What do I need to move to a new city?

February 19, 2013 in Career,Life,Philosophy,Travel

One of the most common conversations I seem to have with friends, friends of friends, blog readers is what it takes to move to a new city.

Why try Why not graffiti on a mailbox on the Upper East Side, New York City

I’m certainly no expert, but I have moved to three brand-new cities in the past four years without going broke or being too lonely. I’ve managed to find jobs and apartments in each, and leave with a savings to travel before settling down in the next. Here’s a bit of what worked for me, and my best recommendations.

Cooking class assistants at Petits Farcis Cooking School in Nice, France

Nice

I booked a round-trip ticket for six months in Nice and organized a student visa, intensive French classes and a homestay through Alliance Francaise before I arrived. I managed to find a job as an assistant in a cooking school (simply by googling “cooking schools Nice” and emailing to see if they needed any help) and a part-time position as a waitress in a gastronomic pub (simply by showing up on a Saturday morning with a resume, no relevant experience and a smile). Eventually, I realized that I could earn enough money to live by cutting back my group French classes and taking private lessons to focus on my weaknesses and working full-time as a waitress and cooking class assistant. I saved enough to take a five-week trip through Stockholm, London, Oxford, Amsterdam and Paris before I flew home.

Christine Amorose and Aboriginal elder at Saturday in Design, Sydney

Melbourne

When I arrived in Australia on a working holiday visa, I assumed I’d do something similar to what I did in Nice: waitress or bartend to make enough cash to keep traveling around. Within a couple of days of arriving in Melbourne, I had found a room to rent in a flat with a bay view and a well-paying job as a waitress in a beach restaurant. After about a month, however, I had a fateful coffee date with an older woman who had worked in public relations on her working holiday in Ireland and she strongly recommended doing something a bit more professional to make the most out of my time in Australia. Luckily, my skill set in social media and marketing is quite desirable in Australia and I quickly found a job coordinating the social media and marketing for a high-end Scandinavian furniture company.  I lived frugally and managed to save $5,000 over six months: enough to go skydiving in Mission Beach and drive across the Nullarbor. [Note: my company did generously offer to sponsor me if I wanted to continue living in Australia, but I opted to travel through Southeast Asia instead.]

ONA bags in New York City

New York City

I felt much more pressure to “succeed” in New York City than anywhere else: not only was I in one of the most ambitious cities in the world, I had quite a few friends here who were doing quite well for themselves. I arrived in early August, set up a month-long sublet with a friend, and immediately started pounding the pavement: I signed up with a temp agency, I went to coffee date after coffee date with friends of friends, I interviewed relentlessly for jobs and apartments. By September 1, everything fell together: I had moved into a room in Williamsburg (found via craigslist); by September 10, I had accepted a job offer at an awesome start-up with an October 1 start date–so of course, I went to Panama and Colombia for 10 days.

Working by the beach in Phu Quoc, Vietnam

What I’ve learned

Don’t expect to settle everything before you get there. You’ll probably want to see an apartment in person, potential roommates will want to meet you in the flesh. Research neighborhoods you’re interested in, but wait to hand over a deposit or sign a lease until you’ve explored the area yourself. Check out resources like craigslist (in the US) or gumtree (in the UK, Australia, New Zealand). Same thing with jobs: do your research and send your emails, but wait to commit until you’ve arrived.

Utilize every contact you can find. I found my jobs in Melbourne and New York City through the friend of a friend of a friend–and because I reached out to those friends, introduced myself, and treated them to coffee. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: most people are happy to give it! I’ve always had more success through the people I know than blind job postings on the internet–although it doesn’t hurt to check out resources like LinkedIn and craigslist.

Have enough in savings to cover at least two months of living expenses…. Factor in the cost of rent (or the higher cost of hostel or hotel living), food, public transportation, covering all those coffee dates you’re treating. A safe bet is anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000, depending on the cost of living. You certainly hope you won’t need all of it–or even half of it–but it’s wise to have something to fall back on. Don’t forget about all those pesky costs of moving somewhere: buying new towels, setting up the internet, etc.

