Starting over in a new city or new state, or even a new neighborhood, can seem daunting and overwhelming at first — but there are ways to make the transition easier. Sometimes you’re dealing with what you already know is homesickness and missing your old home, and other times, it simply takes a little longer to get the feel of the area. Whether you’re moving to an urban or rural area, there are streets you’ve never driven on, restaurants you’ve never heard of, and people you’ve never seen before.

According to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, just over 40 million Americans moved each year between 2015 and 2020 — about 13% of the population. Of these moves, 65% were within the same county, 17% were between counties in the same state, and 14% were moves from one state to another.

In 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 27.1 million Americans moved at least once in the previous year. At 8.4%, this mover rate is the lowest documented rate in over 70 years.

Even though the vast majority of moves are local, different neighborhoods can vary greatly, creating a move that still results in homesickness and feeling of displacement.

Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, we’ve got some tips for how to deal with homesickness that will hopefully get you settled in a little faster. And we talked to Jesse Allen, a top agent in Jeffersonville, Indiana, which is just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky — he knows what it’s like to move to a new state. He moved to Jeffersonville from Savannah, Georgia in 2011, so he uses his experience to offer his clients guidance on how to feel at home in a new city.

I moved around quite a bit after I graduated high school — 15 moves in 10 years across 5 states — so I felt like I was constantly getting acclimated to a new dorm room, apartment, house, neighborhood, city, or state. Let’s start off with my favorite tip.

1. Listen to traffic reports

With the availability of streaming services, this tip seems a little prehistoric, but it worked for me.

After I would move to a new city, traffic reports would come on while I was listening to the radio. At first, it was all just a jumble of street names and highway numbers, but soon I started to recognize street names and picture certain intersections.

Then one day, the traffic report would come on, and I knew exactly where the backups and accidents were; I knew what roads to avoid; I knew the shortcuts to bypass the congested spots. And I felt at home.

2. Check out the local spots — the really local ones

Locals typically have their own spots separate from where tourists hang out or the iconic places or events that everyone knows about.

Allen’s insider tip deals with what is probably the most ubiquitous Kentucky event: The Kentucky Derby.

When you hear Louisville, Kentucky, you probably think of the Kentucky Derby. You probably don’t think of Thurby (the Thursday before the Kentucky Derby).

Allen says that while lots of tourists attend the Kentucky Derby, Thurby is a celebration that’s more for the locals: “All the locals go to the track, they watch horse racing, they drink, they dress goofy. They just connect with each other, and anybody that lives in this area knows what that is; anybody that doesn’t live in this area has no clue.”

Not only does finding events like this allow you to connect with locals, it can even make you feel like a local yourself!

If you enjoy baseball or you enjoy sports or hiking or whatever it is, social media has amazing platforms and amazing groups where you can connect with others that are also interested in those things.
  • Jesse Allen
    Jesse AllenReal Estate Agent

3. Follow your interests

Allen recommends thinking about what you like and actually enjoy doing, not just where you think you’ll meet the most people. “If you enjoy baseball or you enjoy sports or hiking or whatever it is, social media has amazing platforms and amazing groups where you can connect with others that are also interested in those things,” he says.

Facebook is full of resources and local groups based around shared interests. Twitter is also great for connecting with people who share your interests. So whether you’re into knitting, writing, working out, cake decorating, kayaking, or just general exploring, there’s probably a group for you.

Getting connected with an already established group can be a little nerve-wracking, but dealing with the initial jitters is worth it to feel more connected and less homesick in your new city.

4. Go grocery shopping

Grocery shopping is the epitome of an everyday activity, and tourists aren’t likely to check out the local grocery stores, so simply by nature of going grocery shopping, you’re taking part in a local activity and becoming part of the local culture.

5. Head to a farmer’s market

If you want to really get on the pulse of local activities, music, makers, and food, head to a local farmer’s market.

Not only will you get a good idea of the local vibe, but you’ll also get a quick introduction to lots of local offerings — and there might be free samples!

6. Visit the local library or their website

Local libraries are so much more than books — though they have those, too — many libraries also offer in-person and online classes and act as a hub for community activities. If you have kids, they often offer story time or other activities that can help your kids feel at home, too.

7. Read city guides and check out the city’s website

The internet is chock-full of city guides — like this one for Oklahoma City, Oklahoma or this one for Chicago, Illinois — that are overflowing with information about the different neighborhoods, local haunts, and unique activities.

Many cities also maintain wonderful websites that give all kinds of tips and tricks for what to do, where to go, and what to eat.

A bar to check out in a new city if you're dealing with homesickness.
Source: (Jason Leung / Unsplash)

8. Check out specialty bars and restaurants

I grew up an Ohio State football fan and graduated from OSU, so when I moved to Virginia, I knew I was going to feel a little lost during football season without my usual game-watching spots…until I heard some locals talking about an Ohio State bar.

When I walked in for the season opening, I looked on in shock at a sea of Ohio State jerseys and the sound of “Hang On Sloopy” filling the building. I instantly felt at home.

For you, it might not be a college football bar — but if you’re into biking, you might find a bike shop with a cafe inside, or maybe you want to take your pup to dinner. Heading to a specialty spot is a great way to meet people with shared interests.

9. Be a tourist

I know this sounds a little counterintuitive, but checking out all the tourist spots can give you some insight into the city and what it values.

Allen lives in the Louisville area but said he hasn’t been to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in a few years, so he recently went with his wife and kids. He shared that “it was really cool just going through there and seeing how it’s all made and experiencing that again.”

10. Do an Airbnb Experience

Airbnb is obviously known for unique, locally hosted stays just about anywhere, but did you know that locals can also offer Airbnb Experiences described as “unforgettable activities hosted by locals”?

You’ll not only get to take part in a one-of-a-kind activity, but you’ll also get some insight into the local culture and meet people who live there — and maybe get to try some chocolate. Here are some cool ones:

Getting to know your city can help you deal with homesickness

Moving to a new area can be scary and overwhelming even if you’re excited to make the move. But getting to know your new home can help you deal with homesickness and feel more comfortable.

Your real estate agent can even point you in the right direction and give you some tips around your interests and your lifestyle so you can make the most of your move. So whether you join a group with similar interests, find specialty restaurants, or head to a local event, taking action and putting yourself out there can have wonderful returns.

Header Image Source: (New Africa / Shutterstock)