Creating Topophilia: How to Fall in Love with a New Place

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There’s no denying the fact that moving is an emotional affair. On top of leaving behind what’s comfortable and familiar, you’re starting things anew. Depending on your preferences, personality and reasons for moving, that can be exciting, scary or even sad.  

It can be all of those things at once. 

Falling for a new place is not unlike falling in love. For some, it takes time. For others, it’s love at first sight. Whether that bond with your environment — that sense of belonging — comes fast or over time, give yourself grace. Because when you know, you’ll know.  

Topophilia is a powerful thing. Coined by the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan of the University of Wisconsin in 1974, it’s defined as the affective bond with one’s environment — a person’s mental, emotional and cognitive sense of place. 

It’s knowing your home is exactly where it’s supposed to be. 

When a Place No Longer Feels Like Home 

The last few years led many of us to reevaluate where we live, why we live there and if it’s time for something new. Like any relationship, things change. People grow and change.  

When that happens, you may find yourself longing for something else.  

Maybe you went on a vacation and discovered a new, more fulfilling way of life. Perhaps you fell in — or out of — love with your partner or lost someone you love. A child may even be on the way.  

Whether you’re feeling landlocked or out of place; family and friends who anchored you moved away; or you’re living in a situation not of your choosing, your residence or location may no longer fit. 

But where do you begin? Start by evaluating your priorities. Whether you wish to move from a big city to a midsized one; long for an ocean or mountain lifestyle; or want a better school district for your kids, make a list of the pros and cons associated with changing your abode.  

Next, research the states and cities that check your boxes and spend some time exploring and “being in” your top contenders. That way, you can experience the people and pace of daily life firsthand. 

Understanding — and Making Good on — Topophilia 

This could be the year for a new beginning — the year you move where your heart, soul and body are meant to reside.  

Close your eyes. Picture, smell, hear and all-but-feel it: The sound of crashing waves, the crunch of autumnal leaves beneath your feet, an undulating landscape visible from your kitchen window, the scent of fresh-baked pie wafting through your log cabin home. 

When your current abode no longer fulfills you and you’re able to make a change, prioritizing your happiness — your human connection to a place — is key. Phrases like “time flies,” “there’s no time like the present” and “if not, now when” certainly ring true. 

Make the leap and odds are, you’ll be happy you did. 

Establishing a Sense of Place  

When you’ve lived somewhere a long time, it’s often hard to leave. You’ve made memories there. You’ve laughed, cried and celebrated milestones.  

Don’t be hard on yourself if you feel homesick, or if things don’t “click” right away. Remind yourself you’re moving — or moved — to improve your life in some way. 

Establishing a sense of topophilia may take time. 

Coping With the Loss of Topophilia During a Move 

Although it’s a fresh start filled with new adventures, you must also say goodbye to places, people and things you held dear. 

That’s why it’s so important to find new spots and experiences that spark joy. Check out nearby parks, shops, restaurants, libraries or places of worship. Take different routes to work or school each day to uncover hidden gems. 

Some spots may become quick favorites, while others may grow on you over time. The important thing is getting out and making new discoveries. 

Familiarity Breeds Contentment 

The more you explore your new surroundings, the more familiar and comfortable they will feel. Take regular walks or drives and pay attention to details. Notice the big oak tree on the corner, the bakery that smells like fresh bread or the chirping of birds when you stroll through the park. Pleasing places become anchors, helping to orient us and fostering familiarity. 

Need some inspiration? Our state and city guides can help you find ways to feel at home. 

Engage Your Senses 

What do you see, hear, smell and feel around you?  Strike up a conversation with someone at your local coffee shop. Cook a meal with local ingredients. Sensory details and human connections build attachment. 

Explore Local History 

Research your new town or neighborhood. Check out historic sites, museums, archives and libraries. Learning about important local people, events and stories from the past can help you appreciate your location in a deeper way.  

Create New Routines and Memories 

The places where we carry out daily rituals and make cherished memories become dear. Whether it’s a weekly trip to the farmers market or a monthly meetup with new friends at a favorite restaurant, perusing hobbies and activities bond you with your new home.  

Immerse Yourself in Your New Neighborhood 

Take walks or bike rides around your neighborhood to acquaint yourself with what’s nearby. Finding your favorites spots will make the area feel more familiar and welcoming. Check if there are any community events like festivals, farmers markets or concerts and make a point to attend them. 

Decorate With Local Flair 

Incorporate home decor that reflects the character of your new location. Things like art, photos, souvenirs featuring local landmarks or items from nature help create a sense of place. If you live near mountains, a beach or a lake, use natural elements like wood, stone or shells to bring the outdoors in. Shop at stores that support local makers and artists to anchor you to your new locale. 

Learn About Local History 

Read books about the area, follow local historical societies on social media or take a guided tour. Understanding the backstory of a place, even if you didn’t experience it firsthand, builds connection and appreciation for where you are. 

Meet Your Neighbors 

Introduce yourself to neighbors and people in your community. Strike up conversations with others at local hangouts like coffee shops, parks or places of worship. Join neighborhood groups on NextDoor or Facebook, or look for local clubs and organizations to get involved in. Developing relationships with people who share the place you live will make it feel like home. 

Join Local Groups 

Search online for local social groups, meetups or organizations focused on your hobbies, interests or causes you care about. Joining a community group is a great way to find like-minded people, make new friends and feel involved in your town or city. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there— everyone else in the group was new at some point too. 

Support Local Businesses 

Frequent nearby stores, shops, cafes and other independently owned businesses. Not only will you be supporting your local economy, but you’ll start to recognize and get to know the owners and staff. Let them know you just moved into the neighborhood —they’ll likely have recommendations and advice for getting settled in the community. 

Attend Local Events 

Check event websites, community center listings, park and recreation department sites, and local organization pages to find events open to the public like festivals, concerts, fundraisers, fitness classes or educational talks. Attending local happenings is an easy way and enriching way to experience the culture of your new place. 

The more you embed yourself in the fabric of your neighborhood, the more at home you’ll feel. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to new people, ask questions about the area, and try new activities or explore unfamiliar places. Making personal connections and building a sense of belonging in your community will turn your new place into a place you love. 

Maintain Your Sense of Self 

Even though you relocated, you don’t have to bury your past. Celebrate it by incorporating beloved memories, objects and traditions into your new beginning. Think of it as the best of both worlds. 

Reflect on the Positives 

It’s easy to dwell on what you miss about your old home. Make a conscious effort to appreciate the positive aspects of your new location. The stunning natural scenery. The vibrant cultural scene. The slower pace of life. Focusing on the upsides will boost your mood and overall outlook. 

While moving to a new city can be challenging, with the right mindset and time to adjust to the change, your new home will reveal its charm. Before you know it, you’ll be navigating the streets like a local, speaking knowledgeably about the history and sharing inside jokes with new friends. Creating topophilia is a journey, not a destination, and it’s an exciting one at that. 

Want more tips on settling into your new home or setting up your new digs? Our blog is filled with ideas to not only simplify and streamline your move but to also help you feel at home. 

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