Trip cancelled? Seek adventure in your own hometown.
It's old news that if you do crossword puzzles in the bathtub and sudokus while you floss, learn a few dozen new languages and do math problems while you're plucking weeds from your yard, your brain will not turn into Swiss cheese. True? Not True? Who knows?
Here is some new news: if you live in your hometown the way you live when you are traveling, your brain will be happy and your heart and spirit will follow.
On the road, it's all fresh. Different foods, people, accents, languages, art, markets, monuments, styles, scenery.
At home, it is so easy to collapse into the comfort of routine. You see the same people, eat in the same places, shop in the same stores, walk your dog in the same park, take the same route when you drive, buy the same things at the market.
What if you approach your hometown as though you are a visitor looking for fun and adventure? Imagine you have no guidebook, and you just want to explore. What do you do?
Start By Talking to Locals
It's Easy To Make New Friends
First, perhaps, you start talking to locals. You ask for a good place to eat. They ask where you are from. You tell them. They laugh when you say you live there but are trying to change a few habits. They say it's a great idea, and maybe they should modify their own routine.
You have a discussion about food and eateries, and you go off to dine in a place you have never tried before.
Maybe they stop by to see how you like it, wave to you, or even sit down and join you for a while. It's a little adventure.
Then you say to yourself, "I have lived here for x number of years. I have never gone to the botanical garden. It's time to go." You are surprised at how extensive it is and wonder why you have not gone there. You meet a gardener and start to talk about roses. It turns out you share a passion for planting and gardening. You give her a few tips. She reciprocates. You exchange phone numbers. You are smiling when you leave.
You go into a mom 'n pop restaurant for lunch and order hummous, tabouli, dolmas. A woman in a headscarf sits down at the table next to you. You ask her if she can tell you what one of the items on the menu is. She tells you that she hails from Afghanistan.
You start to talk about the war there. She tells you her point of view. You tell her yours. Soon, you are chatting away like old pals. And you realize afterwards, as your brain gobbles up new information, that it's the first time you have had a conversation with a woman in a headscarf. Adventure?
You are walking downtown, and you see visitors taking rides in pedicabs. You have never done that before. Why not do it now? Turns out the pedicab driver is a Black Studies student in his late thirties, who worked in a restaurant, got burned out, and is going back to school to get a degree.
You begin to talk about race, and he tells you his ancestors were slaves. You ask him if any stories were handed down in the family. He says yes, and your eyes open wide when he tells you about lynchings his great grandparents saw. Then he tells you about eating food in Barbados that he grew up with in America.
Your heart opens to the pedicab driver. You tell him that you hope to meet again.
Reconnect With An Old Friend
Do Tai Chi or Paint Outdoors Together
It occurs to you that you have never hiked a trail that opened four years ago. You call a friend you haven't seen in years, and he says he'd love to walk the trail with you. There has recently been a storm, and part of the trail is blocked by a fallen tree. You try moving it, but it is too heavy. Two other hikers come along, and the four of you move the tree, and you're all laughing and talking and you feel so...Paul Bunyan.
Back home, you realize that you have been looking at the same art on your walls for l5 years. The local paper lists an event being held by an arts collective; home studio visits; an artist-in-residence program where you can meet artists who work in all media and buy work directly from them.
You may even find some gems at a swap meet or yard sale. And perhaps you'll get fired up to take a class in plein air painting, collage, fused glass, stone sculpture, or beadwork. Imagine hanging your own art on a wall!
Soon you'll be checking out local ethnic festivals and events held by Greek, Mexican, Basque, Swedish, French, Haitian, or Indian groups.
You'll join in a group dance lesson, taste new food, listen to world music, a class in kundalini yoga, and a silent auction.
Perhaps you'll enroll in a cooking course.
Maybe you'll sign up for a tai chi class in a local park and discover that all the other students are Asian and they tell you about a new dim sum restaurant.
By now, your mind is probably spinning with ideas about what you can do in your hometown. I hope the ideas spin out of your head and into reality. Changing habits is good for the brain, good for the body, good for the soul.
Enjoy the adventure.
Judith Fein is an award-winning travel journalist, speaker, and author of How To Communicate with the Dead, Life Is A Trip, and The Spoon From Minkowitz. For more information, go to www.GlobalAdventure.us.