It happened fast, really fast. Come to think of it, everything in my world was moving fast. The last six months had set the scene for some of the greatest changes in my life. I was recently engaged and looking forward to the future with the woman of my dreams. My future wife was as committed to her goals as I was to mine. I was called to serve students in ministry, she was called to serve people through medicine. Before we were ever engaged, I knew there was a possibility that we would have to move in order to accommodate her goals in education, but for some reason, it seemed like an improbability.

That is, until I stopped by her parents’ house Wednesday night. Still standing in the foyer, she announced, “We’re moving.” In one moment, my well-laid plans for the future were run through the paper shredder. I sat on her parents’ couch and slipped into a bit of a daze as I considered the 27 years I had lived in the same city, the exciting church I served, close friends, family which lived so near, my favorite restaurants, my home. Just before I manually induced a coma, a switch flipped…“Let’s do it!” So our process of assimilation began, and here’s how we moved through the life change.

Be Proactive.

Learn the streets, hangouts and haunts ASAP. The faster you don’t have to ask for directions, the faster you will feel like a local.

Don’t let your house close you in. We bring all of our stuff with us when we move, and we surround ourselves with it in our new homes. If you stay in your usual atmosphere with all your usual stuff, it’s easy to pretend you never moved. So don’t spend your weekends at home. Walk the city, discover your new home.

Find a church! Find a community! Don’t wait a month or two to start checking out churches. A good, healthy church will serve you as a new person in its community and help you to be involved.

Volunteer. Shelters, food banks and other charitable organizations are always looking for help. Through helping others, you see the city, learn its heartaches and are afforded the chance to serve others.

Check out your new city’s tourism bureau or the hundreds of Web sites that provide the same type of tourist info. Spend the first few months touring your city. Walk as much as possible.

Don’t allow your work to take over your life. No matter how huge, your office is a poor representation of the world around you. If nothing else, take clients out for lunches all over town.

Park a few blocks away from your office and take in the city as you go to work.

Take a different route to work everyday for the first month. After a year, start changing that route again.

Take the simplest tasks, and turn them into adventures. For example, choose a different grocery store each time you shop. After a couple of months you will have seen all sorts of corners of the city.

You know all those places you drive by and wonder, “What’s in there?” Stop and ask!

I can’t stress this enough… DON’T return to your previous home for at least six months. Even if your new city is a thousand times better than the old, you won’t see it until you really separate yourself.

Listen to the locals. Eat where they suggest, shop where they shop.

If possible, learn to love your new home. Be its biggest fan. Check out the home town sports teams, and try and go to their games.

Offer yourself as a tour guide to friends and family who may want to come and visit. You will be surprised how much you have learned about your new home when you start sharing it with others.

My wife and I have been in our new home for a little over a year, and we love it. In fact, we can’t imagine living anywhere else. Good luck with finding a ‘home’ where you live.

[Scott Austin is a pastor to college students at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas. He was born in the ’70s, is stuck in the ’80s and is praying for a wang chung revival.]

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