Returning from Hawaii recently, I suffered a bad case of post-vacation blues. My trip had been EXCITING. Seaplane rides, forest hikes, and culinary discoveries. I had been open to everything in front of me and became accustomed to finding a unique thrill every day.
Back in familiar surroundings again, I fell into old humdrum patterns.
I know I’m not alone.
Why do we enthusiastically seek fresh experiences while traveling, but fall into inertia after arriving home?
One reason may be that we get immediately pulled into a 9 to 5 grind with little energy for something more. Or perhaps we have an internal “pragmatic” switch that makes us focus more on laundry and bills.
Our reluctance may also stem from our habits and inclinations. We’re hardwired to act in certain ways. Travel breaks us out of those patterns and temporarily reshapes our personality. Given the time, expense and effort required to travel, we want to take advantage of that locale. Domestic life, on the contrary, steers us towards default behavior.
It’s also tempting to think our home lives don’t hold the same exciting opportunities. Yet every day we have the opportunity to expose ourselves to something new and stimulating.
After two weeks of post-Hawaii doldrums, I finally had enough and embarked on an experiment: A Month of Living Adventurously. The premise was simple: do something completely new every single day.
During this period, I committed myself to doing things I’ve always meant to do. I sought experiences challenging my natural tendencies. Not every undertaking was a huge lofty goal. The point was to break out of my box in big and small ways.
What did I do this month? Among other things:
1. Rode a mechanical bull
2. Invited my entire apartment building over for a Meet and Greet
3. Entered a cooking contest
4. Tried natto, Japanese fermented soy beans
5. Confronted a rude neighbor
6. Made tamales from scratch
7. Stuck my feet in a bath of fish for a fish pedicure
8. Tested out a hyperbaric oxygen chamber
9. Got in touch with an ex-boyfriend from 15 years ago
10. Tried (and failed) to make my own cheese
My experiment was successful, and pulled me out of my funk by replicating many of the things I most love about travel. I felt a boost of energy from simple trials like thrashing around on a mechanical bull or eating a new food. The feeling was even stronger if the action was intimidating, like confronting my inconsiderate neighbor.
I began to explore my usual surroundings with fresh perspective. Simply wandering an unfamiliar area and sitting in a park made me feel I was somewhere new.
Turns out, fresh encounters have a trickle-down effect. One novel event leads to another, and then to the next. Life takes on an exciting flow.
One day during the month, I ventured to a recently opened café. Uncharacteristically, I chatted with the owner for some time, which led to free tickets to a music show. Attending that show then led to meeting another new person who suggested yet another unique venue.
Trekking around the globe, I’m not shy, forging friendships in youth hostels and on train trips. But in my hometown, I’m reserved. Hence, inviting 20 strangers to a Meet and Greet was a tremendous challenge. Sure, it was a little awkward to find common ground, but there is potential for friendship with a few of my neighbors.
I also became less fearful of failing. I had high expectations of making a fabulous pizza with homemade cheese and was disappointed with a handful of runny curds. I came nowhere near winning the cooking contest.
And my anxious attempt to befriend a high school boyfriend was met with “meh.” None of these attempts were successes, but I found power simply in the trying.
And while some of these new enterprises I never want to experience again, like eating natto and “rejuvenating” in a pressurized oxygen chamber, I gained a new outlook on my own city as a place for backyard travel.
Best of all, I woke up excited each day about the prospect of a new discovery, which in turn reaffirmed my commitment to exploring life with openness and enthusiasm.
How to Plan Your Own Month of New Things
Feeling stuck in a rut or confined in your surroundings? Try this experiment too.
Create a bucket list. Run a marathon, take cello lessons, go skydiving. Obviously your schedule and finances might limit what you can immediately do, but it’s a start. And finally taking that first step is a new experience, right?
Browse newspapers and local guides for events. You might feel some pressure initially to devise a fresh idea every day, but it’s easier than you think if you keep your eyes peeled and ears open.
Seek inspiration from friends. Adventurous pals are excellent sources of information and ideas.
Budget for different price ranges. New ventures can be pricey, so incorporate budget friendly experiences too. Examples include visiting museums on free days or volunteering for an organization that interests you.
Schedule new experiences on a calendar. This takes a degree of spontaneity out of the experiment, but it helps keep momentum. It also reduces the anxiety of “What in the world is my new thing going to be today?”
Finally, focus on enjoying, not achieving.
How do you feel like a traveler in your own hometown? What new local adventures have you pursued recently? Share your experiences in the comments below.