I am always trying to find fresh ideas and new space to grow personally, professionally, and geographically. Some months ago, I decided that it was time to expand my horizons and live in a new city – but without leaving my current city behind. I made the move in May and I now spend half my time in Baltimore and the other half in Washington, D.C.
I’ve enjoyed catching up with old acquaintances who now live in D.C., making new connections, and bringing Baltimore friends down to explore D.C. beyond the Mall. While I’m still working on learning about D.C., I’ve picked up a few things you might find to be handy; and I’ve developed some strategies for managing a two-city lifestyle. Here are a few highlights and tips from my first six months of being a polyurbanite.
You have less time — use it wisely.
Living in two cities has forced me to become a better steward of my own time. I’m only in Baltimore for half my week; I have less space for chance encounters and can’t rely on coincidence to the extent that I might have been able to before. This also means I have to make intentional choices about how actively I want to maintain and prioritize different relationships. More planning and forethought is needed to make sure I see the people who matter to me personally and professionally. (On a related note, when is somebody going to build a personal CRM product that seamlessly integrates with your life, but doesn’t turn you into a sterile person?)
In D.C., where I’m trying to extend my network, the level of event activity is very high — I could go to an event every night of the week, or three every night but that’s not sustainable. Here again prioritization is key. I try to choose events that will expose me to new communities; the whole point of spending time in D.C. is to make new connections, so I make a point of stepping out of my personal comfort zone and exploring a broad range of events.
Build flexibility into your work schedule.
At SmartLogic we already had a fairly flexible work schedule; we kept core hours of 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the office, Monday through Thursday, and work from home (WFH) on Fridays. Partly as a result of my half-time move to D.C. — and to the benefit of our team — we’ve recently added Monday as a permanent WFH day.
Our team has slowly been moving to more of a semi-distributed model, as some team members have moved farther away from the office, others choose to travel frequently, and we recently made our first hire who started as a fully remote employee. This kind of workplace flexibility is a great perk for team members; it’s a quality of life improvement that costs nothing and if anything only improves our team’s productivity.
How to get around in D.C. (without a car)
I’ve lived the car-free life since 2016. I am an avid cyclist and my main method of transportation between Baltimore and D.C. is the MARC commuter train, a reliable and cheap option that doesn’t require (or permit) any advance booking. You can use the CharmPass app to book tickets on your phone or purchase physical tickets from a kiosk in the station. I take my bike between cities via the MARC train; each of my apartments are within easy walking or biking distance of the train station in each city. Note that not all trains permit bikes on board — make sure to look for the bike image 🚲 when viewing the MARC Penn line schedule.
While I bike to many places, I also often ride the DC Metro; like the MARC train, it is cheap, relatively quick, pretty reliable, and goes to many of the places you’re likely to want to go. The bus system in D.C. is great too. There are a number of apps that provide real-time updates of when the next Metro or bus will arrive at a stop but I prefer DC Metro and Bus app. car2go and Zipcar are good flexible on-street rental car options. There are half a dozen or so scooter companies as well, though they are all speed-limited to 10 miles per hour; the ebikes are a better bet in my opinion. And recently mopeds have become the latest to join the multitude of dockless vehicles in D.C. — check out Revel in D.C.
How to find culture and community
Whenever I am trying to get to know a new city, I start with my existing network — I put out the word to people I already know that I’ll be in the area and I’d like to reconnect with or get to know on a deeper level. While not every one of those contacts pans out, it’s a decent start, and has helped me find events, groups, and cool places to check out in my travels around the world.
The other thing I like to do when I’m headed somewhere new and want to make new connections is check the event aggregators and join those email lists. Some resources I’ve found helpful:
- Facebook events in DC and Facebook events in Baltimore
- Search Eventbrite for events and sign up for their email newsletter. As you buy more tickets on Eventbrite the suggestions you receive will be more suited to your interests
- Sign up for Technical.ly newsletters to learn about tech events happening in each respective city
- BYT has a great roundup of events and going-ons in D.C.
- You can try your luck at joining various Meetup groups
So far I’ve attended a fairly broad cross-section of events; there’s so much to do that I haven’t gotten very deep into any one scene. I’d love to make it out to more tech and business events; if you’ve spent time in D.C. and have a favorite event you think I should attend, let me know!
Let go of your negative assumptions.
Living in Baltimore for years, I had long heard trash talk that D.C. is stiff; that everyone’s just working for the government, that it’s a transient city, that everyone’s focused solely on careers. Frankly, from my experience so far, that’s just not true. Just like Baltimore, there are lots of cool people in D.C. who are doing their best and trying to figure it out. Anyone who’s lived in Baltimore knows we hate to be judged by people who’ve spent no time here; no city deserves to be judged only by its worst headlines. If you want to get to know a place (or a person), you have to let go of your assumptions and go in with an open mind.
Let’s hang out in D.C. (and Baltimore!).
I began my dual-city residence as an experiment based on a hypothesis, and so far the results have been very positive. By changing where I physically spend half my time, I’ve been naturally exposed to a different set of serendipitous encounters, whether on the MARC train, out on the street in D.C., at an event, or in a furniture store.
I’m enjoying living in two cities, and am getting some of the fresh ideas and broader network that I was hoping for. That said, I’m still working on learning more about the city and connecting with interesting people both professionally and socially. So, let’s hang out! I’m always looking for new events and connections; reach out if you’d like to catch up or head out to an event with me.