Military spouses are so resilient. From enduring deployments and PCS’ing to making new friends, we can survive and thrive through it all. But what do you do when you are stationed somewhere you just don’t love? How do you get out of your funk and make the most of it?
When I was newly married, a fellow military spouse gave me some advice. She told me to give a new duty station six months to really feel like home. That has always held up for me as true. You need time to settle in, set up your house, meet some people, start a job.
She also told me you can always find more things you like about a duty station then you don’t like. That piece of advice I don’t necessarily agree with …. and, after living somewhere she doesn’t like, she takes that back.
I’m all about a positive attitude, making the most of wherever you live, and embracing the chance to live different places. For me, that’s one of the biggest things that I love about being a military spouse. I love the adventure of living new places.
But sometimes you just don’t love where you live, and you know what? That’s okay! Not every place is for everyone. Some people hate the cold. Some people love cities. Some people love the beach. Sometimes there is a deep disconnect between your personality and the personality of where you are stationed.
I always thought I could love living anywhere and while I do feel like I make the most of every situation, after a year here in Colorado, I can honestly say I just don’t love it here. I’m an East Coast girl at heart. I just want to be near the beach and my family in New York.
So what do you do when you’ve given a duty station six months (or more) and it still just doesn’t feel like home?
I’ve had to really dig deep and figure out the answer to that myself over the past year. I still don’t want to live here forever, but I am doing the best I can and actually having some fun.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Join Local Facebook Groups or In-Person Clubs
Moving during the height of the pandemic was not ideal for making friends. But local Facebook groups, especially military spouse Facebook groups, can be a lifesaver when trying to find things to do in the local area and connecting with people (here’s a list to get your started). I often ask for recommendations for local things to do, places to eat, etc. I love getting recommendations from people who have been here longer than me.
When I finally found a group of friends here, I started liking Colorado more. It has been so nice to be able to meet up with people in person. I also have found so many more amazing things to do from their recommendations.
Get creative in finding ways to meet people. Libraries and local bookstores often have book clubs. Or there might be a military spouse meetup near you.
Get Involved in Your FRG (If You Have One)
Family Readiness Groups, or FRGs, sometimes get a bad rap, but getting involved in the FRG can be a great way to meet people. FRGs also host events so they may help you discover things that your area has to offer. Even having just one friend to explore coffee shops and restaurants with can make a huge difference in my sanity and happiness. Learn more about FRGs here.
Make it a Task to Find Your Favorite Restaurants & Shops
Finding my favorite locally-owned places to get coffee and go out for dinner remind me that everywhere has something fun and unique to offer. My husband and I like to eat at different local pizza places until we find our favorite. Things like that can help take your focus off what you don’t like about what you live and help you find things you do like. Make it an adventure!
Likewise, whenever I live somewhere new I love to find my new favorite local bookstore. It makes me feel connected to where I am living. I also had a lot of fun this year finding local things to give to friends and family for Christmas. Locally made honey, chocolate, and coffee were a huge hit.
Take A Road Trip
OK, you don’t like your actual duty station. Have you explored the area around it? There really isn’t much to do where I live in Colorado. But over the past year, my family and I have driven to Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Arches National Park. Camping is big here so we did a bunch of camping trips to local state parks, too. We never would have made it to any of those places if we didn’t live in Colorado. So, even though I don’t love the exact location I live in, I love that we can get out and explore. There are so many amazing places just a few hours from where I live, and I want to see as many as I can before I leave.
Search our blog for more duty station day trips and weekend getaways!
Lean In to Local Culture
Wherever I live, I try to embrace what people love about the area. Here in Colorado, hiking is big. Luckily I already loved to hike, so my family and I try to hike whenever we can. There are so many great hikes nearby. There are tons of local breweries, so my husband and I have enjoyed trying all the local beer that you can’t get anywhere else.
Find what people love about wherever you are stationed. You never know, maybe you will love that too. And maybe you will start to see why other people love living there.
Make a Bucket List
Do some research and find out the most popular or unique things to do in your area. Make a list of all of the places you want to eat, things you want to see, hikes you want to do, etc. When you’re feeling sad or bored, pick something on the list to do. You will get to try something new, and maybe you will love it. Plus, you will feel a sense of accomplishment of checking something off of your list.
Start a New Hobby
Maybe you really hate winter and you’re stuck someplace cold (like me). You’ve tried getting out and embracing the winter and it’s just not for you. What’s something you’ve always wanted to try but just never had the time for? Now might just be the time! It might not help you love where you are stationed, but it will help you focus on something else.
I learned to crochet a few years ago. But I’ve gotten so much more into it since living here, partially because it’s so cold in the winter. I’ve taught myself how to make lots of new things and have made so many gifts for friends and family back home. Crocheting in the evenings helps me to relax, and sending gifts to my friends and family makes me feel connected to them.
Encourage Friends and Family to Visit
I know that this may not be possible for everyone, because of distance, finances, and COVID, but if you can have some family or friends visit, it will be so uplifting for your spirit. And it all encourage you to get out and explore with them.
Do Things That Remind You of Home
You don’t have to completely embrace where you’re living, either. If there are things that you can do that remind you of home or other duty stations, do it. I find cooking my favorite meals, watching my favorite shows, and eating at my favorite chains to be a big comfort for me.
I hope these tips help you settle into your new duty station. And if you still can’t love it, remember that this too shall pass.
Do you have anything to add?