Some cities have a certain 'cool' factor — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin. Drawn by the lure of interesting food and interesting music and interesting people, young people are moving to these spots in droves. But what if you can't afford to relocate — or you can't afford to pay the high rents once you get there? If you long for the excitement of life in another city but practical considerations are holding you back, here are five ways to learn to love life in the city you're in right now.
1. Meet new people.
Meeting new people can help you see — and experience — your city in an entirely different way. You might be surprised how meeting just a few new people, outside of your usual circles, can take you from 'this place is boring' to 'I never want to leave'. Meetup is a great place to find groups of like-minded people... or you could try joining a sports team or taking a class. You'll learn things, get some exercise, and make new friends, too.
2. Play tourist with a friend from out of town.
It's easy to get bogged down in your everyday life and forget about the interesting things — museums, restaurants, natural wonders — that your city has to offer. Playing host to a friend from out of town can help you up the ante, and re-discover what's cool about where you live. And you'll get to see your city through new eyes as they discover it for the first time. (You can also play tourist for a weekend with a friend from your town — just make sure not to fall back on your usual haunts.)
3. Find out about your city's history.
Every city, no matter how small, has things about it that make it unique. Use the internet or local museums to start to dig into your city's history. Visit historical sites. Pull over and look at those markers on the highway. You might discover that cities, like people, have hidden depths — and that they grow on you as you get to know them better.
No matter the size of your town, there are probably some volunteer activities that you can participate in to help other people who live where you live. Not only will volunteering make you feel more invested in your community, but you might also meet other people with similar interests — and similar civic pride.
5. Start something of your own.
Don't see any Meetup groups in your town that you're interested in? Start one! Or if you're feeling discouraged by the lack of interesting food choices in your town, you could start a recurring dinner party event with friends where you take turns cooking different cuisines. When my cousin and his wife moved to Roswell, New Mexico, they were having trouble meeting people with the same interests, so they started a group for young professionals interested in the arts, which grew into a huge success. Be the change that you want to see in your city — chances are there are other people out there who are looking for the same things that you are.