Today we’re talking about how to settle into a new city as a digital nomad girl, quickly and with ease. I also created a totally free downloadable checklist for you to help you settle into a new city!
It’s mid-April, and I just arrived in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, 10 days ago. And I’m knackered.
Why? Because I left Chiang Mai at the end of last month and travelled to Bangkok, London, Wiltshire, Munich and now Las Palmas while attempting to run my business.
Not surprisingly, I have been struggling to settle into this new place quickly, despite having spent a lot of time here in the past.
A few years ago, I would have beaten myself up for this, and while I am still tempted (thanks, mind!) I know now that this is quite normal for me.
Here are a few hard facts that I learned about settling into a new place as a digital nomad that I have learned in my over 5 years of travel:
- Settling in is hard. I know this sounds crazy for someone who’s been travelling for over 5 years, but whenever I arrive in a new place, the first few days I’m a bit uneasy, questioning why I even left the last place because I liked it so much and thinking I’ll never like this new place as much.It usually doesn’t last, but I know now that this feeling is quite normal for me, so I give it time to pass.
- It takes me a long time. Even if I’ve been to the place many times before, it’s just an adjustment and for me it takes a long time.
- It’s important to make the best of your time in a new place. A few years back, I spent 6 weeks in Berlin. We split our time in different apartments and neighbourhoods, and I never fully felt settled. I didn’t have the best experience, and I think part of it comes down to me never feeling like I’d settled properly.
Thankfully I’ve come up with a few tips, routines and exercises that help me settle into a new place when I arrive which I hope you’ll find helpful!
As always pick what works for you and ignore the rest!
10 Rituals, Exercises and Tips that Help Me Settle into a New City
1. Travel Slow
The rule to rule them all: TRAVEL SLOW. I repeat: Travel Slow.
I’ve met dozens if not hundreds of nomads over the past years and one thing most of us learn eventually is that attempting to travel to fast is the worst you can do. I’ve met girls who travelled to over 40 cities in 6 months!! How they get any work done in the meantime is beyond me… but the point here is, it’s not sustainable.
Eventually this kind of pace will take its toll on your health and your productivity.
I know there’s a whole world out there and you want to see it all. right. now. But try to slow down as much as possible.
I now try to stay at least one month, better 3 – 6 months in one place. You’ll have to find your own pace, but remember, slower is usually better as a nomad.
2. Plan ahead as much as possible
One of the keys to settling into a new place is to plan ahead as much as possible.
Some people are planners, other more spontaneous, it’s up to you how much prep you want to do, but a certain amount of planning will not only make the actual travelling part easier, but also settling in once you arrive.
Things I like to prepare:
- Figure out what the sim card situation is. Will you need a new one, or can you use your Sim and roam (like in most the EU now), where can you buy one once you arrive. For me, knowing I’ll be able to connect (and use Google Maps) is super important as it helps me feel more relaxed in a new place.
- Where are you staying? Sometimes you don’t want to book ahead for your whole stay, but booking a place to crash for at least the first few days will help ease any anxiety you might have about arriving in a totally new place. Then once on the ground, you can find a more permanent solution.
- Make some friends pre-arrival. How do you make friends before you’ve even landed? Facebook Groups of course! Whenever I plan a trip to a new place I reach out to other nomad girls in the DNG Facebook group and also join a few local digital nomad, expat or traveller groups. Not only can I ask some question about the new place, but I might even set up a coffee date with a potential new friend or coworking buddy on one of the first days after I arrive.
3. Take your time
Another important rule when it comes to settling into a new place, is to take your time. Some people only need a day or two, others take a week or even two or three. It’s ok. You can’t really change this about yourself, so accept it and be kind to yourself.
My boyfriend for example arrives at an Airbnb or flat we’re renting, rearranges the furniture to his linking, puts away his stuff and finds a cosy working space to set up his laptop stand, mouse and keyboard. Et voilà, he’s arrived!
For me, it ain’t quite that easy.
It can easily take me a week or two to feel like I’m even halfway settled, even in places I’ve been to multiple times before. I know that now and just take it easy.
And despite being a total extrovert, I don’t force myself to be sociable too early on. I need a couple of days just for myself, to feel comfortable at home, buy my favourite groceries (and tea!) and walk around the neighbourhood to get my bearings.
4. Plan your ‘perfect day’
This is a relatively new ritual of mine that I started when we arrived in Medellin, Colombia after living in Las Palmas for over a year and it really helps settle into a new city, plus it’s fun!
If you’re not familiar with the perfect day exercise, it’s a simple visualisation exercise where you write down in great detail what your perfect day looks like, from the moment you wake up, to the moment you fall asleep at night. It’s a great exercise to find out what’s important to you and what you want your ideal life to look like.
As much as I love this exercise, as a nomad I’ve found it really tricky as my perfect day wasn’t always feasible. For example, I love to channel my inner Moana and spend time by the ocean, but in Medellin that wasn’t possible.
That’s why I now go through the perfect day exercise every time I arrive in a place that I’ll stay for longer than a week or two.
For example, in Las Palmas I like to go for a run along the beach a few mornings a week, but in Chiang Mai I’m landlocked, plus there’s a lot of traffic, air pollution and a lack of proper pavements or a park where I could run. So running wasn’t really an option for me there (I don’t like gyms much).
