Jess Toolson has had the unique opportunity to raise her family while living in various countries around the world. Nine years ago, her husband began his career overseas as a professional basketball player. They started out as a newly married couple living in Turkey. “It was such a fun way to start our marriage! Young and on an adventure that made us grow up quickly.” Jess said regarding her experience. Since then they have lived in Italy (where their first son was born), Spain (where their twin daughters were born), Russia, and are currently living in Istanbul, Turkey. She has become an expert on learning how to cope with issues that may arise because of a big move. However, her tips are even inspirational for those who have lived in the same location for years and are looking for a more fulfilling way of life.
Jess describes a broad spectrum of emotions that come as a result of living this lifestyle. The opportunity to open the eyes of her children to the world is exciting to her. She and her family live a life full of exploration and adventure. “Along with these emotions comes the stress of a big move, dealing with loneliness, feeling lost, and HOMESICK!” said Jess. Every transition presents new challenges, but she has learned a lot over the last nine years. The following steps are what she has found helpful to feel at home in a new city:
- Set up your home
The first place that needs to feel the most comfortable is your living space. Exploring can seem fun and immediately starting to adventure through a city is exciting, but feeling joy when you enter the door of your new home will make all the difference. I always start with a trip to Ikea and cook a first meal in my home. We keep our space simple because they are short-term, but creating a sense of “home” and safe space is beneficial in the upcoming months of a new area.
- Find your hobbies
I have always told my husband that if I can have a gym to exercise and just one girlfriend to spend time with while he is away, then I am set for life. Although I wish I could immediately be given a friend, (some years it’s the first person I meet) it doesn’t always happen so quickly. I do have the control and ability to find a place where I can contribute to enjoy my favorite hobby. I find a gym I like and sign-up immediately so I have something to look forward to. It is consistent and gets me “up and at it” on days when I feel overwhelmed with a new, massive city and would rather hide. Get up, get out, enjoy your hobbies and keep doing the things that were previously fun for you!
- Find your people
It is an interesting thing to be dropped into an entirely new culture and wonder how on earth you will ever form your new circle of friends. My main advice? Be proactive! You MUST step out and be willing to put forth your energy into creating relationships. So, what do I do? Find my church group, search for the International Women’s Club, approach and get to know people at the gym, spend time at my children’s school to socialize with parents and so on. It may be exhausting and some efforts won’t pan out how you hoped, but I guarantee if you put the energy into approaching others, then at least one of these people will become your friend. One friend changes everything!
- Be a little bit selfish
I hate this word! What mom would ever say they should be selfish? But, listen on. If I can feel a sense of home and personal comfort in a new area, then I am much more likely to be able to provide that feeling for my family. I tell my husband to give me one week to get my life situated, our home in order, and figure out what I will be doing with my time in Istanbul, Turkey. After that I am fully ready to dive into getting my family taken care of, because I am confident with what I have put together. I have more confidence while meeting my family’s needs because I feel a sense of control in our new area. When I feel established, I feel more bravery and a larger ability to navigate a city while I get my family settled.
- Explore and play tourist
I don’t care if your home is three hours from your previous home, or a 20 hour flight. One of the best ways to find a love for your new home is to vacation, explore, and play tourist in your new city. Look up recommended restaurants, parks, must see sites and so on. Find activities and areas that you love and enjoy what your new home has to offer. Embrace change. If you’re going from suburbia to a city of 15 million, try to find things you like about the change of pace. Falling in love with your new city is easily done through making fun a priority.
The experiences that Jess and her family have had overseas provide inspiration for others who are seeking a more fulfilling life. “Find your space, find your people, and be okay with taking care of your needs first! When you are taken care of, it allows you to quickly create a better situation for your family.” Jess encourages. You will start to really feel at home when you put forth the effort to establish yourself, go out of your way to make friends, and live a life filled with exploration and adventure.
You can follow Jess on Instagram for more motivation and inspiration here: @jesstoolson