I’ve lived in NYC for over 10 years, and I love it. However, even before the pandemic hit (and especially since it did) I’ve been thinking about relocating. My only problem is I’m not tied to anywhere – the world is literally my oyster! I don’t speak any other languages fluently so English speaking is a must. How can I try to narrow down my options? And then when I do move, what are the best ways to make new friends? I’m an introvert and I value my independence, so it can be really hard for me to go out of my way to make new friends. I’m open to any suggestions on how to get started!
-Wondering where to go
Right off the bat something is jumping out at me. You live in NYC and love it…but for some reason you want to leave? Why don’t we start with what is going on there? Sure, people can get tired of a place or just want a change. New York especially can be a very taxing place to live, particularly if it’s been over ten years and you’re not a New York native. And I know the pandemic in NYC was scary. But let’s be real, if you are longing to leave, there is a reason somewhere in there. What are you trying to get away from? Or maybe who? What are you secretly wishing to gain or get rid of by moving? The answers to these questions might actually come from the second part of your question about how to make friends.
Your relocation wanderlust to me speaks to some kind of dissatisfaction. I’m wondering if you’re feeling a loneliness or discontent with your social support in New York that is kind of internally making you feel like fuck this place. Maybe people in your life have let you down by becoming more distant or less reliable as everyone has grown older and it makes you doubt the meaning of those relationships, or it makes you resent them. The pandemic has certainly spurred on an exodus of people seeking a different type of life—maybe you’re feeling like people are leaving, should I follow? Or maybe a slightly angrier version: You can’t leave me! Look I can do it too! If you really got honest with yourself, is there a part of you that pushes people away because of your anger or disappointment? Your statement about being an introvert and valuing your independence can in some ways be code for I don’t need anyone, go away!
It is possible you feel hurt and anger at being left behind or not prioritized by people in your life. People are getting married, having kids, moving to the burbs. It might all be making you feel like you have to do something big just to keep up or feel valid in this system. Or it might be making you feel like there’s nothing left for you here but anger and you’re really trying to escape that feeling. The ties keeping you tethered to New York are coming undone, but we need to know what those ties meant to you and how the undoing feels. It seems like the real issue to address is why you feel you have fewer friends than you’d like, and what makes it feel so difficult to build that base for yourself. Covid times of course complicate the meeting people thing, but even if I did suggest that you find a virtual book club or a virtual dinner club or a Hulu watch party or a hiking group or outdoor exercise classes, haven’t you already thought of all these things? What is actually happening that makes it hard to make friends? Or hard to really want to…
Yes, yes, this is me the therapist talking—I’m not really answering your question about where you should go and how to meet people. But when you get really in touch with these inner conflicts that might be at play, then those answers will probably start to clarify themselves. You need to understand what exactly you want to leave and what you need more of in your life. You need to take stock in what you love about your current friends and where you feel deprived. Most importantly, you need to understand what part you are playing in your dissatisfaction—how are you refusing to let yourself connect to others or to what you want?
So now that we’re opening that up, there are some logistical constraints to relocating. There was a recent Forbes article that talked about all the Caribbean islands and cool European locales where you can pay for citizenship, so if you have like $300k and a job you can do remotely, sounds like the world is in fact your oyster. But if you’re not sitting on a passive fortune, you will most likely not be able to relocate internationally without some kind of work visa. So does your job have offices elsewhere? Or will they sponsor you to go do a program somewhere? Is there a new job you can seek that does offer travel or relocation opportunities? This information will really narrow things down, but I still want you to come back to how will it feel for you to leave and start anew in any of these places.
If these expat options are not available to you because you’re not actually on an episode of House Hunters International, then we’re looking at a domestic situation. A lot of people are working remotely now, some indefinitely, so you could conceivably live anywhere in the US without disrupting too much, provided there isn’t a chance your boss will be like, ok we’re ready to have you back in the office now. So here we’re back to what do you want? Why do you want to leave New York? Hating the winters is probably one of the things, but what are some others? Do you want to be able to go on a hike without needing to take some kind of train or get a Zipcar? Colorado seems nice. Need to be a little more at sea level but you still want the hikes? Seattle or Portland are pretty beautiful. Do you want the peace of spiritual desert life? Maybe Santa Fe or Albuquerque (I’d throw Texas in the mix too, but maybe not right at this moment—let’s see how 2020 plays out). Maybe you want a beach to lounge on. California, North Carolina, Virginia, and Hawaii have beaches (note I’ve left out Florida: see Texas above). Keep in mind most of these places will necessitate having a car—is that something you are ok with?
Any of these places will offer its own specific opportunities for human connection and social activities that you’ll have to do some legwork to find. It will take a real consistent effort to pull yourself out of your home bubble and get out there, otherwise the new place will feel a lot like your NYC life. Remember that anywhere you go, your dissatisfaction, your feelings about yourself and the existing people in your life or past relationships will cloud the ways you interact with the new setting and new people unless you really shed light on them and challenge yourself.
The biggest question to ask yourself, then, is will you be hiking in the desert, lounging on the beach, flying down a ski slope, driving your new car, all the while wondering why you still feel so pissed and alone?