One Month in a New City

WWII and Washington Monument

Friday marked one month since I moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C. – my first time living outside of the Midwest in my entire life. Here’s a look at how it’s gone.

First up, the move itself.

I wasn’t bringing any furniture with me to D.C., so I didn’t think it made sense to hire movers at an enormous cost. My new employer provided a signing bonus to cover some of my moving costs, but I still wanted to be frugal about it. As a result, I ended up renting a mini-van that my parents and I drove from Chicago to D.C. with my two cats over the course of two days right after Christmas.

As it turned out, I overestimated how much I could fit into that mini-van (which was half the cost of a full-sized van), so I ended up shipping a few boxes by UPS. My dad took the boxes to the UPS Store while I did the final cleaning of my condo and when I learned how cheap it was, I wished I had shipped more! Oh well. We got a late start out of Chicago, which got even later due to an ice storm – the first really bad weather in Chicago all winter! What should have been a three-hour drive to Indianapolis took six hours! We stopped in Dayton, Ohio overnight and then luckily continued on in clear weather to D.C. the next day, driving through Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and arriving in D.C. early evening on December 29. One of my biggest fears of the move was how the cats would do on the long car ride and staying over in a hotel, but they were great. They barely meowed during the drive or in the hotel and they seemed to get a kick out of exploring both.

cats in window
The cats love staring out the window – at what, I’m not sure since I’m in a basement unit and all they can really see are rocks and leaves.
cats and washer
Both my friends and the cats seems to be obsessed with my combo washer/dryer. Common in Europe, not so common in the US. And easy entertainment for cats!

Getting settled

I had about five days to get as settled as possible before starting my new job on January 4. I had ordered a bed to arrive the day after I moved in and took advantage of the rented mini-van to take a massive trip to Target to stock up on large items that I wouldn’t want to deal with later – like a living room rug, garbage cans and shelving. I live just a 15-20-minute walk from the only Target in D.C. and ended up spending a lot of time there my first week in the city! I also trekked out to Ikea in College Park, Maryland to order a TV stand, coffee table, dresser and desk and those were all delivered and assembled on Sunday. So by the time I started work, all that was really missing was my couch from Crate & Barrel, which arrived the following weekend (and which fit through my door fairly easily – I was terrified that it wouldn’t!).

On the other hand, I wasted more than five hours waiting for my cable and internet to be booked up on New Year’s Eve and dealt with various challenges with the management company for my apartment building – all of which led to more stress than I would have liked!

Nonetheless, within about ten days of arriving, I felt pretty well settled. Indeed, this is the first time since I left for my career break in August 2011 that I have an apartment full of my own things (as opposed to random stuff I bought on Craigslist). It feels like home.

living room

living room and kitchen



Starting a new job

Of course, moving to a new city and starting a new job at the same time is not exactly a stress-free endeavor. That said, things have been off to a great start with my new job. The work is completely different from what I had been doing for the past seven years, so it is both challenging and fun. I really like my new co-workers and there are so many fun perks – like access to National Geographic’s massive guidebook library and regular presentations from explorers and scientists about the amazing projects they’re working on. And then just three weeks into my new gig, I was on the road already, taking a multi-day trip to Portland, Oregon (a new state for me!) and Seattle, Washington.

I have also been savoring the fact that, thanks to my shorter commute and shorter work hours, I get to sleep in an hour later (but still have time to do yoga in the morning!) and get home from work an hour earlier than I ever did in Chicago. My first day, I got home at 5:30 p.m. and I didn’t know what to do with myself!

Not in Chicago anymore

I have had several “I’m not in Chicago anymore” moments since moving to D.C. The most obvious one is weather-related. It is completely true that D.C. cannot handle snow – at all. While the whole country was watching as we got socked with nearly two feet of snow last week (I missed it all as I was in Portland at the time), two nights before that storm, we got just an inch of snow and the city completely shut down. Highway exits iced over and were closed, backing up traffic for miles. Hour-long commutes somehow turned into nine hours! And then when the storm hit, it took days for the city to return to normal – the Metro closed for two days (something that is inconceivable in Chicago), many schools closed for an entire week and the government and many businesses were closed the Monday and Tuesday after the storm, even though cleanup started early Sunday morning.

To add some perspective, growing up in Minnesota, I can recall about three snow days my entire life – a couple during blizzards in 1982 and 1983 and one for the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. I can recall a single day off while I was at the University of Iowa for a major ice storm and two days off for the Snowpocalypse of 2011 (which brought more snow in 24 hours than D.C. saw with this storm), as well as a couple days off work for cold (think below zero temps and -30 to -40 wind chills) during the Polar Vortex in 2014. But that’s it.

I returned from my work trip five days after the storm and was expecting the worst, but at least downtown and in my neighborhood, sidewalks seemed amazingly clear (like so clear I would have killed for them while living in Chicago). Nonetheless, my running group cancelled our long run yesterday morning due to “dangerous “conditions. I ran the route anyway on my own and couldn’t help but think of the winters I spent running in Chicago over snow and ice, often packed several inches deep. Again, I would have celebrated sidewalks as clear as the ones in D.C., yet my new running partners thought they were too dangerous.

A mostly clean sidewalk on Saturday – a week after the snowstorm.

