7 Tips To Feel At Home, Anywhere

Photo credit: Annie Spratt,
Keep what's core.
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Where are you from? Where do you belong? Where is home? The answers aren’t always tidy. Alex Laughlin, a Hapa-Korean-American Mash-Up and creator of Other: Mixed Race in America, shares her hard-earned tips on how to make any place feel like home. And don’t miss her essay on discovering where she belongs.

As a mashy military brat, I am an expert at uprooting my life and plopping down somewhere new. When nowhere is home, anywhere can be home. While these skills aren’t necessarily an awesome experience to develop as a 14-year-old, now that I’m in my twenties I’m grateful to have them. Here are a few of the things I do to make a strange place feel like home.

1. Plan your return before you start.

If you’re about to move away, go ahead and book a return trip to your current home before you leave. That gives you something to look forward to when you inevitably start feeling homesick for the home you left behind. This is an emotional insurance plan.

2. Keep what’s core.

I’m not going to get all Marie Kondo on you, but uprooting every few years has taught me that it’s easier to move when you have fewer things. What’s key to making a new home feel like your home is keeping the crucial, core things that make you feel like you. They don’t have to be big or fancy or expensive, they just have to feel like you. For example, my core items are a fuzzy pink dog I got as a gift in middle school, a jar of sand from Hawaii that I bottled the first time we moved away, and a set of postcards and photostrips I always tape up onto my walls. They’re small things, but once I have them up, a space instantly feels more familiar.

3. Find your proxies.

The hardest part of moving is leaving behind the spaces and businesses that make a place feel like home. When I moved to D.C. from Athens, Georgia, I was heartbroken to be leaving behind my favorite hair salon and a handful of coffee shops and restaurants. I asked the owners of these businesses if they knew of any similar business owners in D.C. — you’d be surprised at how small these industries are! The first time I walked into my new salon, I instantly felt a connection to it because it had been recommended by someone back home. There won’t always be an exact proxy for every single thing you miss, but if you can find your new town’s version, you’ll be on your way to carving out a niche for yourself.

4. Wander.

This is specific to urban living, but I think you can find your version of this wherever you are. I love to explore new places by foot. I’ll usually download 3-5 new podcast episodes, turn my phone onto airplane mode, and walk for hours and hours. I love doing this because I end up discovering my new city on my own terms. The next time I need to meet someone someplace, I’ll have already treaded that ground on my own.

5. Find your people.

This step is similar to finding your proxies. Believe me, if you have a hobby, there is a community you can join. You can use sites like Eventbrite and Meetup to find existing events, but there are also tons of Facebook groups for any interest you might have. Just search your keyword and your city and get to meeting people! Also consider locally owned coffee shops and bookstores, which are always holding events.

6. Give yourself permission not to fit in.

It can be jarring to move somewhere where the culture is totally different. Maybe people are even speaking a different language. You will be doing your best to learn the culture and blend your life into your new home, but let me tell you: It is exhausting. I hereby give you permission to retreat into comfort when you need to — whether that’s grabbing McDonald’s for dinner or just not wearing the types of clothes that are trendy in your new home. There’s plenty of time for you to learn this culture, but never lose sight of what makes you different.

7. Be patient.

Nowhere new is going to feel like home instantly — even for a moving expert like me! I usually start to feel pretty at home in a new place after about two years. So while you’re following these tips, don’t forget to also be patient, both with your new home and with yourself.

]How do you make a house a home? Tell us!

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Posted by Alex Laughlin
Alex Laughlin is a Hapa-Korean-American journalist, podcaster, and creator of Other: Mixed Race in America. She's in the process of moving from Washington, D.C. to Brooklyn and is really stressed out. She's documenting a project to read books by only Asian authors in 2017 at and you can follow her on Twitter @alexlaughs.

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