What it’s like moving to a new city by yourself

When I was deciding where I wanted to apply for jobs during my last year of college, I told myself one thing: I would consider myself a success if I can afford Starbucks and an ocean view.

Somehow I managed to actually make that happen, because I’m a 23-year-old with a window to the Golden Gate Bridge and a Gold Card at Starbucks. I am in walking distance of In-N-Out. WALKING DISTANCE. I am LIVING the ALEX DREAM, people.

(Except what they don’t tell you about living the dream is that getting there can be kind of a nightmare.)

I grew up in San Diego, but left for the Midwest to go to college at the University of Missouri. After spending an awesome 5 years there, I was ready to go back to California, but I wasn’t ready to go back to San Diego where I started. I believe your early adult years are for living wherever you can, and for trying cities you want to try, no matter how far-fetched they seem.

This was a decision that I knew I had to make on my own. I made it independently of where my friends were all going. I even had to make the choice without my boyfriend of almost four years, since he was taking the CPA at the time and it was going to be at least six months before he knew where he would be applying for jobs.

So I made a dream list of my own selfish desires and it was great. The list looked something like this:

  • Walkability
  • Ocean view
  • In-N-Out (deal-breaker)
  • PR job opportunities
  • No icy sidewalks to slip on
  • Bright, down-to-earth people
  • History
  • Coffee

This narrowed it down to pretty much one city: San Francisco. Did I pick one of the most expensive cities in the world? Yes. Did this mean I’d have to start all over in a new place, after just making a ton of great friends in the Midwest? Yup. Was it hard to apply to out of state jobs in a competitive city? Uh huh. Did I still want to go for it? Hell yeah.

Once I got SF on the brain, I was hell-bent on getting there. I researched PR agencies there, polished my resume to focus on tech experience (tech PR is, expectedly, a great opportunity in San Francisco), and started telling my friends and family. And before it had even fully hit me, I was starting a new job and living in a new apartment with new roommates in a new city. It has been amazing. But it hasn’t come without its road bumps. Read on:

A few pro tips about picking up and starting your life over:

  • When someone says something negative about the city you want to move to (“Isn’t that expensive? Isn’t there traffic? Isn’t it dangerous? Isn’t it cold?” whatever people might have to say), remember that they’re probably just convincing themselves that your dream city sucks because they don’t have the guts to move there too. In other words, negativity usually comes from jealousy or fear or both. Don’t let it get to you.
  • When you’re figuring out where to live, give yourselves a month of living there before you sign a lease. If you don’t have somewhere to crash for free, stay in an Airbnb (I did this) and take that first few weeks to explore different neighborhoods and tour apartments. It’s so much easier in person, and I found the perfect apartment with awesome roommates within two weeks.
  • Create a routine for yourself, like regular workout classes. Having a consistent schedule can be super calming in the middle of all the craziness of being in a new city.
  • It’ll be tempting to travel to see your old friends in other cities, but try to challenge yourself to spending as much free time in your new area as possible. Believe me, I have come so close to flying down to LA to see my family and boyfriend so many times, but every weekend I’ve spent in SF, I’ve done new things and made new friends, and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
  • On that note, explore the city! It doesn’t even matter if you have people to do it with, and sometimes the best days are spent wandering around on your own. Get comfortable spending time with yourself and spending time taking in your surroundings. You never know when you’ll get the chance again to take entire days for yourself.

Now that I’ve been in SF for almost five months, I still feel like I have a ton to do, from neighborhoods I haven’t seen to people I haven’t met, and I can’t wait to keep learning and living. I never know where I’ll be next, but I’m here now, and as long as I have Starbucks I’m stoked.



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