…but don’t be afraid to take a “menial” job to pay the bills. If you’re not finding the job of your dreams right off the bat, pick up something casual to make some extra money, have something to do, prove that you’re employable. I’ve waitressed during all of my job searches, partly because I really do enjoy working in hospitality and partly because I can’t stand watching money drain out of my accounts. Personally, I think it’s more dignified to work something that’s “beneath” you than go into credit card debt.

Be willing to take the risk. If you’ve always wanted to live in a different city–go! I find that I’m much more satisfied living in a new city and being able to explore it extensively than I am traveling long-term. “Settling down” is a different approach than many long-term travelers, but I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve had in Nice and Melbourne–and subsequently, France and Australia.

What are your best tips for moving to a new city?

  • Really cool post, Christine! You’ve done so many amazing things and I liked reading about how everything came together for you. I think my biggest tip would be to have faith. I guess generally to just have faith that things will come together in the end. Personally, I like planning things out and knowing I’ll have a source of income/place to stay, but I’ve changed! Sometimes it pays to just wing it and the rest easy knowing things do have a funny way of working out — even if they are outside your comfort zone in the beginning. I was scared before making the jump to life in France but it all worked out and I know I made the right choice. Give NYC a kiss for me. I do miss it!

  • Couldn’t agree more. Paris is the fourth city I’ve moved to in five years, but it was the first time I’d had a job lined up; in China and Singapore I just booked one-way tickets and hoped for the best. I didn’t even network that much (I found my social media marketing job via craigslist!) — but I made an effort to meet as many people as possible, which eventually led to jobs anyway just from knowing so many people in so many fields.

    My best tip, though, is just to relax. Things will work out so long as you’re flexible and open to new experiences!

  • camorose

    Thank you! That’s a great tip that I wrote about a bit when I got to New York–sometimes you just need to accept that the risk might be the payoff in itself. Everything always does work out in the end, just as it should!

  • camorose

    It’s funny how we define “networking”–most of my jobs were found simply by people who I met up with as friends, not completely as job contacts. But the more people you meet, the more people who might be able to help! Plus one on the relaxing tip 🙂

  • I’d never considered the idea of, as you say “settling down” as a method of long-term travel, but now you mention it (and I read more about housesitting) I realise that there is a whole realm of possibility open to me should I just reach out & grab it.

    Good tips too for when the time does come.

  • Great summary, Christine. I would say network, network, network. Any opportunity can take you to the best and most amazing experiences ever – whether this is a job, a new friend, an apartment… anything!

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    I came to Spain with a job, visa and a place to live, but I’d love to start all over again somewhere else. Cheers to you!

  • Such great tips! It always works out in the end right?

  • I’m debating moving to another city in a few months, and I’m sure this advice will come in handy. Thanks.

  • Jay

    Very inspiring Christine!
    I think there’s something about showing up somewhere new with the motivation to make it work.

  • Rosemary Carsberg

    Thanks for this, this is generally how i live my life. Yet nobody seams to write about it.

  • Erica

    I definitely agree with networking, no matter what country you’re in. I’d been wondering how you were hopping around from place to place- it’s very cool that you’re finding places you want to live and setting yourself up for success. I think that it’s all too often that people see travelers and think “well, they have it easy because they get to live abroad and have fun” but don’t realize how much work and preparation as well as a bit of a leap of faith it takes to actually make it happen 🙂

  • camorose

    Glad you enjoyed the piece!

  • camorose

    So so true! I met some of my greatest friends, found my job, found my apartment–all through networking in a new city!

  • camorose

    Thank you! Hey, if things are working in Spain–don’t fix what isn’t broken! 🙂

  • camorose

    Always!

  • camorose

    Hope it does! Where are you thinking of heading next?

