Someone once told me that moving is one of the hardest experiences in a person’s life. After some quick fact checking, I learned that this is actually a gross exaggeration. A change in residence only nets 20 points on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, while the death of a spouse scores a 100. Nevertheless, moving tends to be tiresome, expensive, and tedious. I can vouch because I’ve moved eight times in eight years. Since 2009, I’ve moved between eight different residences, three different cities, and two different states. Fortunately, hindsight is 20/20, and I have eight years of hindsight to share.

From High School to College

My first move was the hardest. After graduating from high school, I left home for the big city. In New Mexico, the big city was only three hours away from my hometown, but that felt like an eternity when I was eighteen. As a self-admitted daddy's girl, the biggest challenge was losing my safety net. This isolation combined with my feelings of stress and exhaustion led me to withdraw from the few people I did know. This was around the same time that someone said “moving is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life.”

Anyway, over the last eight years I’ve learned to plug into popular social activities instead of spending the days at home. Now, I use websites like Yelp and Groupon's Phoenix page to create a list of things to do. Since moving to Phoenix in January, I’ve hiked up Camelback Mountain with coworkers, gotten drunk at Culinary Dropout (also with coworkers), and caught Pokemon with complete strangers at a local park.

From Mountain to Desert

Relocating from Albuquerque to Phoenix wasn’t as difficult as my first move, but it still hasn’t been easy. I left Albuquerque in a hurry. I interviewed, quit my job, packed up, and moved in less than a month. As a result, I didn’t do enough research about the cost of living in Phoenix. As the fifth largest city in the nation, Phoenix’s housing costs are lower than those of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. However, Phoenix is also one of the hottest cities in the nation, and air conditioning comes at a price.

Over the summer, the electric company imposes surge pricing during the hottest part of the day. Between the hours of 12:00 and 7:00 PM, electricity costs three times more than the rest of the day. During my first June in the city, my electric bill increased by more than one hundred dollars. By July, it shot up another hundred. Don’t get me wrong. Air conditioning is worth the cost, but it would have been nice to know about surge charges before moving to “the Valley of the Sun.” Next time I decide to move to a new state, I’ll use a cost of living calculator to compare housing, utility, and health costs. I’ve also learned to look at social sites like Reddit for frank advice and recommendations.

From New Mexico to Arizona

Despite my air conditioning troubles, my move to Phoenix has been a positive experience. I love the culture of New Mexico, and I miss my family, but it’s also one of the poorest states in the country and one of the worst places to raise a child. While Phoenix’s job growth is low compared to other cities, 2016 finished up with an unemployment rate of 4.8%, the lowest since the recession. I’m a writer by trade, and I’ve had little trouble finding both freelance and employment opportunities. Though, the pay is less than I would have hoped.

Phoenix is also bigger than I imagined it would be. I visited the area before I moved, but I underestimated the traffic as well as the sheer size of the Phoenix metro area. I, personally, live in Phoenix proper, but I’ve driven for over an hour to places in the same city! My partner also made the mistake of accepting a job in a neighboring suburb. As a result, she drives for nearly 45 minutes to work and back. My advice? Find an apartment near your place of work, and take a year to explore the rest of the metro area. After you get the lay of the land, you can start looking for a forever home.

From Home to Home

It’s been six months since I moved to Phoenix, and I’m finally starting to feel at “home” in my apartment. While I still have unopened boxes, I’m starting to learn that stuff is just stuff, and homes will change as new adventures arise. A new city may not feel like home when you get there, but give it time. This time, it only took me 14 scrabble games, 210 cups of tea, and 6 seasons of Mad Men.