Living somewhere for a while means having your favorites at your fingertips. You know where to get your hair cut, a go-to date night restaurant and the best coffee shop for when you're running late.
Then comes a permanent change-of-station (PCS) move -- and you have to start all over. You start by settling into your new house and memorizing which switch turns on the garbage disposal and which one turns on the lights over the sink. Now, it's time to find your new favorites.
In some ways, we have this easier today than the military spouses who came before us thanks to the internet and social media. We can easily connect with friends or even friends of friends to get a list of recommendations, or join a Facebook group and start asking questions before we even arrive.
Even so, there's no true replacement for figuring things out for yourself. For me, my top five things to find are a good gym, the library, a local coffee shop, a church and a good sitter. Yours may involve child care, the closest Target, a hair salon or a specialty doctor. Whatever is on your list, you're going to have to do some research.
Here are a few tips to make finding your new favorites just a little bit easier.
Step 1: Make a list of what you need. When thinking about what you want to find, consider what you need. Start with those things -- actual needs. A dentist and a doctor fall into the "needs" category. Coffee shops and playgrounds, on the other hand, are wants (... sort of). So start with the needs and, when you're feeling less overwhelmed, you can add in some of the fun things.
Step 2: Figure out what you liked, and disliked, about your old favorites. Consistency can be comforting, especially when you're missing what you left behind. We want our new gym to have exactly what our old gym had. But that doesn't usually happen. And if you stop and think about it, there were probably some things you didn't love about your old favorites -- you just learned to overlook them. So when looking for a new place, consider what you liked and disliked from the last favorite and compare those to the new options.
Step 3: Gather some options. Out of sheer desperation, we often just go with the first thing we find. Sure, that place takes Tricare, they have an opening, we didn't hate it -- let's make that our new place. But that's not a great long-term strategy and could lead to problems later. Avoid the future problem by gathering a few options now. Look at proximity to your house, hours and even reviews online. Don't weigh any one part heavier than the others, but have a few options.
Step 4: Try them out. Even if your best friend or your mom recommended a hairdresser, you may not mesh with them. You might find the dentist you picked to be 30 minutes from your house and closed on school holidays.
Sometimes, you have to drive around and actually try things out before switching. And it's OK to change your mind. Often, I think that, after putting in the effort and going to one dental appointment, it's just not worth transferring again, even if I didn't like it. We're going to move anyway, right? But then three years pass, you're staying at that duty station and you still don't like the dentist.
Save yourself the pain and make the switch early rather than later
In my experience, the silver lining to favorites shopping is that, once I find one new favorite, I usually find the rest. For example, once I find the library, chances are I'll also meet fellow book lovers and find a book club -- or meet other parents and get the information on a good playground. That snowballs into asking parents I meet for recommendations about which pediatric dentist is best, getting recommendations on dance studios or karate academies, and following that up with restaurant ideas.
It all falls into place.
Keep Up with the Ins and Outs of Military Life
For the latest military news and tips on military family benefits and more, subscribe to Military.com and have the information you need delivered directly to your inbox.