A Goal, a Plan, and a Positive Mindset: How to Make Friends in a New City

By Wendi Green

I spent most of my working years in Washington DC, where jobs are plentiful and one doesn’t lack for any kind of activity–truly, the possibilities are endless. But after 30 years of “having it all,” I actually wanted less, thus it was time to make a move.

I was over stimulated from the traffic, noise, congestion and crowds. I wanted a more simple life, and one where I would feel as though I was living in the outdoors. My hobbies include hiking, biking, kayaking, cross country skiing, swimming, and dancing. I’m definitely an active person, and although I was changing my address, I certainly didn’t want my activity level to change.

With all this in mind, I had a starting point of what I sought in a new town, and knew that this new town should be somewhere in the western United States, as this is where I am from originally. So, I took an early retirement and began my quest of finding a new home.

It Started with a Plan

My plan involved spending the month of January in three different locations, so I obviously took my time deciding where my next home would be (Heck, I was going to live there for the rest of my life, so I wanted to get this one right!). Why January, the coldest month of year? Because I knew I would love most places during the summer months, so the question was how cold and formidable would the winter months be during the dead of winter?

I chose outdoor communities in three states—Colorado, Idaho and Oregon (There were plenty more places I could explore, but I needed to start somewhere and didn’t want to take 10 years to make this decision). My goal was two fold 1) To find a compatible location and, more importantly, 2) To proving to myself that I could actually start over in a new city, by myself, without having family or friends to fall back on. I was worried about how quickly I could make new friends and get immersed in life in a new location.

As it turns out, my approach was exactly what I needed. I was able to settle on the population size I would be most comfortable in, the climate conditions, and a place that had most, if not all the activities I wanted.

The encouraging thing for me was seeing just how easy it is to meet people, when you’re not afraid to reach out. Here is how I did it:

Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center:
The first thing I did upon settling in a new area was to visit the Chamber of Commerce or Visitor Information Center. I picked up an information packet about the area and asked lots of questions. Usually the folks there had good suggestions about hiking groups, outdoor clubs, newcomer organizations, dance venues, etc.

The Local Newspapers:
Then, I would pick up the local paper or the “free” activity guide with a list of all the weekly events in the area. I would study these resources like I was in school, highlighting everything that sparked my interest. And, I followed up on everything since I never knew where it would take me and whom I would meet. As I mentioned before, this process does require you to extend yourself, sometimes past your comfort zone.

Programs, Programs and More Programs:
Local colleges and universities, libraries, and even the community rec centers, all of these entities offer great channels to both activities and new folks. So too, local running stores, or REIs or bookstores. And, honestly, all of these venues had activities I was interested in. So I signed up for anything I thought sounded interesting, and that I thought would provide me with an opportunity to meet people who were interested in the same things as me. Although you may not meet anyone your first time out (although you may), through regular attendance, you just might start to see a few familiar faces.

Weights, Treadmills and Yoga Classes:
I also joined a gym and attended numerous classes. Here again, while you probably won’t walk into a class and meet your new best friend the first time out, with consistent attendance you may start to mix and mingle with the class regulars. And that makes sense as you are on the same schedule and obviously have the same taste in exercise. And all the endorphins that you are producing while exercising makes you that much more encouraged to reach out and even smile at others.

The Internet, Of Course:
My search for connections certainly would not have been complete without dipping my fingers into cyberspace. Absolutely I recommend using online networks to meet new folks, and while I absolutely recommend SocialJane.com, I also encourage you to use other sites too. On Facebook, you can tell friends you are moving to a new town, and ask for introductions to others they may know there. Meetup also is a great tool to get you out and about and meeting others. And of course, single gals should certainly consider dating sites as a great channel to meet new men-friends, as even if no romantic spark lights, you may find a good new friend (or perhaps a good new restaurant).

Positive Mindset:
Basically I considered every person I met a potential resource or friend. I stepped out of my comfort zone significantly, reaching out and inviting new acquaintances out for coffee or to take a walk. Each new conversation expanded my social world and soon I found I had numerous people with whom to do things. And each successful interaction motivated me on to continue to be outgoing and take more risks.

Change of Address Cards are In

So after three years, I did choose a new home. The experience was so rewarding and so much fun that I could have visited new cities for years, but quite frankly I didn’t want to waste anymore time and wanted to feel settled in a new home with a foundation of newly made friends.

The home I chose is Bend, Oregon. I moved in May 2013 and am feeling very comfortable with my decision. I encourage all of you to challenge yourself and do things you have always wanted to do but don’t because you don’t have someone to do it with (or whatever other excuse you come up with). Life is too short and unpredictable. Fear is what holds us back, but it’s just amazing how once you push yourself beyond the fear, you see how easy taking the steps are.

Actually, the hardest part of this whole process for me was the “downsizing” and preparations of selling my home to make the move. But, that’s a whole other story—maybe another “blog”.

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