I am Looking for a New Life. Where Should I Move to Start Over?

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Life can be messy, and the allure of newness often makes moving a path for those seeking a fresh start. A complete change of scenery, new friends, house, job, community, and weekend hangout spots, can bring a sense of excitement for those who’ve come to associate their current city with a feeling of malaise. Or perhaps you’re facing a cost of living move. Regardless of the reason, those who decide a new beginning is right for them will face two big questions: Where should I move to start over? What should I look for in a new city?

In this post, we’ll look at recent trends, the reasons people move for a fresh start, how they can determine if it’s the right decision, where to move, and how to consult with experts on what should be considered first.

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Relocation considerations when starting over

According to a recent study by the home improvement website This Old House, 82% of Americans are interested in getting a fresh start. Respondents said economic uncertainty, inflation rates, and overall job dissatisfaction are pressing factors that have them seeking changes in several areas of their lives, including:

  • Careers
  • Lifestyles
  • Relationships
  • Personal development

For those Americans seeking a fresh start, obtaining financial freedom was the top reason cited (63%), followed by a desire to meet new people (45%) and wanting to reinvent themselves (38%).

Where they live and housing affordability also played critical roles in people’s desire for a clean slate. 23% of respondents said, “I don’t like where I live”, and 16% said, “I can’t afford where I currently live or my current lifestyle.”

What qualities make a city a good place to start over?

According to the study, affordability ranked No.1 on the list. Here are the 15 qualities that respondents said make a city a good place to start fresh, according to the This Old House report:

Where should I move to start over?

If you’re wondering where the grass might truly be greener to replant yourself, the study found that the top 10 best U.S. cities for a fresh start include:

  • #1: Raleigh, North Carolina
  • #2: Austin, Texas
  • #3: Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • #4: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • #5: Charlotte, North Carolina
  • #6: Jacksonville, Florida
  • #7: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • #8: Richmond, Virginia
  • #9: San Antonio, Texas
  • #10: New Orleans, Louisiana

The 10 worst cities for a fresh start were cited as:

  • #50: Los Angeles, California
  • #49: Miami, Florida
  • #48: Chicago, Illinois
  • #47: New York, New York
  • #46: Riverside, California
  • #45: San Diego, California
  • #44: Hartford, Connecticut
  • #43: Boston, Massachusetts
  • #42: Providence, Rhode Island
  • #41: Denver, Colorado

To see how each of these cities ranked in all areas, such as affordability, rent prices, crime rates, air quality, parks and trails, and unemployment, visit the study results page on thisoldhouse.com. You can also see a list of their honorable mention cities. (We’ll provide a few more city suggestions later in this post.)

According to Florida real estate agent Jose Calvo, Jacksonville isn’t the only Florida city that is attracting people looking for a new start. He has seen a large influx of people coming to Palm Beach County from all over the country. Many are seeking to downsize in a state with lower taxes, Calvo says.

For others, their fresh start city may not be on some study list. Small business entrepreneur Jordan Hobfollhere and his family decided to move from Des Moines to Burlington, Vermont, to create their new beginning for other reasons. “My general philosophy is change is good and new places allow us all to grow,” he says.

Yet, moving can be a stressful experience, especially with children and, starting over somewhere new can have a long-term impact on one’s life trajectory as well as mental health implications. Thus, a hefty amount of personal reflection and research to ensure the best outcome is a prime ingredient for a successful relocation.

Why do people move to start over?

We mentioned financial freedom was the top reason survey respondents cited in one fresh-start study, but you may have any number of motivating factors for seeking a new beginning. You might be balancing needs and wants, and you’re finding that moving to a new place doesn’t necessarily fall neatly in either category. The idea of moving for a fresh start may arise from nuanced situations, or from emotionally charged life changes. These might include:

  • Failed relationships
  • Death of a loved one
  • Untimely or unjust job loss
  • Personal safety concerns
  • Criminal conviction (against you or a family member)

Scenarios like these can prompt a flight response in someone wanting to flee a negative situation and turn over a new leaf in a new community. However, according to licensed clinical psychologist Angel Faith Psy.D, unless it’s an unsafe or unhealthy situation, it’s better to conduct an assessment to ensure that the move is about finding positive change in a new place and not just about trying to escape from something.

Is a fresh start really necessary?

Determining whether starting over in a new place is the right decision takes a great deal of inner work, especially if there are complex factors at play. For example, moving to create distance from a troublesome ex-partner might mean you’ll never accidentally run into that person while running errands again, but if you have children together you’ll have to consider how the decision will impact them. It’s also possible that by next year you’ll no longer be bothered by chance encounters.

In addition to getting therapy, Faith advises individuals weighing difficult relocation options to write their thoughts and feelings in a journal, create a list of pros and cons, and get feedback from trusted loved ones for a clearer assessment of the situation.

“It’s important to be careful about expectations, and make sure that the reason for the move is not to run away from something but instead to create something new and desirable,” Faith says. “The goal is to be intentional rather than having too high expectations that moving will be a quick fix.”

