Moving cross country? How to survive and thrive in a new city

A few key things to know before up and moving across the country, or the world.

Whether you're going away to school, moving for a significant other or a job, or just wanted to make a change in your life, moving to a new city definitely has its ups and downs. Let's start with the good: moving to a new city is incredibly exciting. For the first year or so, you feel like a tourist and view everything through an adventurous lens. Suddenly, museums that boast items like the World's Largest Ball of String or arenas for the local minor league sports teams are magnetic, even though in your old city you would have passed them by without a second glance.

Exploring the great outdoors is always enjoyable, especially if you've moved to an area with a climate that's completely different from what you're used to. If you move to a warm area from a cooler one (read: one that gets several feet of snow each winter), depending on your personality, you may be thrilled that you no longer have to mummify yourself to leave the house, or you may be mourning the lack of cold-weather activities. I'm the former - when I moved to Singapore and the locals complained about the heat, I would just smile and wiggle my unencumbered toes in my flip-flops. I often sent photos of my bare feet back to my family (who live in Philadelphia) when they were experiencing yet another brutal snowstorm. Needless to say, these were not well received.

Another great thing about moving to a new city is exploring the local eats. Even cities that don't have a reputation for an exceptional culinary scene will inevitably have some great haunts that dish out reliably delicious grub. When choosing a new restaurant, take recommendations from new acquaintances with a grain of salt. I've been disappointed more than once after getting a hot tip. The key is finding people who share your palate preferences, because what someone else thinks is top-notch, you may find less than appetizing. (Pizza, I'm looking at you.) This is when sites/apps like Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and others come in handy. Blogs can also be quite informative. My strategy is to Google "best [cuisine] in [city]" and read the blog posts first. Then I cross-reference the ones that sound interesting with their profiles on the aforementioned sites. If the stars align, I'll test it out.

Going to happy hour is great way to dip your toe into the restaurant scene without spending a wad of cash for a so-so meal. I've gotten a great taste (couldn't resist) of what a full experience would be like at a restaurant by dropping by its happy hour. Scope out the dining area as it gets close to 7 pm. Is it filling up, even on a Tuesday evening? Try out a happy hour appetizer or two. Is it what you expected, or better? Ask the bartender if it's a good place for a meal. Their tips don't generally depend on ordering food, so they're more likely to be honest. If all signs point to yes, it's time to take your relationship to the next level.

Cultural activities are another thrilling element of a new city. Sign up for email newsletters on local goings-on from the tourist bureau, or drop by a locally owned grocery store or coffee shop. They usually have cork boards somewhere in the back (generally near the restroom) festooned with posters for 5k charity runs, festivals, and local artist shows. And whatever you do, keep an open mind. Just because axe-throwing doesn't seem like your thing doesn't mean you won't enjoy it.

Take advantage of local museums, art galleries, and other places that offer low-cost or free activities. Tour of a brewery? Don't mind if I do. Sushi demonstration at the neighborhood grocery store? Sign me up. Presentation on corporate depreciation accounting methods at the local college? Uh...I'll get back to you on that one. But you get my drift.

Volunteering to get to know people and your new surroundings is tried and true. You don't have to sign up for a big commitment; there are plenty of opportunities for one-off sessions or even monthly/bi-monthly engagements. Volunteer Match has an incredible database of opportunities from all over the world. You'll often find opportunities posted on the aforementioned cork boards. Take a gander next time you're waiting in line for the loo to see if anything strikes your interest.

Sounds awesome right? Most of what you'll encounter in a new city truly is exciting and stimulating, which is why I recommend doing it at least once in your lifetime. However, like most things in life, there are a couple of caveats.

First, the act of moving is a real bummer. As anyone who has ever moved in their life can attest, it's universally inconceivable how much stuff you accumulate over time. When I moved from a one bedroom house to my new digs, I literally took an oath never to purchase furniture, appliances, or any type of decoration ever again, simply because it was such. a. pain. to pack them all. And this was just from a one bedroom.

When you move to a new city you also have to find all new professionals for your health and personal care. Finding a new primary care doctor, dentist, hairstylist, mechanic….it's exhausting. Not to mention difficult. Again, I have found the combination of referrals and online reviews to be the best way to identify such individuals. Some have less risk than others; a bad haircut is easy (if slow and painful) to resolve, a lousy dentist...not so much.

Another small annoyance is simply not being familiar with the local geography. I honestly don't know how people survived before Google Maps and GPS. The last time I looked at a map was when I was orienteering leader for the day during an Outward Bound trip in college—let's just say it didn't end well. The problem with Google and GPS is that they often take you on a circuitous or downright absurd route, one you would never have chosen for yourself if you were familiar with the area. However, once you make enough wrong turns and familiarize yourself with your new city, navigating once again will become second nature. Pro tip: intentionally get lost somewhere and see if you can navigate your way out. Consistently relying on a computer is a crutch that will ultimately delay your ultimate goal of becoming self-reliant.

You'll most likely experience multiple conflicting emotions when you move to a new city. The key is to embrace the good parts and look at the less than desirable elements as an opportunity for growth. Except for the actual move. That's a nightmare no matter what. Just reward yourself with a big ole glass of wine when it's done and call it a night.

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).


You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker