|Oh Kansas, my Kansas.|
There are some fabulous places the military can send your family. There are also a great number of places the military can send your family that you would never, ever have considered going at any time, for any reason. I’m living in one of those places right now. In the interest of full disclosure: I hate Kansas. However, while I’m busy complaining about the bugs, the weather and the general lack of cool things to do, I’m wasting time I could be spending doing things I enjoy. No matter where you are, it’s vital to your mental health and the happiness of your family to make the most of it. Don't underestimate the power negativity to bring everyone down.
(Of course, you don’t have to be military to end up in a yucky place, and this guide is here to help anyone stuck in a fun wasteland.)
1. Take Your Temperature
In other words, check your attitude. Don’t be determined to hate a place because then you most certainly will.
I took the position of “wait and see” when I moved to Kansas. I wanted to like it, but the only things I knew about Kansas I learned from the WIZARD OF OZ. And none of those things seems particularly awesome. Then, I found the Oz Museum and, more importantly, the Oz Winery. Maintain a positive outlook on your new place even—especially—if you’ve had a bad impression, a bad start or a bad experience.
2. Find Your People
After your own perspective and perception, the people in your daily life will make the greatest impact on your experience any place you call home. Join Facebook pages and MeetUp pages for people in similar circumstances such as other military spouses, moms, crafters, horror movies fans and the like. Attend classes (whatever works for you and your family) and, yes, even FRG meetings. You never know who you’ll meet.
I want to meet other moms about my age with kids about my age with whom I have something in common. Making friends with a group of childless 20 somethings would prove less than practical when they want to go to bars and shop during nap time.
3. Do Your Research
Has this ever happened to you? You live some place years and suddenly discover a fabulous shop/park/restaurant/class/winery/museum you never even heard of? Those fabulous places are in the place you hate! Really. Take a look at “things to do pages” online like Trip Advisor. Ask friends, co-workers, the check-out clerk at the commissary where there favorite spots are. “What do you do for fun around here? Then, make a list of places you want to go.
Before we arrived in Kansas, I did some reading online and one of the places I read about was a Caribbean Restaurant with great reviews. Eight months later, I finally tried it. Immediately, my faith that I could enjoy my time in Kansas was restored. This little place has excellent Jamaican food and felt more like a place in Berkeley or Portland than Junction City. Just a few doors down is the Opera House. On the way to the car we stopped inside and picked up a program for the season. Just when I thought this place was a cultural desert, I found ethnic food and theater.
|Hottest Night Spot in JC?|
4. Get Out
Cool people with awesome plans are probably not going to knock on your door first. It can be tempting to hide in our yoga pants in front of the Netflix (and there IS a place for that. See #5), but instead, stretch your comfort zone a little and go where the people and the things are. If all you see of your new digs are your house, the commissary on payday and Target, you’re not likely to have a great experience.
Also make the time to take day or weekend trips to other nearby towns for exploring. It will expand your world.
|Kansas City Public Library|
5. Do What Makes You Smile
When you aren’t making an effort to find fun, do other low-key stuff that you enjoy. Play with your kids, pets, write, read, take a bubble bath, watch the sunset. Keep the dopamine flowing.
6. Embrace What’s Different
Every location has its own flavor. Don’t dismiss it. Get into it. That’s the culture of the place, if you try to understand it and experience it, chances are you’ll have a better time. So, go to the luau, the rodeo, the reservation, the local museums, the bluegrass or mariachi festival. These are probably the events you’ll remember most.
|Embrace the local culture. Unless you're a vegetarian.|
Our last duty station was Hawaii. I had a great time. I didn’t always love it, but I knew what I had. I was jaw-droppingly surprised at the number of spouses and military personnel who hated it there. Some of those people had a terrible experience while others still managed to enjoy it. I learned from watching those acquaintances and neighbors what I’m now applying to my own experience in Kansas. If you have a good attitude and do the work, you can have a good time even in a place you kinda hate.