The Surprising Thing People Say They Miss The Most When They Move

published Jun 2, 2019
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Moving down the block or across town is stressful enough, but nothing compares to a long-distance move. Those Herculean tasks always remind me of an hilarious Hyperbole and a Half comic: Author Allie Brosh’s excellently described her move from Montana to Oregon as “nearly as stressful and futile as trying to run away from lava in swim fins.” Packing up all your belongings is one thing. Relocating nearly everything in your adult life—utilities, friendships, jobs, etc.—is a special kind of torture.

Most of these things eventually fall into place. But there is one surprising thing people feel is irreplaceable: their hairdresser.

This came up in my recent interview with Ali Wenzke, author of “The Art of Happy Moving: How to Declutter, Pack, and Start Over While Maintaining Your Sanity and Finding Happiness.” As research for her book, she interviewed countless recent movers. Many brought up that they missed their hairstylist and were anxious about finding a new one.

When she told me this, I laughed out loud with recognition. At the start of this year, I moved from NYC to Nashville. Part of my pre-move checklist was getting a final haircut from Lily, my hairstylist in Brooklyn. I already was in a long distance relationship of sorts with her. I first went to her when I subletted in Williamsburg for six weeks after first moving to the city. I moved to Harlem soon after, where I remained for six years. Making that 45-minute commute (if the subway cooperated) already felt like traveling to a different city. But Lily understood my hair and what I wanted, so it was definitely worth the trip.

At my final appointment, I jokingly(?) started plotting trips back to NYC around the dates I’d need a touch up.

“You know there are hair salons in Nashville, right?” Lily asked.

I couldn’t help but feel I was more distraught about having to find a new hairdresser than she was about losing a client.

If I did fly back to NYC for a haircut, I wouldn’t be the only one: Wenzke says many people who are loathe to find a new hairdresser will plan trips back, squeezing in a haircut. In fact, Wenzke said a Vancouver-based journalist recently told her she took many frequent trips back to NYC to see her hairstylist, Val.

“I assured her she would eventually find someone in Vancouver that she also loved,” Wenzke said.

I reached out to Caroline Kraft, owner of the Golden Hour Salon in Nashville, for her thoughts on this unexpected attachment theory. Kraft also laughed. She, too, has more than a few clients who moved away and still come back for a cut and color when they’re back in Nashville.

“I feel really lucky for that,” Kraft says, adding that she finds her clients’ loyalty very humbling and flattering.

Kraft reasons finding a new hairdresser can feel like a big commitment because a lot of trust is involved. Obviously, hair can be re-dyed or re-cut, but fixing it can be expensive. And in the case of a too-short cut, there’s nothing to do but wait. So once people find a hairstylist they trust, they latch on tight.

Another reason Kraft thinks clients are so loyal? Haircuts are long. Finding anyone you feel comfortable chatting or sitting in complete silence with for an hour or more—without checking your phone—is quite a feat these days.

Though a long-distance relationship may be sustainable for a short period of time, Kraft says even her most loyal long-distance clients eventually end up finding a more local hairdresser.

If you’re in this dilemma yourself, Kraft has a few tips for finding a new, trusted hairstylist:

Word of mouth is perhaps the most reliable way, but not everyone already has a social circle when the move. If you don’t have any friends to ask just yet, Kraft suggests going up to someone with a hair style you like and asking them who their hairstylist is. Granted, that takes some guts. If that feels too intimidating, Instagram is a great way to get a sense of the local salons. In fact, Kraft says many of her new clients find Golden Hour via Instagram.

To take some of the pressure off, Kraft also recommends scheduling a consultation before booking a haircut. Taking 10-15 minutes to discuss what you want from a hairstylist can help lower the pressure. This pre-cut meeting also gives you an easy out if you don’t like the feel of the salon. If a consultation feels unnecessary, Kraft suggests even just scheduling a blowout. The service is often cheaper than a haircut and allows you to get a sense of who will be cutting and styling your hair. Blowouts are low-commitment, too: If you don’t like the style at the end of the appointment, you can go home and wash it out.

But Kraft’s best piece of advice for finding a new hairstylist?

“Just be open to the change,” she says. Your new hairdresser might not use the same tools or supplies as your old one. (She says she’s even had new clients bring hair dye mixes from their old salon.) But in the end, some change can be good. Remember, if you can survive running from lava in swim fins, you definitely can brave a friendly stranger wielding scissors and dye.

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