When you're home, you have a favorite restaurant, you know the bus or train route, and you've figured out the closest supermarket and Laundromat.
As you walk or drive down the streets, your sense of navigation is so innate that you may take the same route every day without thinking.
If you ended up someplace unexpected, you'd chuckle or briefly berate yourself and then quickly orient yourself towards home.
And, if you came upon someone else looking for directions, you'd have no trouble helping them.
These are the things that get lost in a move.
There's the frustration of not knowing where the best or most inexpensive place is to wash dirty laundry, get your shoes repaired, or buy paper towels.
And though you may have some restaurants nearby, you've never been there, so how can you know which ones are great, and which to avoid? Right away, you may feel literally lost - one wrong turn, and not only are you not sure where you are, but you're not sure where you're going.
And, worse yet, to find your way, you either have to ask for help, or pull out a map and then everyone knows you're lost.
I had a recent experience with getting lost on a trip to Paris.
Though I know Paris as well as my hometown of New York, I was shocked to find myself totally lost.
I got out of the metro in an area I had never explored previously, tried to orient myself to the direction of the Seine river, chose the wrong street, and ended up completely disoriented and surrounded by streets that were not parallel to one another, a common experience in Europe.
I thought, "How can I be lost in a city I know this well?" Then I panicked since my sense of direction was clearly off, and I had failed to write down the address of the place I was going.
I quickly gathered my composure, realizing first, I was in a safe place with lots of people, and second, that I could ask a policeman for help.
Once calmer, I realized my iPhone had a GPS indicator (an excellent resource if lost!) on which I HAD marked the address of my destination.
I pulled it out, and the map showed me where I was in relation to my destination, and guided me there! Along the way, I discovered a whole new area of Paris I hadn't known previously, and should I find myself there again, I will look forward to dining at some of the many lovely restaurants I passed by.
All these reasons are why it's important to create a sense of the familiar for yourself once you move.
Doing this enables you to have some comfort zones which make you feel relaxed, and can also be landmarks which orient you if you become lost.
Here are a few strategies on how to create this familiarity for yourself.
1 - Get Recognized- In order to start this process, pick something you do almost every day; perhaps you buy a newspaper or drink a cup of coffee, for example.
Look for a newspaper store or stand, or a café that's either near your residence, or your office, and go there every day for at least one month.
The result will be that the store or café owner will start to recognize you.
I know this may seem silly, but having someone notice you actually goes a long way when you feel lost in a new place.
This person becomes a friendly face you can count on, and hopefully, you can even enter into conversation with them.
Find out about their day, or ask them for the best place to grocery shop or do laundry! 2 - Create a Sacred Space- Explore the city a bit, pick something of significance to you.
It could be a park, a church or synagogue, a museum, a restaurant, etc.
- something that you will enjoy returning to again and again.
This can be a place that you stumble upon, and for no apparent reason, you just feel a sense of comfort, or, it could be that you repeatedly return there, and thus it becomes familiar.
Either way, creating this sacred space for yourself is a wonderful solace to have while adjusting to a new place.
3 - Learn About Danger Zones- Another key strategy is to quickly learn where any areas considered dangerous are.
These are perhaps areas known to be unpopulated, or where crimes are known to take place.
The fact that you know these areas will give you a sense of confidence because, even when lost, if you can remind yourself that you're not in one of these dangerous areas, it will quickly help calm your mind.
4 - Get Lost on Purpose! Once you're grounded in having a sense of what areas are safe, try to get lost on purpose.
Do it during the day, in a well-populated area where you can ask for directions, and feel safe.
Bring a cell phone so you can easily call someone if the need arises.
Here's what happens - you end up discovering a new store, or restaurant, or park, or some other gem you would never have found were you looking for it.
The possible panic that can initially appear is replaced by pride when you turn the corner and say, "Now I know where I am and how to get home from here!" There's something very powerful about confronting the fear of being lost and overcoming it that helps you feel at home.
5 - Celebrate! Do something to reward yourself every time you feel "found".
Maybe try out a new restaurant, see a movie, buy some chocolate, whatever way you celebrate, do something to pat yourself on the back for this amazing step forward you've taken towards successfully transitioning to a new place! 6 - Download and listen to my free eCourse, 8 Steps to Feel at Home Anywhere in the world, where you'll find additional tips on getting familiar with a new place, some helpful worksheets, and resources, as well as the other essential steps you need to take to ensure a smooth transition to a new culture.