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Whether you're moving across the country or to a suburb 30 minutes away, you'll go through an adjustment period following your move. Particularly if you've moved to another state, you'll face the initial uncertainty of knowing absolutely nothing about where the "important" landmarks are: the nearest grocery store, the pharmacy, the gas station, the library, the supercenter that carries your necessary household cleaning items, and of course, the all-important movie-rental store, coffee house, movie theater and mall.

Once you've located the basics, you'll want to expand your horizons and get to know your new hometown's cultural offerings. Where do you start? What's worth your time, and what isn't? Some newcomers remain hermits in their own homes for several months before they begin to take the initiative and venture out. The fact is that the sooner you begin to explore your new hometown, the sooner you'll establish a comfort level in your surroundings, and the more positive your experience is going to be. Moving to a new hometown is like any other new experience in life: You get out of it what you put into it. Don't waste any time getting to know your new hometown. In fact, you can start becoming acclimated long before the move.

As soon as possible, call the local convention and visitors' bureau, as well as the local chamber of commerce, in your new hometown. Most have their own Web sites, so you may also contact them online. Order yourself a free visitors' guide that provides maps, local demographics, phone numbers of the local police department and fire station, and phone numbers for local clubs.

Your visitors' guide also outlines all of the major cultural attractions in your new hometown, as well as important landmarks like restaurants, movie theaters, neighborhoods and districts, schools and libraries and retail centers, among other points of interest.

Note, however, that visitors' guides are designed to promote tourism. What you won't find in such guides is the vital information that could save your life - for example, which neighborhoods to avoid after dark, and/or crime statistics by neighborhood and/or district.

If you're moving to a major city or one of its surrounding suburbs, you're in luck. You have the advantage of finding numerous books about your new hometown at your local bookstore. Many of the visitors' guides on bookstore shelves today take on an "insider's" view and offer frank discussions on what's worth your time in your new hometown and what isn't, as well as the areas from which you should steer clear. You can also pick up detailed maps at your bookstore, many of which have "interactive" features such as landmarks and notations indicating places of importance (schools, grocery stores, fire stations, etc.).

After you've arrived in your new hometown, you'll want to hit the streets with your map in hand, seeing with your own eyes the various landmarks depicted on your map. What appears logical on a map is often completely illogical when you attempt to navigate the area by car or on foot. There's nothing worse than discovering your first day on the job or on your kids' first day of school that some of those streets on the map you purchased are one-way streets, or perhaps they're closed off due to construction. Practice beforehand the routes you'll be taking on a daily basis.

If you're a church- or synagogue-goer and plan to continue the practice in your new hometown, get online, and research places of worship in your area. If you locate one you'd like to attend, contact the church/synagogue ahead of time to find out if it offers a newcomers' organization. Such groups can offer a tremendous source of support and information. Volunteerism - either through the church or independently - also is an excellent way to become acquainted with your new community.

Parents have another outlet for developing new relationships within their new hometowns. Kids who have been active in sports, academic or other extracurricular organizations, and who want to resume the practice, provide their parents with an outlet for meeting other parents. If your children haven't characteristically been "joiners," encourage them to do so now - it's one of the easiest ways to enmesh themselves in their new hometown and establish a sense of familiarity.

One of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of moving is the sense that we've lost control - over our surroundings, our daily patterns and our comfort zones. Our sense of familiarity is gone. You can help regain a sense of control over your new environment - and help your fellow family members do the same - by digging for as much information as possible before, during and immediately after your move. Don't allow yourself time to "adjust" after you arrive in your new home. Plunge into your new environment. You won't regret it.


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