Another major difference from Chicago? The diversity of the city. While Chicago is arguably diverse, it is incredibly segregated, a fact that has stood out to me even more so since living in DC. Whether I am riding the Metro, walking to work or shopping around my neighborhood, I see a much wider variety of ethnicities and hear a wider array of languages being spoken everywhere I go than I ever did in Chicago. And while I always boasted of Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods (Chinatown, Ukrainian Village, Pilsen, Lincoln Square, Andersonville, Devon Avenue, etc.) and ethnic cuisine, in D.C., it all seems to be mixed together. For example, within just a few blocks of my apartment, I can choose from Indian, West African, Mexican, Mediterranean, French, Nepalese, Italian, Cuban, Japanese, Brazilian, Vietnamese, Peruvian and Italian cuisine – not to mention a few pizza places, a gluten-free bakery, an all-night diner and a couple fast food spots.

What about those 2016 goals?

As I wrote about in my New Year’s post, I saw moving to a new city as an opportunity to start some new habits and I set a number of goals for the upcoming year.

So far, I would say I am about 50/50 on those. I stopped drinking Diet Coke the day I arrived in D.C. and haven’t touched it since. I have also walked to and from work every day, even as the temperatures dropped into the teens (not a big deal for this Midwestern girl!). I have not been so good about avoiding processed food – while I have more free time to cook for myself, I have to admit, I just really don’t enjoy it at all. Even the “simplest” recipes I find are not as simple and quick as I would like! That said, I have dropped about six pounds since January 1, which is great.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had a chance to explore more of the city beyond my shopping trips and some get-togethers with friends. My main goal for February will be to start checking off some of the items in my 100 Things to Do in Washington, D.C. Before You Die and Walking Around Washington, D.C. books – stay tuned!

Have you moved to a new city as an adult? How did you adjust?

9 thoughts on “One Month in a New City”

  1. In 2012 me and my husband decided that Austin is two small for us and decided to move overseas to London! We live here for four years now and we still enjoy being here. It was very difficult to move. First we had to sell all our furniture, the house, the appliances… and so on. We traveled with really little luggage because we had plans to buy everything we need from London. 🙂 Good luck with settling at the new place!

  2. That’s a great idea to rent a mini-van to move if you aren’t taking furniture. I am about to do the same thing. New move and new job. Except, I’m moving back to Hawaii! Glad you are settling in nicely!!

  3. When I was 25, I moved from Philadelphia to St. Louis after several years being in a long distance relationship. That was a huge change for me, as I had never owned a car or lived in the suburbs before. We just moved back to Philly, so it’s home for me, but I never lived downtown before.

    I wanted to ask you about the combination washer/dryer in your picture. I want to replace what we have in our condo – one unit containing both a washer and dryer, but the space is so small. Do you like having the combined one? How long does it take to do a full load?

    Thanks. And congrats on having your home so decorated already. We’ve been here since September and barely have any artwork up yet.

    1. Definitely pros and cons to the combo unit. On the plus side, it goes straight from washing to drying so you don’t have to remember to get up when the washer is done and then put everything in the dryer (which is something I would constantly do before – I would put a load in the washer and totally forget about it!). On the other hand, it doesn’t hold as much as a standard full size washer/dryer so I have to do laundry more often. How long a load takes depends on how heavy it is (so if you have a load full of towels and jeans it will take much longer than a load of underwear and socks). On average, I would say about 3 hours total for each load. Sometimes I stop it mid-way and take out the heavier items to hang to dry instead of drying them fully.

  4. Sounds like you are settling in nicely and your apartment looks great.

    I just moved to Santa Cruz, CA from Brooklyn, NYC. It is a HUGE difference and I still feel like I am in vacation mode. I am so excited to explore California. It is beautiful here and the mild weather is a big change for me too.

    Best of luck!

  5. Sounds like your new life is great. Gosh, I can’t wait for the day when I can walk to work. It seems like such a nice, refreshing thing to do before battling your day. Also, your apartment is super cute. I love your style.

  6. I’ve moved so much in my life, that it really doesn’t faze me anymore. The last big move 13 years agao, was from southern California to NYC (where I lived once before in my 20s), and I’m here for life, unless I move to Europe (though that would likely be only part-time).

    It sounds like your move was generally pretty smooth, and I love your apartment! It looks very cozy and homey. And your cats were troupers, a relief, I’m sure! (I am reminded how I once turned down an apartment because the cats’ view would be a cement slab and garbage cans.)

    Enjoy the fabulousness of DC – and your job sounds amazing!

  7. Your place looks great! Moving to a new city and starting a new job can be a fun but anxious experience. I moved to Seattle from California for a job – the hardest part was adjusting to the weather. I stayed at several places before settling down in my own house so my place didn’t look anything like what you have here. Actually, it took me close to 8 years to furnish my place lol.

  8. Sounds like a great start to a new home! Your apartment looks great, and I especially like your travel-themed shower curtain. I always thought DC was far enough north to be better equipped to handle snow. Atlanta can’t handle it at all, which seems ridiculous on the surface, until you remember that it’s not cost effective at all for the city to have the equipment necessary to deal with snow when it happens so rarely. I guess DC isn’t too far off from that. Anyway, I’m so glad to hear things are mostly going well for you in DC and at the new job! (BTW I like the new look of your site!)

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