  • camorose

    Super true–fake it til you make it 🙂

  • camorose

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  • camorose

    Thank you! Yes, I’ve worked everywhere I’ve gone–it’s been a great experience, but not exactly the “extended vacation” people seem to think I’ve taken 🙂

  • Thanks for the tips, Christine! I will definitely be needing some of these in the near future, I think! 😉

  • My wife and I went through a difficult visa process and even though we didn’t hire a lawyer it turned out to be expensive and as a result we’ve racked up some debt. I am now in school and working 35 hours a week while my wife works part-time as a nanny. She’s an industrial engineer from Colombia but many of the credits do not transfer and her English is at an A2 level making it tough for her to find work. I feel like I’ll never reach my dream of living and studying in Turkey.

    However, this article truly has inspired me. I’m now asking myself, “How was it that I was able to travel throughout Turkey and Iraq-KRG in 2008 without a significant amount of money and still be received by lovely people everywhere with open arms?” I can always crash at a few friends’ houses for several weeks until I find a job doing what I love. Even if the job is menial, so are my service jobs here in Orlando!

    I can go on a rant so I’ll stop myself here. I just want to thank you for reassuring me that it is so much easier to go for it than we think and that we don’t have to save up thousands of dollars to make it happen.

  • camorose

    Exciting! Can’t wait to hear where you’re heading 🙂

  • camorose

    So true! It’s all about figuring out your priorities. Good luck!

  • Erica

    That’s quite the feat, considering work visas are not very easy to obtain! I’d actually guessed student for at least one destination but I see that you were a student AND worked! 🙂

  • Allura Maison

    Great post! I’ve travelled the world with no problem but seem to be facing all these setbacks (&fear!) about moving interstate. Funny how one thing can seem so much harder than something much more challenging when you put it into perspective 🙂 Your advice has helped a lot! From one travelling gypsy to another, Thank you!! Have a beautiful day 🙂

    Allura x
    kittenlamoda.com

  • Allie

    Great post. It’s definitely nice to see a breakdown of your strategy vs what most people write about (with a just do it mentality–but no explanation or specifics of how).

  • camorose

    Glad you enjoyed it–I’ve also found that it’s harder to move within the US than it is to move abroad. Not quite sure why that is!

  • camorose

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed.

  • Tamara (travelingnatural)

    I loved this post! It’s really informative but very inspirational as well 🙂

  • camorose

    Thanks! So glad you liked it 🙂

  • Nelda

    Network, exactly. I heard about the work what I do now from someone I used to work with, many years ago. And having read this post I feel like moving somewhere else (for study), as I apply in several places and am waiting for the answer in summer. I feel like moving to get the excitement again. Thanks for the post and the inspiration! 🙂

  • camorose

    So glad you enjoyed it! My biggest tip to anyone moving to a new city is to just go on every coffee date possible with every friend of a friend–you never know what connections you’ll make!

  • Guest

    I love this

  • I love this post! While I have travelled a lot, I’ve never just picked up and moved to a new city without some serious planning and very little risk taking (through study abroad). You’ve been an inspiration. Hopefully, now that I’m graduating I can take some big risks and learn a lot along the way.^^

  • camorose

    Glad you enjoyed it! Seriously, all of my “new cities” have been some of the most incredible experiences. Highly recommend!

  • LeJanika Green

    I have been reading through one or two of your post and they have been VERY VERY helpful! Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences. Your blogs are practical, inspiring and honest. I’m in the process of planning a trip to New York to seriously consider if it is a place I’m thinking of relocating to. I have jotted down a few notes from your blog to keep in mind as I prepare to go.

  • Pingback: If you want to travel the world | C'est Christine()

  • camorose

    That’s what I love to hear! Glad to help 🙂

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  • Latricia

    Dear Christine thank you for your blog it is really inspiring! Do you believe it is possible
    To make it in nyc or paris in ones 30ies?
    Best

  • camorose

    I haven’t lived that yet, but I don’t think it’s impossible. I’ve seen people reinvent themselves in all sorts of different cities at all ages.

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