How To Move Cities In Your Twenties
Look before you leap.
It is normal to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side. We go through multiple versions of ourselves in our early twenties and want our surroundings to mesh with our identity and beliefs. Before you decide to choose a permanent scenery change I would like to share a few tips. Please don’t be afraid to slow down and think about the bigger picture.
Halfway through my undergrad degree, I decided to transfer to another university since I was becoming bored and wanted to explore my new queer identity. My wanderlust smitten soul threw caution to the wind and trusted, naively, that I would make it work and romanticized surviving on my own. I was living with my parents in a basement room painted powder princess blue. I was freshly out as queer, and falling in love with my first girlfriend (and present partner) who was moving to a nearby city. I was confident in a way I had never been before.
I worked part-time as a Domino’s delivery driver, listening to feminist podcasts to keep me sane while I kept company with fifteen-year-old boys with bagged out Subaru’s and inflated egos. With a stocked savings account of $3500 I hitched a ride with my brother to Vancouver and took a ferry to my new home, Victoria.
In the next eight months, I encountered the most gruelling mental health struggles, deep loneliness, cascading debt, icy roommate tension, and the bafflement of not being able to find a job. Everyone experiences these to different degrees. Homesickness and loneliness are natural, albeit uncomfortable, emotions that come with striking out on your own.
I hope that these pointers can save you from learning some of these lessons the hard way like I had to.
Find a job before you move
Do not intend to live off of the savings you have accrued. Invest that in unexpected or upfront costs like furniture, damage deposit, or a first bus pass. It’s ESSENTIAL to have a job contract signed before you relocate to cover your rent, groceries and essential bills due at the end of the month.
Most companies are offering Zoom interviews, which means that there is little to no barrier to already having employment. If you are hitting a brick wall trying to find a full-time job, aim to get at least 75–80% of your expenses covered.
I ended up working for Forever 21, the most god-forsaken workplace because it was the only place that had a low barrier and could cover my rent. Don’t be like me, folding shirts that read ‘player’ and spaghetti strap tank tops for two hours after the store had closed. There’s nothing romantic about that.
Check out who lives there
Get on the Meetup app, search the city’s events on Facebook, and dating apps to see who lives there and what is going on. Many cultural events are happening online, which makes it easy to experience a city from afar.
Be genuinely interested in the people you have daily connections with once you move there. You would be surprised what connections you make if you get off your phone, make an inviting comment and stay after events to mingle. During our time of the virtual event, private message a person that intrigues you in a Zoom call and ask if you can follow them on Instagram.
Follow the news outlets in your city to get a taste of politics, crime, events, and the general landscape of the city. You will find out what interests the people that live there, become acquainted with the quirks, and also see the problems you will soon encounter as a resident.
Decrease your credit card limit
Do not click the button at the ATM that entices you to accept a 10000 credit card limit. I am still paying off the credit card debt I accrued during this time and wish that would not have been an option. Credit cards should be avoided and only used in emergencies. I would suggest only having $750–1000 credit available.
Choose your roommates wisely
There are no guarantees when it comes to roommates. Homes are where a person’s true colours, habits and private tendencies are on display. I moved in with a close friend and her partner because they promised a warm, family-like atmosphere that would make it easier to transition from living at home. The reality was stark in contrast.
The invites to hang out stopped, and they barely spoke to me when I was cooking meals. The living room we had once agreed was communal quickly became their space again.
My advice would be to make sure this person is ready to commit to being in a respectful and communicative roommate situation. I would not suggest moving in with another couple, even if they are dear friends. It’s a two against one situation, and they will, more often than not, win almost every time. They are a unit and well, pay more rent.
Maybe ask your prospective roommate if there are other people they have lived with that could act as references. It would also be helpful to chat about cleaning and living practices to see if you can achieve domestic bliss.
Find a therapist or support group
If you do not have many friends in your new city, it can become an isolating experience that can be hard on your mental health. Look into affordable counselling through your university, send emails to therapists about sliding scale or find a support group in your area. An hour a couple of times a month to spew out all of my mixed emotions was helpful and alleviated some of my internal struggles.
What does your sleeping patterns and neighbourhood have to do with each other? Everything. I remember crying, wound up so tight because I was not used to falling asleep with constant downtown city noise. I had grown up in a quiet suburb and did not sleep well for the first month and a half.
If you don’t have a car make sure the bus stop is a few minute-walk away, or you have a grocery store that is accessible by foot. Make sure that the stores that surround you cater to your specific budget, carry the food you eat and complement your lifestyle. You don’t want to pay $7.00 for eggs because you would have to take a long bus ride to get to the cheaper grocery store. I spent way more at my local grocery store than I should have because it was practically behind my apartment.
Perhaps explore a prospective neighbourhood on Google Maps. Make a checklist of all the stores, shops and amenities you need close by and the ones you can live with being so far away. Do this with every neighbourhood, and you may be surprised which one looks better on paper as opposed to in your head.
The novelty and fresh experiences of a new city can be as intoxicating as a brand new relationship. Feelings of homesickness and loneliness can last up to a year or more. It is integral to feel and process these through journaling or talking to family and friends back home. Be real about your emotions because it is the only way you are going to get through them.
Moving to a new city requires total commitment and extensive planning. Life has so many unknowns, why not try to eliminate just a few of them?