I have spent the last three years trying to understand what makes a place feel like home. In the process, I have conducted hundreds of phone calls, skype sessions, and in-person meetings with people around the world. The interviewees have included expatriates who have moved overseas to establish new homes, athletes who rely on a “home field” advantage, and study abroad students who have explained what adventure, and also homesickness, means to them.
It’s no secret that people are more mobile than ever before. Home is no longer restricted to the place you were born or grew up. In fact, according to the UN, there are over 258 million people today living in countries that are not their own, representing an increase of 49% since 2000.
Despite the fact that more of us are making homes in new places, many of us still struggle to make our new city feel like capital “H” Home, myself included. Following college graduation, I moved to London and desperately wanted to hit the ground running and start enjoying my new city. It wasn’t that easy. My hope is that – by understanding what home really means and how to create that feeling for yourself – more people will say yes to big opportunities in faraway places, and thrive, as soon as they arrive.
Here are the 5 most important things about home that I have learned:
The feeling of “Home” is highly linked to routine and familiarity
I hear this over and over again, “I felt at home when I knew my way around, had a go-to grocery store/dry cleaner, my neighborhood cafe, an established routine, and familiar faces.”
If there is a local market, this is a great place to create a sense of community and familiarity. The vendors are often the same and the shoppers are loyal locals, so you will see the same people week after week. The trick is to pick a place and stay consistent in attendance and timing. I built a great group of friends by going to the gym at the crack of dawn most days of the week. I found that people who were crazy enough to get up as early as I did, were steadfast to the morning workout. As a result, I saw the same faces and was able to gradually establish a comforting network.
Home is nearly impossible without feeling safe
Feeling secure and comfortable allows us to relax and open up to the world around us.
There are several things that can contribute to making a place feel unsafe. This can be anything from an unfamiliar environment, unsanitary living conditions, to disruptive relationships. Luckily in most instances, these things are controllable, especially the living conditions.
If you are unsure about how to find adequate housing when you move, most suggest renting an Airbnb for the first few weeks to determine which neighborhoods you like, while giving you the flexibility to tour the housing options in person. Alternatively, if you don’t have the luxury of doing this or need a home upon arrival, it is best to reach out to your network to get personalized advice on where you should live, given your needs and likes. They may also be able to recommend a trusted estate agent to reach out to (see more below on finding your floating tribe).
Find your floating tribe
From my own experience being an expat overseas, finding friends was the most difficult, yet most crucial part. Making friends in a new city is challenging, but it is friends that you need the most when you’re processing new impressions, cultural differences, and experiences.
When I moved to London, I faced the same challenges and general uncomfortableness that so many of us experience when moving to a new and unfamiliar city – how do I make friends? Where should I live? What cable provider broadcasts Grey’s Anatomy over here? I loved exploring and building my new life in London, but I was often lonely and confused. I was starting a new job and didn’t have time to re-create my network, yet I wanted advice on my city from people I trusted, not just from TripAdvisor or Quora. I wanted to know everything from the best place to get a curry, to more pressing items like which area I should live in. I knew that I had a “floating tribe”, friends, friends of friends, people from my hometown, university and workplace in Europe, but there was no way to tap into my existing network and connect with them in a meaningful way.
From this frustration began what is now Pivt
Pivt is a social network for travelers, expats and locals to connect with a community, plan activities, and source trusted recommendations.Whether you’re traveling for work, just moved, are passing through, or have lived here for years, Pivt ensures you have what you need to make any city feel like home. At Pivt, we believe that everyone has a network to forge wherever you are. By taking some of the fear out of moving and traveling, we hope that Pivt will make it possible for more people to go to unfamiliar places and expand their outlooks.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it
Feeling at home is way more than where you sleep and where your stuff is. It’s a unique feeling of comfort that allows you to relax and be your best self. Most people feel frustrated by the amount of time, effort, and attention needed to make their new city feel like home, but all have said that in the end, it’s worth it.
There will undoubtedly be days when you miss your family, friends and traditions, and that’s okay. Splurging on a meal from your place of origin or skyping with loved ones usually helps.
Home, like in baseball’s home plate, is a means to an end
Just like in baseball, where the goal is to make it home as many times as possible, the objective of our increasingly mobile generation is just that. The hope is that if we can figure out what makes a place feel like home and give people the tools to recreate it anywhere, more people will take on boundless opportunities and make the most of them, as soon as they arrive.