By Becka Wall – @beckawall
When I moved to Washington, D.C., in August 2007, I found a secret alcove near my freshman dorm where I could cry in a corner when I felt homesick. I thought D.C. would never feel like home, like somewhere I belonged.
Fast-forward eight years later: I LOVE this city. I never run out of new things to do or try; I can get into a drunken debate about statehood and voting rights to anyone who will listen and I love the wonky absurdity of brunch special signs during government shutdowns and snow days.
Something just clicked.
Which got me to thinking: when does a place become a home? Moving somewhere new is daunting and scary, and it can feel like you’ll never adjust.
I decided to ask people around the world – from Melbourne to Massachusetts – when their adopted city began to feel like home. The conclusion: It’s different for everyone.
If you just moved to a new place, don’t panic! It just takes some time to find your niche. Check out these firsthand stories about making a new city a home.
After you’ve read their stories, tell us – when did your new city become “home” for you?
Nora Liberti – Vienna/Fairfax, Virginia
When Nora first moved to Virginia she thought she’d stay less than a year.
“I used to tell my co-worker I was going to move to Wyoming,” she said. “HA!”
But she fell in love with seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains on her way to work every morning, and the small-town feel Vienna has – a reminder of her Pennsylvania hometown. And then there are the weekend breakfasts at the Virginian in Vienna with her boyfriend where the waitress knows their orders and they feel like regulars.
And in case you’re curious – Nora no longer has the urge to move to Wyoming.
Katherine Gallagher-Robbins – Washington, DC
Katherine said she moved to D.C. in 2010 for work, sharing that her biggest adjustment was navigating a world with so many other people in it: “Having to be aware all the time can be exhausting.”
She first started calling D.C. home when she and her husband bought a house there a few years ago. “And it wasn’t weird – it was great,” she said of feeling so comfortable in her new city.
She loves walks in Rock Creek Park and Sundays in Meridian Hill Park, and that “there are so many people here trying to change the world – it is really inspiring.”
Jamie Zeidman – Boston, MA
When Jamie moved to Boston for college, she was ready to start fresh. A native New Yorker, she said, “As an actor, New York is the end game for me, and it has always felt like home, but Boston has a beautiful theatre scene that I would love to be involved in as a young actor.”
Jamie loves the architecture of Boston and the history it represents. She calls the city a “mini-America,” and waxes poetic about 2 a.m. pastries at Bova’s, which is “where you show up for cannolis and shameful decisions.”
For Jamie, “Home is wherever someone is paying you to perform,” but she can’t deny her love for the truly weird and wonderful people of Boston.
Alicia Taylor – Melbourne, Australia
Alicia moved to Melbourne in 2011 to attend law school, thinking she would eventually return to the U.S., but she ended up staying in Melbourne and is enjoying it.
“I love that Melbourne constantly has things happening,” Alicia said. “There is always a festival, show, exhibition or rally happening, sometimes all at the same time. There is so much to do and see – you would never be bored if you take the time. Which many Melbournians do.”
But her favorite Melbourne tradition may be the weekend brunches. That’s right, not just one brunch – multiple brunches, sometimes as many as four in one weekend. The friends she’s made, the generosity of the people and the passion of the city makes it a special place, she said.
Leila Abolfazil – Washington, DC
Leila moved to D.C. 11 years ago for law school and ended up starting a life with her now-husband, never considering if this city was for the long term or otherwise.
But however long they stay in D.C., it can’t replace her hometown of Nashville: “It’s the place of my childhood, of sweet memories, of not serious decisions or stress, of midnight pool parties.”
It’s hard for her to to call D.C. home, because it’s a place she is building as an adult: “meaning that it is a life wrapped in all of the details of reality that I can conveniently erase from my memory whenever I think that my ‘home’ is Nashville.”
But that doesn’t mean the ideals of D.C. haven’t rubbed off on her. Leila’s new home allows her to be a better world citizen, to pollute a little less, to become a little more vegetarian and to meet people from all over the world.
“It’s really everything I didn’t have growing up, and while that can feel very much not like ‘home,’ I know now it’s now my ‘real’ home.” Leila said.
Cassandra Lotker – New Paltz, New York
Cassie moved to New Paltz in 2008 for college. Seven-and-a-half years later, she isn’t sick of it yet: “It’s special because I made it special. It’s the first place I’ve planted roots of my own. It’s where I realized I was an adult. It’s where I found my people and formed a community.”
Cassie first called New Paltz home at a family gathering a year after graduating college.
“I was saying goodbye to my grandma and said something like ‘I’m gonna head back home now.’ We both looked at each other confused, but then she smiled and said, ‘You’re a big girl now, but you’ll always have a home here with me.’”
Andrew Yonki – Washington, DC
The biggest shift for Andrew when he moved to D.C. from New Jersey was the people and what they were interested in.
“I started meeting people who really cared about boundary-pushing art and music and movies that weren’t just the big-budget big-Hollywood kind of stuff,” he said.
The first time Andrew called D.C. home was when his aunt visited during his freshmen year in college.
“I told her I felt very much at home in D.C., and she made the analogy to my being like a fish out of water in New Jersey.”
It’s clear Andrew has fallen in love with D.C. – between the city’s architecture, food scene, bike-ability, historic houses, parks and incredible music scene. He even got a DC flag tattoo!
Megan Lewis – Nettie, West Virginia
Megan picked up and moved from New York to Nettie after ending a relationship in 2011, which she said was a huge adjustment.
“The biggest change was the driving,” Megan said. “In New York, if you honk at someone it usually has to do with the actual driving. In West Virginia, when you honk it’s a sweet way of saying hello.”
Plus, Nettie residents are a little more “touchy-feely” than New Yorkers. But it didn’t take her long to get used to all the hugs and honk-hellos, and she started calling her new town home after six months (although it totally weirded her out when she said it for the first time).
Megan loves the town’s small size and southern hospitality, and that “random people will help you take groceries out to the car if they see you struggling — the willingness to help your fellow person on a regular basis is a heartwarming thing to see.” The football parties and cornhole matches are just the cherry on top.
Lauria Chin – Boston, Massachusetts
Lauria moved to Boston in 2012 for law school, realizing she really belonged when she could navigate without a GPS or phoning a friend.
“I love so much about Boston. It’s a city full of strong, hardworking people that have so much pride in their city and especially in its revolutionary roots,” Lauria said. “I loved being a part of that energy and distinctive Boston culture. Law school was a virtual hell for three years, but being in Boston helped to make it more bearable.”