3 Secrets to a Successful Scouting Visit

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It’s no secret that scouting out a place before you move makes sense. After all, the only way you can truly evaluate if a place is compatible with you and the lifestyle you want is to get eyes on the ground.

But there are secrets to a successful scouting visit you may not already know that will help you get the biggest bang for your buck and have all the information you need to make the best possible decision about where to move.

When you move to a new city, you want to feel confident you’ll be happy living there. Scouting visits offer a golden opportunity for you to get a feel for a place and avoid an expensive and hard-to-fix moving mistake.

Scouting visits also require a significant investment of your money, time and energy, which is why it’s so important to take the right approach.

How do you do that? These 3 secrets to a successful scouting visit will help point you in the right direction!

Listen to your intuition.

When you’re scouting out potential places to move, it’s essential to listen to – and trust – your intuition.

This may sound totally obvious. But it’s surprisingly easy to see what you want to see on your scouting visit as opposed to what’s in front of you and the feelings it’s evoking in you.

Perhaps the most critical time to exercise your intuition is on first blush.

I’ll never forget my first impression of the town in Iowa we ended up moving to. Driving into town, my intuition was screaming at me, “This town is a dump!! What are you doing here, Margaret?!? Get out now!!”

And it was right on the money. I should have run in the opposite direction. But did I listen? No, I did not. I completely ignored the calm voice of reason that was trying to knock some sense into me and foolishly pressed onward.

Did we ever paid the price!

That disastrous moving mistake is what inspired me to launch Your Place Finder and create the Spark System to guide retirees and almost retirees from deciding to move to retire (or not), to finding the perfect retirement location, to navigating the choas of moving and adapting to life in a new location.

My husband and I went through the Spark System right before the pandemic hit. On paper, Eugene, Oregon ranked at the top of our short list. By planning and investing in a scouting visit to Eugene, I was able to confirm my online research findings and put my intuition to work “feeling out” the place.

What did my intuition tell me about Eugene?

Unlike Iowa, I felt at ease in Eugene from the moment I arrived. I got major déjà vu walking and driving around – and I had never been to Eugene before in my life. Eugene felt like home!

After COVID and an electrical fire delayed our moving plans, we went through the Spark System again. Over those two years, wildfires had begun to encroach on Eugene, which made us rethink our plans.

This time, Tacoma and Olympia, WA ranked at the top of our short list.

I researched and mapped out my scouting visit plans and traveled to Tacoma and Olympia. I put my intuition to work right away.

Tacoma was OK, but I did not love it. But the minute I drove into Olympia, I felt – again – like I’d found our home! (For an inside look at my scouting visits of Tacoma and Olympia, check out my IG Reels from April 19, 2022 to April 29, 2022 @yourplacefinder!)

My intuition was right, too. We moved to Olympia in 2022, and we absolutely love it!

Embrace “la vida local.”

There’s a big difference between visiting a city as a tourist versus as a potential resident. It’s important to be very intentional (to use an overused expression) when you’re scouting out a possible place to move.

A fun and interesting way to get the most out of your scouting visit is to spend some time living “la vida local” in your prospective new home.

What does that mean exactly?

For one thing, if you want to get a true sense of a place and the people who live there, go where the locals hang out.

Tourist attractions are fine, but they rarely offer much of an inside look at what a city is really like. Chances are, you won’t spend much time at these places anyway should you decide to move there.

For example, I spent the first 25 years of my life in San Francisco. My mother has lived there for over 50 years. Neither one of us has ever been to Alcatraz or spent any time at Fisherman’s Wharf, both of which are huge tourist hangouts.

When you’re thinking about moving someplace, you don’t necessarily want to hear the Chamber of Commerce’s glossy version of what it’s like. It’s more helpful to hear different perspectives on “the good, the bad, and the ugly” from the people who live there.

Make a point on your scouting visit to engage as many people as you can in conversation, no matter how brief. You can tell a lot about the residents of a place based on how open (or not) they are to talking with you, as well as what they say to you.

It can also be very enlightening (and often more affordable) to stay at an Air B&B. For example, the owner of the Air B&B where I stayed in Eugene had lived there for the past 40 years. I knew she was going to give me an honest, unvarnished answer to any question I had.

Which is exactly what you want!

Schedule in some down time.

It’s easy when you’re on a scouting visit to get into go-go-go mode. You feel pressure to see and do as much as possible within the limited time you have.

Not only that, when you’re out and about soaking in everything around you, all your senses are working overtime. It can be very exhausting, particularly if you’re scouting out a place on your own.

I learned this the hard way.

The first few days I was in Eugene, I put some serious pedal to the metal. I was running mostly on adrenaline and when it caught up to me, I hit the wall! It was a reminder that we all need time to recharge our batteries – even on a scouting visit.

Plus, you never know what cool things can happen!

The owner of the AirB&B where I was staying invited me to a neighborhood party on my recharge day. It was a wonderful experience because it gave me a chance to hang out and talk with the locals.

I could not have planned a better way to get a sense of the people who live in Eugene – and I loved it!

So, try to budget some down time into your scouting visit plan. That way, you’ll be much better equipped to give it your all when you’re out and about.

Scouting visits give you peace of mind.

It’s true that scouting visits can be a lot more exhausting than visiting a place for fun. But done right, they are an investment of money, time and energy that will pay off big time!

That’s because scouting visits give you a much better sense of a place and how compatible it is with who you are and how you want to live. The more you know about a place, the more informed a decision you’ll make, and the happier you’ll be in your new home!

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About the Author

I founded Your Place Finder in 2017 to help retirees and almost retirees like you anticipate and overcome the pitfalls and challenges – and reap the rich rewards – of finding the perfect location to move for retirement.

4 Comments

  1. Michelle Jolene on Mar 17, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    I only wish I could be all of this come true right now. I would love to be out and about scouting!

    • Margaret on Mar 17, 2020 at 4:17 pm

      Michelle, I understand. This weird time won’t last forever though, and you’ll be able to be out and about scouting again! I’m here to help when that time comes.

  2. Gretchen on Jun 12, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    In my experience there is a huge difference between visiting a place and living in a place. I currently live in a place that advertises a need for workers and when you arrive the locals are openly hostile. I have been here for 8.5 years. I moved to be closer to my young nieces. At every turn this move has been a struggle (finding employment, finding a social network) this experience has made me super cautious about moving again. I feel disappointed, emotionally drained and financially weary. Moving is a huge change and for low to middle income class people there doesn’t seem to be many resources available. The standard advice doesn’t apply when you are barely able to survive. I would appreciate honest feedback and suggestions on questions to ask, and red flags to be mindful of. Thank you.

    • Margaret on Jun 13, 2023 at 4:49 pm

      Hi Gretchen, Thanks for reaching out. First, I’m really sorry to hear that you moved to a place where people are openly hostile and everything has been such a struggle. I’ve been where you are. I understand how moving to, and living in, the wrong place can leave you feeling emotionally and financially drained. Which is no way to live. When you scout out your next prospective location (if you know where you’d like to focus your attention) spend time in advance plotting out what you’re going to do while you’re there. Follow your plan. Focus on your interests. Jump into the mix. For example, if you enjoy yoga, take a yoga class or two while you’re visiting. If you like to kayak, check out a paddling trail/class. Talk to the people in your group and draw them out about what it’s like to live there. In fact, talk to as many people as you can while you’re there. Ask questions that relate to what’s important to you (i.e., the weather, the employment situation, cost of living, taxes, openness to people from other places). See how responsive/open they are to you. Trust your intuition. I hope this helps. Best of luck to you! Margaret

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