Did you make a New Year’s resolution to travel more this year? Or did you wish you could, if you only had the money? What is it about travelling that makes us so darn happy? New places, new experiences, no work, all play – the freedom to do what you want, to see places and things you’ve always wanted to see before… yes, travelling is truly magical. It breaks up the monotony, the daily routine, the boring, the repetitive, and the uninspiring. You truly feel like a different person – more open, more excited, and more engaged. So it makes sense that when you see your friend from high school posting their magical pictures to some far-off place, while you are stuck inside the 9 to 5, gazing sadly at your unforgiving bank account, that you might be feeling a little hopeless about finding this kind of magic without being able to travel somewhere exotic right now.
Well I’m here to tell you that you can change those feelings without changing much at all – and all for free. All year round. At any time, any place, anywhere.
It’s too good to be true, you say!!! Well, this won’t get you up close and personal with the Eiffel Tower, but it can help you blast through that monotony of the daily grind and bring you that fresh, excited, engaged feeling that travelling creates.
So picture this. You are driving through the country-side in Italy, through small towns and hillsides, in your little European rental car. As a passenger, you have your face plastered up to the window, looking up and down, back and forth, calling out to your travel partner all the interesting and cool things you see. “Look, that family has goats and some sheep! Oh, how cute, a little Italian bakery!” and things like “How pretty! That church has such beautiful stained-glass windows!” and “Perfect! We’ve found a little Gelato place – delicious!” Everything is so exciting and interesting!
Ah, I wish I was there right now myself. So let me reiterate – I’m not going to give you the secrets to finding goats, sheep, Gelato, and Italian churches in your hometown – but I am going to help you see how you can find that special spark of mystery and excitement all year round.
When you travel, you PAY ATTENTION. When you are somewhere new, your level of awareness goes right up – you are looking out around you, noticing things, looking for interesting things, people, and experiences. A lot of your energy and attention is directed outwards, noticing and appreciating the little things. In the day-to-day, our brain can instead go on auto-pilot. We do the same drive into work or school, we see the same co-workers or classmates, we watch the same TV shows in the same room… you see what I’m saying. There’s a lot of time to turn inward and get into patterns of rumination in a very ego-centric way. We naturally place ourselves in the middle of our own universe (as we are programmed to do), and then we think about all the things about our day that impact US. The lines at the bank, the traffic, that thing our friend said to us, the lack of groceries in the house, the weather – how this all affects US and OUR life. It also leads to monotony and lack of imagination and adventure, because everything feels routine.
So what do you DO about this?
Start to pay attention to the things OUTSIDE of you. BUT! Do it in the same way that you would when you’re travelling. When you travel, you set your mind up to look for the prettiest, most interesting, most impactful thing around you (mostly so you can take a picture of it! But also so you can learn and explore and experience, haha). Your mindset is that “this vacation is awesome, look at all the things around me!” And then you notice the cute little goats and the stained glass windows. In contrast, when your brain is on “everyday” mode, it is set up to think “another day another dollar” or “I’m so busy I have to get to the next thing,” and you either miss everything, or you turn inward and ruminate, or you find all the things that confirm your mindset that everyday life is boring and uninteresting.
So instead, think of each day, or part of each day, as a little mini vacation.
Most people on vacation are both a) focusing on the neat and interesting things they can see around them and also b) willing to try out and take some risks and experience a new environment. So check out what’s around you in the same way you would on vacation, even though you are just in your hometown or home country. What neat new outfit is someone wearing around you that shows some character and creativity? What landscaping in your neighbourhood is really pretty? What route could you take to drive to or from work that you haven’t taken before? What if you stopped in at that little flower shop you always drive by but have never been inside of? What if you ordered the new item on the menu at your local lunch spot that you’ve never tried instead of going to your usual? What if you started a conversation with someone in line at the coffee shop? Asked for a recommendation for a restaurant from someone you’ve just met? Drove a different route to your friend’s house, even if it takes longer? What if you actively chose one thing each day, or each week, to do differently, just because you can?
You can change your world and your experience just by changing the things you are looking for. When you actively try to look for positive, interesting, and impactful things, and you slow down and stop and consider them instead of flying by or rushing along – like you would slow down and take notice when you are on vacation – you start to see more beauty and more creativity around you than you normally would. You turn your attention outward and become less ego-centric and more externally focused. You are rejuvenated by taking in positive energy, exploring, and taking chances – just like you would on vacation. Bring in those characteristics into your daily life, and you might find that your neighbourhood is more interesting than you knew – you will find streets and houses and shops you wouldn’t normally have found just by exploring. Follow your intuition and curiosity – be a kid again, do something new just because you can, and change things up. You can have that vacation experience on a Sunday afternoon, just by changing the way you think and what you pay attention to.
The inspiration for this post comes from having just moved to a new neighbourhood. Having been there a little while now, I used to drive by these same little bakeries and convenience shops and farmers markets and always think “how cute” but I never stopped in. Why didn’t I stop in? I didn’t actually have an answer – so one day I decided to just pull in and see what was in there. I chatted with some new people, found some delicious jam and chocolate croissants, chocolate covered peanuts and crafts, fresh veggies and kindness from new neighbours. I drove a different route home from work and saw new houses, trees, streams, and bridges. I stopped in at new places when I had the time. I re-experienced even the regular parts of my routine, trying a new food item, watching the comradery of people around me, the laughs and jokes they were sharing. And I noticed how much it felt like being on vacation – I was exploring and taking chances and breaking up my routine, and simply by how I perceived the world around me, I got different energy coming back to me. I started to notice people’s decorations and landscaping, antique markets and paint colours, clothes hanging out to dry or kids playing in the yard – things I just drove by before, in my own little world.
Change yourself – change the world you live in. It’s the same world, but you get to choose which parts you experience. Take a mini-vacation: start this weekend!
Cheryl M. Bradshaw