Starting over: Tech tips and tricks for settling in a new city
Last year, I moved to San Francisco. This year, I moved to New York City. I don’t recommend making two major moves in the span of 12 months, but sometimes that’s the way life goes.
These major life events taught me two important lessons. One: I never in my life want to move again. Two: Moving would be even more difficult without tech. From selling my furniture on Craigslist to charting my road trip across the country on Google Maps—and using the Orbitz app to book hotels while on the road—I relied on websites and apps to make an incredibly difficult process a little bit easier.
But what happens after you climb down from that dusty U-Haul in the city you plan to call home? You have to start from scratch: new apartment, new job, new life. Apps helped me plan both of my major moves, but they also helped me start over.
The great American apartment hunt
Oh how I wish tech could have helped me find the perfect apartment with the snap of a finger when I moved to San Francisco. Instead, I depended on Craigslist. It seems so 2004, yet Craigslist remains the most important resource available to apartment hunters.
You can’t get around the Craigslist search, but a couple of apps can make Craigslist’s information much easier to sift through. PadMapper’s website and iPhone and Android apps helpfully map listings from Craigslist, Postlets, and Padlister, and let you filter apartments by price, location, and size. Lovely does much of the same, but it has a better user interface and a beautiful iPhone app.
Pro tip, from me to you: Make your first place a sublet, if possible. There’s no way to know where you’ll want to end up until you’ve gotten to know the city. Subleases are flexible, short-term options, and tend to be easier to land than a lease. If you do plan to sublet or find roommates, make sure you vet them fully and have a face-to-face convo via Skype or Google Hangouts.
Getting around town
When I got my San Francisco rental situation squared away, I was pumped. “Self, you are awesome,” I thought. “Look at you with a place to put all your stuff.” Then I unpacked, stepped outside into the fleetingly sunlit streets of San Francisco (and later, the skyscraper-lined streets of New York) and instantly felt like a lost puppy.
Moving is exhilarating. It consumes your every thought, and usually your dreams. But once you come down from the moving high, you need to assess your life. First step: Figure out where the hell you are in relation to everything else. You could walk every neighborhood in your new city with a paper map, but that would take ages, and we live in the 21st century. The modern alternative is to arm yourself with a roster of apps for navigating your surroundings and—if you decided to sell your car to make an extra-large rent payment—public transit.
Google Maps and its apps—get them. Oh, you already have them? Perfect. Google’s iPhone and Android apps are lifesavers when it comes to public transportation. To this day, the app helps me figure out which train to take to get to any given part of New York, and it did the same for the always unpredictable bus system when I lived in San Francisco. You may find yourself overrelying on Google Maps, but it will rarely steer you wrong.
Google can tell you which way to go, but you still have to figure out how to get there. If high-quality public transportation is available in your new city, that’s the way to go.
In San Francisco, the free SF Next Bus app told me when to expect Muni to show up (if ever—zing!). This bare-bones app finds bus stops near you on a map so you can pinpoint where to go and what time to be there. In New York, I rely on Embark NYC, which helps me plan routes and figure out what time each train will arrive. Navigating the subway system in New York is no easy feat for a newbie, but Embark makes it a lot easier. Also, not many apps work in underground train tunnels—but Embark does, and that’s why it wins.
And don’t forget about the fun
I turned 27 this summer, and in the infinite wisdom that comes with age, I’ve discovered that making friends is time-consuming, difficult, and oh-so-essential for not hating life. It also takes lots of effort. A few basic strategies can make living in your new city more fun. The first: Say yes. Accept every invitation (if you can), because how else will you explore and meet new people? The second: Meetup.com.
Meetup and its Android and iPhone apps are a great resource for meeting people with similar interests. Love to run? Want to meet 20-something singles? Looking to network with others in your field? Meetup is the place for you. All you have to do is join a group and then show up to whatever event the organizer has planned.
Even if you’re not into socializing with strangers, you’ll want to know where the well-informed locals go, and you’ll want to discover new favorite places. If you don’t have time for serious research—scouring blogs, reading alt weeklies, that kind of thing—recommendation apps like YPlan and Sosh are your best bet for a good time.
YPlan is available only in New York and London at the moment (and only on iPhone, though an Android version is coming soon). The app curates a list of affordable shows, screenings, and dinners slated to happen that very night. Sosh for New Yorkers and San Franciscans is similar, but it’s less concerned with the time frame. You do have to rely on someone else’s good taste, but the recommended events usually are interesting and you might not find out about them otherwise. Sosh plans to expand to more cities in the near future, including Chicago, Boston, Seattle, LA, and DC.
If you’ve moved to your new city with your lady- or man-friend, congrats! Rent is cheaper, and life is easier. But since you’ve left all of your old date spots behind, you need some fresh ideas. HowAboutWe for Couples is a fun site that suggests various curated outings in your new city—with discounts! Options range from bottle service at a club to a romantic dinner to a glass-blowing lesson. The site charges an $18 monthly membership fee, but the first 30 days are free, so you can explore together on the cheap. My man and I will be testing the site’s worthiness soon on a highly scientific Brooklyn brewery tour date—because that’s how we roll. I’ll report back later on the fruits of my research.
Having fun in the new place you call home is incredibly important to keep what-was-I-thinking-am-I-crazy feelings from taking root and making you miserable. But, hey, make time to relax, too. It might not feel like it yet, but you’re home. Kick up your feet and stay awhile.