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4 Steps to Help You Adjust to a New City

After packing all my things into two large suitcases, and 2 carry-ons (thank you Air Transat for being so flexible with all my overweight and oversized luggage), I am back in Lisbon! For the last 2 years, I have been living in different places for a few months on end, a digital nomad if you will, but with the intention of finding a place to settle down. I was really lucky in my 20s to have backpacked through Europe and Central/South America, staying in hostels, hiking volcanoes, and learning new skills. As I’ve gotten a bit older, I have found that now my desires have changed from wanting to explore and see the world to wanting to cultivate a home. A home where I can decorate with the colors and furniture that bring me joy, a fully stocked spice drawer for cooking, and where I can host my friends. After spending most of last year in Lisbon, I knew it was the best place for me to settle down and build a home for myself. I returned to Toronto to apply for the Portugal Digital Nomad Visa, after my acceptance in January, I am now back in Lisbon and re-adjusting to my new home.

Principe Real Lisbon View

I am writing this in the middle of experiencing some pretty strong jet lag, but I wanted to share how I best re-adjust to new cities and how you can take the time to soak it all in.

Take time to adjust to the jet lag

Jet lag hits me incredibly hard! I give myself a few days after I arrive to relax and sleep, even if it’s sleeping really odd hours. Google tells me that it takes about a day to adjust for each timezone crossed. If you can, take a couple of days off work, and just sleep and reset your system to the new timezone.

Locate the necessities

Once I get over my extreme exhaustion, I am hungry! Time to find some food. I tend to google ahead of time some places with high google reviews that have menus of food I like. If you don’t do this, I will find a cafe that also serves meals, and fill up! I need the energy to go grocery shopping. Once I am caffeinated and full, this is the time to head to the grocery store for the essentials. In my mind here is the perfect first grocery shop (assuming that it’s just you and you also don’t have a car and you’re walking):

Food: Greek yogurt, cheese, ham, tea/coffee, almond milk, granola, bananas/apples (fruit of your choice), bread

This first shop is not meant to be your full grocery shop. Buy enough to help you get through the next couple of days as you are still adjusting. Find some snacks that bring you joy and add those to the list as well.

Matcha is essential

Get Acquainted with the Layout of the City

Depending on the size of the city that you move to, it can be easy or hard to map it all out in the first few weeks, however, I think no matter the size, it’s great to spend the first weeks walking or taking the transit around your new home. In Lisbon, I bought a metro pass and used it to take the metro, streetcars, and trains all around Lisbon and the great Lisbon area, and when I got a new neighborhood, I would take time to walk around all the streets to get to know the vibes of each of the places. This helped me to map restaurants I wanted to go to, and how to get around and taught me more about Lisbon as a whole.

Start forming a community

When you are new to a city, it can be super overwhelming. What has helped me adjust is making a friend. When I first got to Lisbon last year, I added myself to a Facebook Group for Digital Nomads in Lisbon and met a girl from Amsterdam. We decided to meet for dinner and, honestly, her friendship at that time helped me feel so much more secure in the city. The next day, we decided to go on a walking tour and met two Canadian guys, and for the next few weeks, we all hung out together. These friendships can be made anywhere! Put yourself out there and talk to more people. Say hi to strangers in coffee shops, research local events on meetup, and get making new connections.

Adjusting to a new city can be a daunting task, but with an open mind and a willingness to explore, it can also be an exciting adventure. Remember to take things slow and not put too much pressure on yourself to get everything figured out right away. Take time to discover new neighborhoods, meet new people, and try new things. Embrace the differences and quirks of the city and allow yourself to fall in love with it. With a bit of patience and a positive attitude, you’ll soon find yourself feeling right at home in your new city.


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