Right now, there is a trend toward remote work due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This newfound flexibility is having many folks think seriously about exploring new cities or even relocating completely. Moving to a new city is an exciting, life-changing decision. From online research to in-person exploration, there’s a range of steps you can take to make your move seamless—discovering fun activities and potential work options alike. Before making the big move, take a potential city for a “test drive” and envision yourself in a new location.

Even if you aren’t able to enjoy activities in a city the way you would normally be able to due to the pandemic, there is plenty to explore and do that will give you a holistic perspective of what the city is like. A wealth of online resources can help you paint a picture of what a city has to offer, and what your day-to-day might look like there. Websites for the City Hall and tourist bureaus will help you learn what the locals do for fun, and Google Maps can help you calculate your commute and make lists of area attractions.

If it’s financially possible, Travelocity recommends staying in an Airbnb for a few weeks as an excellent way to plan and explore. Use the time to attend open houses, check out coffee shops and restaurants, and get a feel for the environment. You can learn a lot from residents—whether it’s your barista or Airbnb host—and staying in an apartment or house will help you visualize how your days will track.

If you’re visiting the city, it can be beneficial to play out your new “normal”: waking up, taking your commute, and coming back to a local meal or a stroll in a nearby park. Whether you visit in-person or stick to digital, allow yourself to imagine what your life will look like after the move.

Narrowing Down the Neighborhood

Your search for a home begins with the neighborhood—what street you live on will shape your days, from the new friends you meet to the course of your commute. It can be helpful to make a pro-and-con chart, comparing some of the areas you have in mind.

Consider a variety of factors that will impact your overall quailty of life, including the commute time and neighborhood safety. Think about how the noise and activity level might vary by neighborhood or even by street—would you prefer proximity to nightlife, or an area that’s more quiet and family-friendly? It’s also important to explore and compare what activities each neighborhood has to offer, including the parks and green spaces, the options for recreation, and the dining scene.

Internet tools can help you narrow down your search as well. The website WalkScore will rate the walkability and transit access options for different neighborhoods. Street-view map apps allow you to digitally navigate the area. City-specific threads on Reddit often feature moving FAQs that provide short summaries of different neighborhoods.

Work Your Network

When it comes to gathering local knowledge, nothing beats a conversation with someone who lives in the area themselves. Send out feelers in your network to see if a mutual friend—or one of their friends!—lives in the city you’re considering a move to. A quick Facebook post can go a long way; Winona Dimeo-Ediger, a writer at Livability, was surprised at how many contacts offered suggestions when she asked her network about moving to Sacramento.

If you do get to chat with a neighborhood native, make sure to ask them about the popular local spots, particularly those that might not turn up on a Google search. Take the opportunity to find out where the hidden gems of the city are tucked away and what the best places to shop locally are.  

Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and reach out to acquaintances. For a low-pressure option, mention that you’ll be visiting and ask for recommendations. You’ll fill up a to-do list quickly—and they might offer to show you around themselves.

Explore Hobbies – Old and New

Making new contacts doesn’t have to be hard. A great way to find a friend group is to explore the activities you already love in a social setting. Before moving, check out ways to keep up your existing hobbies, whether it’s a local class, an exercise group, a book club or a volunteer organization.

Pursuing your favorite activities can bring comfort, making the social transition easier as you put down roots in an unfamiliar place. But trying out a new pastime can be fun and satisfying, too. When you’re exploring a potential neighborhood, find out what the locals do best—maybe it’s wine-tasting, cycling, or live music—and check out what could be a new weekend favorite.

Maybe your job has become permanently remote. Maybe you’ve been laid off and are seeking out a new career that could take you anywhere in the country. If you’re thinking about moving—and need to pick locations and flesh out plans—One America Works can help! 

An OAW representative will connect you to vibrant, welcoming cities throughout the U.S., or to unique remote-work options. We’ll also help you evaluate a slate of different locations, carefully considering your needs, and ultimately uncovering the companies and neighborhoods that would fit well with your professional goals and personal needs. Our team will connect you with people in your new city—contacts who will help guide your career, and life, through an invigorating and successful move.