Instead, I made sure the place we were staying had a pool (I wish I could have a pool everywhere!) so I could go for a swim in the morning.
Once you have explored the new city a bit and know your neighbourhood, go through your whole day and come up with a perfect day. This will also help you adjust your routine to your new surroundings. Planning to eat dinner at 5:30 pm ever night might work well in North Carolina, but won’t fly in Spain where you might starve by the time your tapas are served at 10 pm.
I created a free checklist for you which also includes a worksheet with the Perfect Day exercise, you can download it here > >
5. Tell Google you’re ‘Home’
As soon as I arrive in a new apartment I whip out my iPhone and
do a wifi speed test set my Google Maps address to ‘Home’.
This is super crucial as I have a terrible sense of direction and knowing I have my new home saved, means I can always find my way back without the need for breadcrumbs (couldn’t help myself, sorry!).
If you’re not quite as “orientationally” challenged as me, then you can skip this step.
6. Actually do a speed test
Most of us do this anyway, but knowing I can rely on my wifi at home makes me feel so much calmer. I like to also do speed tests in cafes to see if this could be a good potential working spot.
7. Walk everywhere
Now that I can safely find my way home, it’s time to go explore a bit. In order to get your bearings, it’s really best to just walk around your new neighbourhood, get a bit lost, find cute cafes or shops and your nearest grocery stores.
If you’re in a big city, find out what the deal is with public transport, do you need a monthly pass, what are the operating hours etc.
Also check if there are any local bicycle shares like Mobike in Chiang Mai, if there’s Uber or Grab available and how much taxis cost. Knowing how to get to different places in town will help you feel much more independent and if there are any events or meetups you want to go to, the barrier will be much lower already.
I even do this in places I’ve been to before as things change, restaurants disappear (rest in peace ‘Los Girasoles’), new tram lines appear and it’s just nice to get the lay of the land.
8. Make friends
There’s no way I’d ever really feel settled and comfortable for longer periods than maybe a couple of weeks if I didn’t have any friends to hang out with.
Of course, you can’t expect to make new ‘best friends’ (best friends are a tier, remember, not a specific person) everywhere you go, but I do find it important to have some buddies to explore local markets with, go on adventures and meet up for a bowl of ramen or three.
If you’re more introverted and don’t find it so easy to make new friends, you can also plan your trips around your friends.
So either travel somewhere together or visit friends in different places. It’s always easiest if they’re fellow digital nomads as you’ll get each other’s lifestyles and they won’t be disappointed if you have to, uhm, say… work.
Looking for fun ways to get involved with the Digital Nomad Girls community and make friends? Check out this blog post for 10 fun ways to get involved!
9. Find a few favourite work places
Personally, I work mainly from home for a few reasons which I’m gonna share in a separate post with you soon.
Suffice it to say, I’m a bit of a couch potato when it comes to my work set up, but I do like working outside a few times a week because I find it helps me focus. I prefer working from quiet cafes (or better: tea houses), ideally ones that also serve food as I can then use the need for pasta as a motivator to leave the house and work outside.
Find a couple of places you feel comfortable working so you know where to go when you feel like a change of scenery.
A lot of my nomad friends swear on coworking and even if you don’t want to join a full-time coworking space, you can still cowork privately or virtually.
In many nomad hotspots (and plenty of other cities too actually), you can find local coworking groups, usually freelancers who meet up regularly at cafes or libraries and get some work done together. I love this concept as it’s a great way to combine meeting new friends with being productive and getting out of the house.
If in-person coworking isn’t feasible for you, then virtual coworking might just be the perfect fit.
What is virtual coworking?
Basically it’s like real-life coworking, just that you meet on Zoom or Skype; you can take a look at what that looks like right below!
Sounds crazy? I personally do virtual coworking multiple times a week in our DNG Inner Circle, and some of our members are so hooked, they do it almost every day and plan their schedules around the sessions.
It’s awesome because the barrier to join is extremely low (hello, I sometimes show up with a towel on my head) and it can be very productive and sociable at the same time. Win win win.
Bonus: Have a leaving routine
This is more about settling out than settling in, but knowing what you need to do before you leave a place is equally as important as knowing what to do when you arrive.
I’ve got a new personal rule that I need to know minimum one month in advance what I am doing, otherwise I get super anxious and am not able to focus on anything. That also means know when I’ll be leaving, how I’m getting to the new place and what I need to prepare.
Getting all my travel ducks in a row means I have to stress less which in turn means I arrive less stressed in a new place.
I also allow myself to take the day before travelling off if possible, so I have enough time to pack, say goodbyes, and do any chores that need doing (like last minute mani pedis or equally important stuff).
Phew, who knew I had so much wisdom stowed away about settling into a new place. One thing’s for sure though, as I continue to travel and adjust my travel style, I’m sure my settling in routine will also change.
I hope a few of these tips will help you settle into a new city quicker and with more ease and if you need a bit more help, you can download our Settling In Checklist for free right here.
The Settling In Checklist includes a full checklist of everything to do before you arrive to a new spot, once you arrive and even how to plan your departure and will help you settle into a new city quicker. Plus – just for fun, I threw in our Perfect Day Exercise worksheet so you can get to planning your perfect day in your new city.
Happy exploring and happy settling in!