Mindful Moving, Part 3
Now that you have unpacked and settled in nicely, it’s time to get to know your new hometown. As a newbie in the neighborhood, you’re at a unique vantage point to discover what makes your new area unique. Exploring the neighborhood and town and immersing yourself in the community is a fun way to get to know your surroundings. In addition to helping you and your family feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment, when you make an effort to discover your new neighborhood, it will make you feel more at home. Here are some tips for getting started.
Go for a Walk
Taking walks are great ways to distress after unpacking and help you better visualize your new surroundings. Give your walks a purpose by walking to a nearby coffee shop or ice cream shop with the kids, or bring the kids along to the hardware store to get new keys. Don’t forget to bring Fido along. Nobody loves getting a good sniff of the new neighborhood more than our furry friends do.
The folks that live and work around you are a big part of what makes up your community. Meeting your neighbors along the way provides a great opportunity to ask questions about your new neighborhood and discover hidden gems you might miss. A little friendliness and a big smile will help you feel more at home in the neighborhood and might lead to new friendships.
Make a Homemade Map
Map out an exploration route like a modern-day pioneer. The routes you make should take you around the area and loop back to your house. If you see anything on the map that seems interesting, mark it. Try to take multiple routes over a few days to explore different ways.
Creating your own map is a great way to commit your neighborhood to memory. As you travel around, mark important areas. For example:
- Major grocery stores, small local markets, butcher shops, farms shops and local fruit stands
- Restaurants, bars, and pubs; also include unique venues you want to try
- Hospitals, pharmacies, and veterinaries
- Convenience stores and gas stations
- Places of worship
- Shops and boutiques, theaters, and other entertainment
- Parks and outdoor areas
Feel free to stop into the local businesses and introduce yourself along your journey.
Act like a Tourist
Treat your new town as if you are a visiting tourist. Use the town’s city website or Chamber of Commerce website to find out about the area’s history, neighborhoods, and events. Then make a plan to visit those places that are of interest to you. Imagine places that someone traveling to your neighborhood might seek out, like museums, local attractions and theaters, top-rated restaurants, and add them to your list of places to check out.
On your outings, take pictures of interesting architecture, unique ships and restaurants, and anything that looks interesting to you and your family. It’s a fun way to remember the day and a way to mark the places you might want to explore in more depth. Add your photos to your homemade map. It will help you and the kids remember favorite spots and places where you want to spend more time.
As you decide on places to explore further, you can go by foot, bike, or drive the family car. You don’t have to do it all in one day, but keeping a list of nearby places you want to visit helps you follow through as time permits.
Shop like a Local
Seek out the local mom and pop shops that give the area its unique flavor. Frequenting them can also help to support your community. Local businesses, like restaurants and boutique shops, create the local vibe of your neighborhood. Even if you’re not ready to forego the big-box stores, supermarkets, and chain restaurants, make the diner down the street your favorite family breakfast spot, or buy your garden supplies from your local nursery rather than a giant home store. It’s a great way to engage with your neighborhood while bolstering its economy at the same time.
Ask for local recommendations from people in the know, like your coworkers. Find out what they recommend for visits to family parks, fun restaurants, or favorite shops. If you used a real estate agent when moving to your new home, he or she is also a great resource for local information. If you don’t know anybody yet, you can use a website like Nextdoor, where individuals in communities keep each other informed about what’s going on in your neighborhood.
Check out Local Events and Hangouts
Join a local club that you and the kids can participate in and enjoy. This will let everyone in the family pursue activities they enjoy and help to make new friends. Using the internet to meet new people with similar interests is easier than ever before with sites like Meetup, Meet the Neighbors, and Instameet, which can help you make connections.
If you moved to a city, look for local weekly or monthly publications that list events and entertainment in the area. You can find these monthlies in cafes, convenience stores, and other shops. Going to local events is an excellent way for your family to meet new people and get to know other parts of your town. Make a note of anything that sounds fun, and maybe ask a neighbor or coworker and their children to join you.
Get Immersed in the Community
When meeting new people and making new friends, it’s important to find like-minded people and families. The library is a good place to find out about local, kid-friendly facilities. Check out the YMCA or local civic center, community pools, parks and recreation centers, and places of worship, too—all great places to meet families.
Perhaps the greatest reference of all will be your new neighbors and fellow parents. Donating your time to community organizations that improve the neighborhood, helping other residents, clearing park trails, or serving at a local soup kitchen will help you meet people and get to know the neighborhood.
Other ways for parents and kids to meet new people is to volunteer at the school, join carpools, and host playdates or a Halloween party for the kids on the block. Make it a point to accompany your kids to and from the school bus or drop-off area at school. You’re likely to meet other parents who are doing the same; it’s another easy way to introduce yourself.
Dogs (and pets) are great icebreakers. Find the nearest dog park and frequent it often. On your evening or weekend walks, be open to neighbors who strike up a conversation with you. It’s hard not to find someone who wants to shoot the breeze. If you’ve chosen a dog park close to home, you may even meet nearby neighbors.