What It’s Really Like to Move to Another City

After living in a college town for seven years, I have watched many friends move away since our graduation in 2014. Some moved for great jobs in big cities, some moved back home to save up money and get their careers started, and others to further their education and relocated to attend graduate school, or law or medical school, in all areas of the country.

Although I stayed in the same town that I lived in while attending college at Florida State University, I still went through a type of transition as I moved from student life to resident and young professional life in Tallahassee. There are different areas of town that appeal to young professionals (not living right by the bumpin’ collegetown nightlife), restaurants and fine dining to explore, and local events and things to do that don’t really appeal to 20 year olds.

That being said, it wasn’t nearly as involved as what I watched my friends go through to up and move their entire lives elsewhere. Finding an apartment in a city you’ve never been to, securing a job at a company at where you know no one, building a community from scratch, and the physical act of moving are some of the seemingly-overwhelming obstacles my friends had to face when starting their next chapter of their lives.

However, I have some BIG news….

I have accepted a new and exciting digital marketing job + my husband and I are moving to MIAMI!

Every time I say those words, it doesn’t feel real. The weeks in between accepting the new job and actually moving have been quite a whirlwind. And that’s what made me realize – I had NO idea what moving entailed in reality. There are a zillion moving pieces, and it feels similar to traveling in the sense that you are focused on a destination, and strategizing on being efficient and effective with limited resources like time, money, and decision-making energy.

I want to share what this process truly entails as I go through it, as many of you young professionals either have already done this or may possibly experience it yourselves sometime in the near future as you pursue your dreams and further your career or higher education goals.

Moving to another city mentally feels the same as it does to travel in my opinion – being comfortable with being uncomfortable, taking risks, accepting change and a different way living, and to yearn to continue to grow.

I have already asked two moving pros, also known as some of my best friends, Christina Montgomery and Meghan Lemine, who have so generously provided moving wisdom for us to all learn from. Christina and her husband, Spencer, moved to New Jersey almost a year ago, and Meghan and her husband, Matt, relocated to Portland just over two years ago right after their wedding in 2015.

Here’s what you need to know about moving to another city:

AB: Once you knew you were moving to your new city, what were your next considerations?

CM (New Jersey): Moving from a small beach town in Florida to a city outside of Manhattan was a huge change. We had to figure out what to do with all of our stuff (going from 2500+ square feet to 600), finding a job because we were moving with my husband’s company, decide whether or not to keep both of our cars, and where to live in the new city.

ML (Portland): We booked an Airbnb for 2 weeks. Most hosts have a discount when you book more than one week. This was helpful in allowing us to see the neighborhoods and apartments before we signed. Portland, like most cities is experiencing a housing shortage especially for affordable housing. Our wonderful hosts let us pull produce from their garden and gave us the inside scoop about traffic patterns.

AB: What kind of research did you do when it came to finding somewhere new to live?

CM: When it came to finding somewhere to live we first started looking at the average apartment rental rates, safety of different areas (NJ has some great and not-so-great areas), and insurance costs. The car insurance is significantly higher in NJ than FL (nearly double) and we also pay $270+ per month for a parking spot so downsizing to one car was necessary. We also had a realtor to show us apartments for rent and strictly looked at apartments that were close to public transportation. In NJ almost all rental apartments require a realtor interestingly enough. Although you have to pay for their service it was well worth it to have someone so knowledgeable in the area. She was able to show us 15-20 different apartments and we put a deposit on a place we liked that same day.

ML: We researched neighborhoods. This was fun! Right when we arrived we visited our top pick neighborhoods. We tried to see them at all hours of day. Sometimes we’d drive around, other times we’d walk or eat or grab coffee.

It’s a fond memory of moving since not everything about moving is 100% glamorous. This was a fun way to explore, take our mind off the logistics and remember many of the exciting reasons we wanted to move.

AB: In reality, what was getting from point A to point B like?

CM: It was pretty tough at times. We had endless To-Do lists with things like donating clothes, garage sales, getting our house listed on the market, and smaller considerations like getting prescriptions transferred. We decided to sell most of our larger items like our couch, dining room table, dressers, and lamps. Thankfully my husband’s company was actually in charge of hiring movers and arranging for our car to be transported so that was a huge weight lifted off of us. Once we got to NJ we immediately took a trip to Ikea to buy furniture – seriously they have the BEST furniture for small apartment living.

