Our generation has a large case of wanderlust, but often times we can’t fund expeditions to Antarctica or backpacking trips across Europe, no matter how much we wish we could. We can, however, get stuck (in the good way), put roots down, and explore our own towns and cities.
Living in New York City makes it easy for me to try new things and see new sights, theoretically. I personally get sucked into my routine and it sometimes takes a friend visiting from out of town for me to venture to a new neighborhood or try a new restaurant. Happens to the best of us, right?
You don’t need to live in a big city to explore, though. When I was living at home in my small suburban town after college, I discovered new things I hadn’t seen or heard of simply because I took the time to look.
I remember chatting with a shop owner of a local crafts store while I was perusing and he mentioned a street that had a tree that had grown over the road sign and was famously known around town as the sign-eating tree. Sure, this wasn’t a big thing and maybe it wasn’t the Empire State Building, but finding out about a local legend and realizing I lived three streets away without ever noticing it made me think.
I realized it’s easy to live somewhere and build a routine and stay inside the lines of that routine. It’s easier to meet a friend for drinks after work at your favorite bar than heading to a new place where you may not know the drink menu, the ambiance, or exact location of the closest subway.
When my friend moved one subway stop away from me in Brooklyn, we made a plan to explore our new mutual neighborhood by grabbing drinks each week at a new place. We alternated picking places and found a few gems, and a few places that can be forgotten. One bar was a whiskey-and-grilled-cheese bar that had an extensive list of different types of whiskeys and a menu of five different (and delicious) gourmet grilled cheeses. I can’t believe I almost missed out on that.
Sometimes, when I have extra time or am feeling in a funk, I’ll get off at a different stop on my way home and just walk a different route. Taking a new path helps me see a new side of my neighborhood and it gets me out of my routine, which ultimately causes me to feel more creative and productive. Exploring can give you perspective and clear any fog lingering around your brain.
This summer, I made a bucket list of typical summer-y activities such as going to a concert, having a picnic, and taking a road trip. I’ve found ways to put a New York City spin on these events, and it’s helped me feel more at home in the city.
I’m going to an outdoor concert in Central Park (that starts at 7 a.m. — definitely not a normal concert!), I’ve had picnics on friends’ rooftops, and have learned the best way to have a road trip via local commuter trains to get me to and from my home town.
If it helps, find a friend who likes to try new things and challenge each other to find a new activity each weekend. Or, give yourself an excuse to finally try a coffee shop or peruse a bookstore on the other side of town that you heard about once.
Trying something new, and seeing something new, no matter how small, can be reenergizing. You don’t need to have a packed agenda, do anything extremely expensive or outlandishly “cool.” You just need to open your eyes, and take a new turn.