Moving can present new life opportunities

Once motivations and expectations are clear, moving to a new place can open up opportunities for people in multiple areas of life. For example, if you love nature but have always lived in an urban environment, moving to a less populated area could give you more access to the great outdoors and result in increased happiness and stress relief.

If live music is your passion but shows in your area are a rarity, setting up in a new city with a lively music scene could add the desired melody that’s been missing, leading to a well-rounded life. On a more somber note, if the death of a loved one has filled your current location with the constant specter of loss, a fresh environment could help lighten the grieving process.

Whatever the circumstances, and for better or worse, people are moving more than in the past. However, it’s not a light decision but one that needs thorough analysis. Otherwise, a chronic internal issue just may end up following you to the next destination.

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What to consider when deciding on the best place to start over

Moving inevitably involves trade-offs, and there’s no such thing as the perfect place. Every city or town has its advantages and disadvantages, which are ultimately subjective. Despite being settled in a place you love, changes in your finances, health, or family circumstances may mean you can’t stay. However, Faith says you can find a new place and work to make it feel like home. You may find a city that’s much more affordable in a place that’s still somewhat reminiscent of your origins, but this may entail an adjustment period.

When deciding on the right place to settle down, Faith advises people to think about their lifestyle and what places could accommodate it based on factors like:

  • Weather that fits your lifestyle and health condition
  • Availability of desired social activities
  • Proximity to nature or parks
  • Affordability based of your projected income
  • Job and volunteer opportunities
  • Distance from family support, friends and loved ones
  • Distance from those that might be corrosive or harmful in their life
  • Presence of preferred faith community
  • Access to the things that make you feel happy or secure
  • Presence of like-minded people

She encourages people to be proactive about finding community.

“I think it’s important to go visit the city for a couple of days,” Faith says. “Explore, go to some restaurants, talk to people, find your favorite coffee shop. Take notes or journal about the experience.”

It’s also vital to be proactive about finding a potential community. Harnessing the internet with social media and online meetup groups can offer a sense of the type of people you’ll meet in the city and help establish a network early in the process.

More cities that might be good for a fresh start

Looking for a city with top mental health care? Consider:

  • Denver, Colorado – named the best city for mental health care in a recent CertaPet study, Denver has an abundance of quality providers, strong community well-being metrics and affordable therapists

Looking for a city that’s affordable? Consider:

  • Huntsville, Alabama – if things have gone south financially, head to Huntsville for housing costs well below the national average. It’s also a fast growing metro with a robust job market

Want access to nature? Consider:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada – with its nearly 30 acres of publicly accessible open space per capita, Las Vegas recently ranked the best city in the U.S. for outdoor recreation (including the scenic Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area)

Seeking serenity? Consider:

  • Green Banks, West Virginia – if you want to truly unplug Green Banks is a no cell phone zone with a quiet, rural atmosphere

Need safety? Consider:

  • Nashua, New Hampshire – ranked the safest city in the U.S. in 2023, Nashua is also rated at one of the best overall places to live in the state, according to Niche

Looking for a city with great beaches? Consider:

  • Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii – known as a surfers paradise, Oahu is nonetheless quiet offering an idyllic island charm

Want a city with a great overall quality of life? Consider:

  • Ann Arbor, Michigan – recently ranked No. 1 for quality of life, Ann Arbor is a city that offers good schools, a diverse job market, many parks, low crime rates, an eclectic culture and relatively affordable homes

Deciding not to relocate

After itching for a location change to remedy some adverse challenge in life, deciding to stay put can demonstrate a high degree of self-awareness and fortitude. However, just because you’ve decided that moving across the country won’t necessarily solve your problems doesn’t mean you can’t get a fresh start. Simply moving to a new neighborhood in your current city could grant a needed change of scenery, make it less likely you’ll run into the ex or create some distance from undesirable influences.

After a lengthy process of vetting cities, there might be good reason to put off or cancel a move. The scenery and access to the great outdoors of Alaska may seem perfect during a summer visit, but if you have a history of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the long winters may be wise to forgo. If your desire to get out of dodge is rooted in a past trauma, you may end up finding a support group in your current town that provides lasting connections and a sense of community in shared experiences.

If you decide to keep your feet planted, Faith advises other ways to start fresh like picking up a hobby, finding a new job, expanding your social network, going back to school or just taking a class as some of the many ways to reset your trajectory.

Taking the next step to starting over

With all of life’s twists and turns, there comes a time when just about everyone seeks renewal. Moving to a new place is one of the most powerful ways to bring about change in life but it’s not the solution to all problems. And in today’s highly mobile atmosphere, it’s easy to conclude that there are greener pastures elsewhere. There are many sound reasons to live in a new place; however, the essential question is whether the motivating factor is truly something that can be addressed by starting over somewhere new.

If you’ve taken the necessary time to research and ponder the reasons and benefits of moving — and the decision to relocate feels like the right move — the next step is to partner with the right agent. HomeLight’s Agent Match tool analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs. The service is 100% free, with no catch. Agents don’t pay us to be listed, so you get the best match when you are ready to start your new beginning.

Header Image Source: ( Nathan Queloz / Unsplash)