know the people next to you. Or invite your neighbors over for a pickup game of baseball in your backyard (if you’re feeling shy, send your kids next door to do the inviting).
Whatever form of reaching out is comfortable for your family, do it. And if your first friend-making efforts don’t result in your next life-long-friend, take heart. These things take time, but with practice comes progress.
Second, find your place, which is another way of saying find a local destination your family loves.
When we lived in North Carolina, we lived near Sarah P. Duke Gardens, basically the most beautiful public gardens you can imagine. With my husband spending long hours in class, my kids and I made a habit of regular picnics at the gardens. I would load my two little ones in our old sedan, pack a lunch of ham sandwiches, apple slices, and chocolate chip cookies, grab a blanket (or with any luck there was still one left in my car from our last picnic), and drive over to the gardens. My daughters and I would feast on our humble lunch, inevitably smearing chocolate chips everywhere, and then I’d let the kids run wild.
Those little outings refueled my soul. Yes, the sunshine was wonderful. Yes, the outside play wore my girls out enough to guarantee long afternoon naps. But it was more than that. Those gardens we visited so regularly became our place, and that helped us feel at home.
Since then, we’ve continued to search out “our place” in each of our new home towns. In Iowa there was a local ice cream shop that could not be topped. We visited it countless times and I still daydream about eating a generous helping of raspberry white chocolate ice cream. In Florida, we visited many different beaches in our area and eventually stumbled upon one that was far off the tourist circuit and offered the sandy beaches and warm ocean that we love. It has since been dubbed our beach.
One pro tip for finding your place: don’t hesitate to ask locals for recommendations. Most people love to brag about their hometown and would happily recommend a destination for a great burger, beautiful hike, or some other best-kept secret.
Third, find your thing, meaning intentionally consider what things your family will need in order to enjoy your new location.
For example, we spent two teeth-chattering winters in Iowa—our first winter there was appropriately named “the polar vortex” by national news media—before I finally wizened up and realized that the old, ill-fitting coat I’d been wearing was not actually keeping me warm. For my next birthday, I requested a new, very warm, but moderately priced winter coat. This beauty made all the difference. It zipped up high around my neck, wrapped snuggly around my wrists and kept out the biting winter winds. With the proper attire, suddenly I could enjoy playing with my children in the ever-abundant snow and I felt happier about living in Iowa.
Having learned my lesson, I made sure that one of the first things I did when we moved to Florida was find the necessary gear, which included purchasing a beach wagon to make our regular visits to the beach (with four small children and all of their stuff) much easier. If our next move takes us to the pacific northwest, you can bet I will invest in a raincoat. And if your budget is tight, thrift shops are a great option for finding gently used items.
Yes, moving is difficult, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. By intentionally trying to find your people, find your place, and find your thing, you will see the beauty in wherever you are. You too can love where you live.
QUESTION: What is one way that you can actively work toward finding your people, your place, or your thing where you live now?
CHALLENGE: From the three tips above, choose one way that you will strive toward loving where you live this week.
Edited by Kimberly A. Price
Image provided by the author.