POST 2 | 082615
"New York City, Mr. Dundee. Home to seven million people.
That's incredible. Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together. Yeah, New York must be the friendliest place on earth."
1. MOVE WITH A JOB. The struggle is real when you are trying to find stable income, settle into a new place, and somehow enjoy the culture while your wallet and conscience are debating whether Trix cereal or toilet paper is more essential.
The Catch 22: Most employers want to hire ASAP, so searching from afar is a tough play. List a friend or 8th cousin once-removed's address in the area as your own on your resume. Time between an offer and start date is usually two weeks, so have your bags packed (I ended up moving across the country with two giant duffle bags the first time).
Pick your expiration date: If you can't be there immediately, position informational interviews and networking with a last-by date of when you are moving to said city. This will give employers a tangible understanding of when you could be ready for opportunities, and also to light a wee bit o' fire under your ass.
2. DRIVE THERE. To really get to know a place, it helps tremendously to see 'where it came from'. Just like a person, each city has a personality, and knowing who and where the city emerged from is like getting introduced to a person's extended family - everything makes more sense. Taking the long way to your new home will make the city vibes seem more familiar; you'll see the gradual changes in landscape and people along the way. Plus, the trek gives you some cool points as the New Kid On The Block.
Soapbox: Everyone should drive across the country at some point in their lives. It's an American pilgrimage and is a fascinating, fun, exhilarating way to explore the lands you claim as your own.
3. 20 SECONDS OF COURAGE. You are going to have to throw yourself into community or you will end up with a lot of Netflix series under your belt. Being from the South, my first experiences of inviting myself places or asking almost-strangers to hang out was uncomfortable, and I started to understand the hell we women put 14-year-old boys through.
In my time in London, I shied away from 'breaking in', which resulted in consumption of a tremendous amount of cheap red wine, amazing prosciutto, and sad little diary entries. Bit the bullets in LA and NYC, and some of my best memories (and friends) since have come from those funny friend-date encounters.
20 seconds of courage is all you need - seriously, just black out (soberly) and do it. Start out with someone who seems welcoming and friendly to ease into the tide, all gets easier and then poof, you're normal and have a social life.
4. STUDY THE MAP. This tip seems stupid for everyone who is tied to their Blue Dot. Why study the map when it is accessible 24/7? A good look at the layout of a city, whether sprawling or 200 buildings per-square-inch, can save you a lot of time, embarrassment, and loss of gumption.
Most cities are laid out like a grid (or at least part of them once someone intelligible took over the urban planning department). They usually have idiosyncrasies that only locals and hundreds of blog posts know. For instance, "North" in Chicago really means toward Lake Michigan ("The Lake"), even though it runs along the East side of the City. Or, Santa Monica Blvd and Wilshire Blvd in LA (two major roads) run parallel from the beach but cross when you get inland. Blindly following Google Maps could land your first emotional break-down in the middle of a busy intersection.
You'll also be more likable with those friend-dates you just asked out, because they don't have to teach you how to survive if they adopt you as a friend.
5. BE PROUD OF WHERE YOU CAME FROM. I used to discount my Southern roots because I didn't want to get labeled. Everyone is from somewhere, and chances are they have some super and random connection to your hometown or state. They already know you are not small-town minded because you moved out to the Unknown, just like they did. You don't need to prove anything, and you become very annoying if you do. So be grateful and proud you're from a place that inspired you to get out and see the world. You're here, you made it.
6. DON'T FORGET WHY YOU MOVED. While you have time on that long, well-advised drive across the country.. write out all the adventures and activities and foods and lifestyles you are excited to try in your new chapter. Many will change and evolve (you'll realize you are never actually going to make time for that TMZ Celeb Homes Tour), and you may only even get through half of your Big City Bucketlist. That's okay!
The point is, no matter how stimulating your environment, routine will eventually creep in and ruin your grand plans of driving up the PCH in a Ferrari, getting to Montauk for the summer, or hitting up Lolla(palooza) when she comes to town. Keeping a list will re-energize you, and a remind you of all the reasons you moved - take advantage of all the awesome and unique offerings the urban jungle has to offer.
7. GIVE YOURSELF A FEW MONTHS TO FIGURE OUT YOUR BUDGET. Different cities will lend to different category spends. If you are used to 25 cent beer night on Country Tuesdays, your weekly happy hour bill is going to raise internal concerns about where you are heading in life.
Depending on where you are, October's paycheck could be consumed by anything from parking fees to ridiculous amounts of down-feather winter gear. Before you go judging yourself or freaking out, just observe for a while. Chances are, most new-city spending frenzies will balance out as you get settled, and the ones that don't, you can always find new solutions for. Live a little!
General Life Note: 50/20/30 is a good rule of thumb for keeping your balance balanced without feeling restricted. 50% of your monthly net (that's after taxes, y'all) income should go to all general living expenses including rent, utilities, basic transpo, a reasonable standard for groceries, etc. 20% should be straight savings (transfer it as soon as Pay Day hits). The other 30% is disposable - investing in bars, or joining the Soul cult, eating out, etc.
8. JUST PICK A DRY CLEANER. One of the most obscure, daunting, and hair-pulling facets of moving to big cities (for yours truly anyway), were the mundane life-maintenance measures (dry cleaner, laundromat, shoe cobbler, manicurist, masseuse, barber, etc.). "Who do I trust? How do I know this Yelp reviewer isn't an idiot; she used eight exclamation points about a ketchup stain? That dude just LOOKS like he would eff up my Michael Kors pumps.."
There are simply too many choices. You won't pick the perfect one, but if you don't just pick one now, you will end up wearing a shirt that should have been laundered four wears ago, and a nubbed heel that is definitely obvious - your coworker is just being nice. Ask one of your new acquaintances or colleagues. It's actually an easy conversation starter if you are having trouble with #3.
9. RENT CHEAP, THEN BALL OUT. When you move to a city, the neighborhoods and opinions are vast and have been known to cause nausea. You're not going to live in the penthouse on Park Ave when you arrive. Find somewhere safe, that is convenient enough to work (crucial), that doesn't cost more than your starting salary (again, 50/20/30). You can form your own experiences with all the trendy neighborhoods later, and now that you have saved some cash money, you can ball out a little on your next place that you have plenty of time to pick out.
10. REMEMBER THE SPIRIT THAT GOT YOU HERE. Whether you are 22 or 46-years-old, your adventure and zest for learning and life got you to this new place. People always complain in cities about whatever - weather, traffic, too many vegan restaurants, you name it. Don't get bogged down in their desperate attempt to blame whatever is going on between their ears on the external. Keep your outlook exciting, keep your mind fresh, keep everything real.