Four years ago, I was a brand new military wife and I had just traded the palm trees and tacos of a small California surf town for the cobblestone streets and clam chowder of an East Coast island town. I may still have been on US soil, but moving to our first duty station as a new Navy spouse, everything felt so strange and different that I might as well have been halfway across the world.
Moving to a new duty station always takes some adjustment, but there are a few proactive steps any military wife can take in order to make it feel more familiar almost instantly. Ready to stop feeling like a stranger at your new duty station? Here are four fun and foolproof ways for military spouses to feel at home in an unfamiliar location!
Walk It Out
Prioritize walking over driving for the first few weeks. It’s an entertaining and efficient way to take in all that your new scene has to offer, as well as meet the residents who know where to find the hidden gems and local hotspots.
Walking slows you down and gives you the opportunity to see things you wouldn’t otherwise, like flyers for local events posted in shop windows or sidewalk signs advertising local discounts and seasonal promotions. You may stumble upon your new favorite coffee shop or a charming farmer’s market.
I’ll be the first to admit that Yelp is one of my favorite ways to find great places in a new location, but it certainly doesn’t replace the value of exploring a new locale myself. The point is, you never know what you may find or who you may meet, and taking in a new location on foot makes it feel more familiar much faster than asking Siri from the front seat of your car.
One of our walks through Newport, RI | Photo by Bree Vasquez
Get Tech Savvy
Social media is a rich resource for military wives on the move. Joining a military spouse Facebook group is like having thousands of knowledgeable friends at your fingertips.
Use these groups to post anything ranging from, “Favorite pediatrician at Balboa Hospital?” to “Best breakfast in Newport?” You’ll receive helpful tips about your new location in minutes from wives who have been there.
Make Some Holes
Don’t hesitate to decorate! It’s hard to feel at home in a maze of boxes and white walls. Even if you are stationed somewhere for a short time, creating a cozy space helps enormously in making a new place feel like home and creates a sense of continuity for military kids.
Our last move took us from a modern style town home to a 1940’s stand alone, but a fresh coat of paint, curtains, and some familiar decor made it feel like home almost instantly. Want another trick for creating continuity between living spaces? Have a signature scent for your home. I have a “wild current” candle that I burned often in our last home, and the first time we burned it in our new place, it flooded the space with a sense of familiarity.
Find Your People
Seek out others with similar interests. Join a book club, the local gym, find your local church, or become a part of a military spouse group like “The Fun Bunch,” which is specific to Supply Corps spouses. If there isn’t one in your area, consider starting one!
When I first moved to Newport as a new military wife, my pregnancy was the largest thing looming on my mind, and I was lucky to find another military wife who was at the same stage that I was. She even ended up delivering her little one on my original due date! Having that mutual connection and friendship through such a challenging time and in a new location was priceless to me.
So if you want to make your new duty station feel like home, don’t be afraid to tackle it on foot, access your online resources, and pull out the home decor. But in the end, remember that regardless of where the military sends you, forming genuine, lasting connections will always remain the surest way of making a new duty station feel like home.
This article originally appeared in The Oakleaf.