ML: Point A to Point B for us was how do we move all our crap cross country and into 500 sq ft?! There were so many logistics to consider.

We sold or donated all our furniture, packed our things into boxes and shipped via UPS. It was absolutely cray! Our delivery guy was probably not the happiest lifting our heavy, fragile boxes up our old crooked stairs. We threw him a nice tip to compensate.

Our car was packed to the brim, I mean literally to the brim. We had about a three inch window from boxes to ceiling which we knick-named our “Loft”.

In retro-spect I don’t think UPS was the best solution to sending our things. But newly married, uncertain of my job and trying to stick to a tight budget, it was our best shot to ascend our slightly wild trip out West.

AB:What has been the best part of living in your new city?

CM: The best part of living in our new city has been the endless amount of exploring we get to do. New York City is a 10 minute subway ride and it’s been amazing to go to each of the different boroughs and really get to know the area. We have also taken time to visit many of the surrounding cities like Boston, DC, Portsmouth and more. We’ve made it a point to do something new at least once a week.

ML: Everything is new! If you try and let go of any inhibitions you have, there is so much opportunity to try new things, learn a ton, and definitely expand your boundaries. For example, who knew I, of all people (used to be skittish of most meats), could eat cow cheek, not get grossed out, but actually like it?!

AB:What have you found are the challenges?

CM: It was challenging in the beginning to gain a sense of belonging. Moving somewhere new without any family and few friends was tough, but we made the best of it. We quickly started looking for ways to get involved and meet people in our area. We joined a church that has weekly events and also started working at a homeless shelter down the street from us every Thursday night. Having a routine where we frequently see the same people has really helped us make friends and develop a community in our new home. A girlfriend of mine also recently started a book club (excuse to get together with friends and drink) and that has also been really fun.

ML: The hardest part about moving is missing the people you left. But it’s a good excuse for those people to plan their next vacation. It’s also great to play tourist when they come! FaceTime is a lifesaver but it’s true that you have to set boundaries for yourself or you will never get out and make the new city your home.

You have to go out of your way to build community in a city. Half the people are new(ish) just like you. The other half thinks they already have what they need. So you have to put yourself out there; then do it again. You have to have a backbone and you can’t take “no’s” personally. Whether that’s a “no” for a new job or even starting a new friendship.

That’s all hard, especially for someone like me whose introverted and somewhat shy when I first meet people. But it’s so worth it, and crucial in making a new city your home.

AB: What advice would you give someone who’s moving to a new city?

CM: Get involved, explore, and most importantly see your new city as your home. In the beginning it was easy to view our new living situation as temporary and not long term, but honestly you never know where life is going to take you. It’s important to make friendships, get to know the city you’re living in, and when you do leave make sure you left it better than you found it.

ML: 1. Don’t worry about the norms too much. Family and friends may question why you would move somewhere and start all over. But if you know you’re ready to move then go for it! There is so much room for growth and opportunity in a new city! It’s incredibly exciting.

2. If it’s possible, I would recommend visiting before you decide to move. When you visit, do things on your own you would likely do if you lived there. Drive if you wouldn’t take public transit, take public transit if that’s what you hope to use, bike, hang out in a coffee shop, go to the grocery store, etc. It’s easy to glorify city living when you’re a tourist. While there are so many great things about living in a city, it’s not all glamorous and perfect as you might expect when visiting as a tourist.

3. Save up before moving! There are so many expenses when it comes to moving. One we forgot to budget for was a bigger entertainment budget then normal living. Set aside extra money for trying new things and meeting new people when you get there. Meeting new people means grabbing drinks or going to meet ups and you may end up spending more on those things than you will in your day to day established living.

In just a few short weeks, the Barnhills will be Miami-living and I’ll have my own experience to add. Until then, I sure am grateful for advice and tips from friends like Christina and Meghan to provide insight into what it is truly like to move to another city!

Is Miami on your mind? Check these out:

What was your experience like moving to a new city?