“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
I am currently in Germany. Shout out to my boyfriend and his extremely generous family for allowing me to join their vacation, this is one of the most eye-opening and fun experiences I have had in a long time and I am very thankful. I feel very lucky to be experiencing new things, as this is my first time traveling internationally. Although I have always enjoyed traveling, the time I have spent here so far has led me to realize that the mindset that we tend to adopt when we are “tourists” could inform the way I approach my “regular” daily routine.
When people go on vacation, they often schedule every bit of their time. It isn’t the schedule that is important here; that is a byproduct of a certain understanding that I think we should try to keep in mind day-to-day. It is the implicit value that people place on the small amount of time that they have to enjoy a new place which leads them to plan wisely. When we go somewhere new, we know that our time is limited and that there is much to see and do, so we often feel guilty or wasteful sitting around and “doing nothing” instead of making plans and actually experiencing the world around us. We do this even when we are tired or “don’t feel like it,” because we recognize that time is finite. However, when we are at home, perhaps during the work or school week, we often resort to a routine that is void of this type of curiosity and exploration.
It is understandable. For me, personally, I am introverted and I also tend to over-work myself when it comes to school and other priorities. This means that at the end of the “work” day, or even the week, I tend to be exhausted and not really feel like going anywhere or doing anything. There have been times when friends or family have visited me and we have sat in my apartment watching TV or talking, and while there is nothing wrong with doing low-key activities that provide you with enjoyment, I look back and think “wow, I am living in DC with a crazy amount of museums, monuments, restaurants, and other exciting events at my disposal every single day, and I really just spent that night sitting in my apartment.” Like I said, this is okay to do some of the time, but I am ready to branch out from that.
Even when we are not traveling, our time in a certain location or “season” of life is still finite, it just doesn’t always feel like it. It is usually life circumstances that bring us to a certain location (jobs, school, marriage, divorce, or simply being born somewhere). Because of this, and because we often do not make an intentional choice to live in a certain area– although there are, of course, exceptions– I believe that we take the places we see as “home” for granted. We often see them as a part of our daily routine, as familiar, and we forget that there are still things to explore.
This is why I want to adopt more of a “tourist” mindset in my everyday life. Instead of automatically going home to watch Netflix after a long day, I want to take more walks around the national mall. Instead of dwelling in anxiety about the details of plans (how will I get there, how long will it take, is it weird if I go alone, do I have time, what about this other project I need to do, ???), I want to spend more weekends just waking up and going, and seeing where the day takes me. I want to get back into the routine of going for walks/ runs around where I live to find new restaurants, parks, and all of the other little things that apparently just exist around me without my appreciation. You get the idea. I also want to take time to branch out from my local area, as well, but it seems like the natural place to start.
One of my (vague) New Years resolutions for this year was to take opportunities. I know that I often turn down social events or other plans because, when I am uncertain in life, I resort to what is comfortable and easy. However, I want to change that tendency. It doesn’t mean I always need to be “busy,” but I want to be more intentional about how I spend my time. If I find myself absorbed in 6 episodes of Greys Anatomy or scrolling through Twitter for an hour, I want it to be a conscious choice, not the result of a habit, fear or anxiety, or a lack of awareness of the opportunity cost of that choice. I want to be as curious about the world that is around me every day as I am about the world that is not, since it is mostly by chance that I am where I am at any given point in time. And I want to be more conscious about turning that curiosity into action, instead of just dreaming about doing so.
Do you have any tips on making the most of your “normal” days? What do you do to immerse yourself in the area where you live?
P.S. Here are some pictures I have taken so far, although I may post more about this later. 🙂