These days Facebook and Pinterest are full of these pretty wanderlust images with pretty wanderlust words urging you to leave your “hell-hole” and go travel. It’s a strange commoditization of travel that we admit we’re guilty of simply by having a travel blog, but it isn’t always necessarily good. Some of us can’t leave home for whatever reason, and watching others’ lives all seemingly more interesting than ours doesn’t always make us feel good.
Gabriel and I are currently unable to travel out of the Dominican Republic or US due to Gabriel’s passport restrictions. Some would say that we’re at least lucky to be in the tropical location we reside in, and while it’s true that we consider ourselves lucky, we’d like to argue that no matter where you are, someone wishes they were there right now. So although we also encourage you to travel to faraway places, if you can, we’re also happy to share that for us, the concept of traveling as we see it has more to do with exploring different cultures and experiences than with actually moving from point A to point B.
Most cities–most of human societal behaviour, in fact–is divided into social hierarchies and neatly stacked into little boxes in a way for us all to know with relative speed and ease when we’ve stepped into a world that is not made for “our kind.” One of the things that we all seem to do when we’re not traveling is settle into an idea of ourself that goes beyond our physical bodies. “Ourselves” become defined by the type of places we frequent, the type of coffee we drink, the kind of clothes we wear, the television channels we prefer, and the more we define ourselves based on these external artifacts, the narrower the window of culture we get to experience in our own surroundings. It’s as if each place was in fact a million places. Thankfully, it’s extremely easy to step out of that pattern, and it’s exactly this that will allow you to “travel” within your own home town.
When we travel we don’t understand the social echelons as well as back home. This might change over time as everything in this world seems to be reviewed in more and more detail, but for now, when we travel we go see the sights and experience the things that our fellow travelers, our local friends, or our guide books tell us to go see, and we never think to ask, “Am I going to fit in” because we assume we won’t. We’re from a different country altogether. It’s exactly this lack of preoccupation for fitting in that makes travel so exciting. We get ourselves into situations we’d never allow ourselves to get into back at home, and it helps change and define, or redefine, who we think we are. So today I propose 10 steps to take within your own city to help you obliterate the box you’ve settled into and go redefine yourself to explore subcultures you were not aware of, under your own nose.
We’ve broken up this post in two to make sure you come back to our site at a later date because we know all about today’s attention spans, so read our first 5 tips today and come back for the next 5 next Tip Tuesday.
1- Dress up, Dress down
The most obvious way to move about the social echelons is to play with your costume. Clothes define who we are and who we want to be seen as more than anything else we do, so grab your fanciest gown or tux and treat yourself to a fancy night out on the town. Conversely, leave your house as if you’d just gotten out of bed, no make up, no hair gel, and try to go a day spending half the budget you normally do, or less. If you’re afraid of someone you know seeing you in this sad state, simply try to avoid your usual neighborhood, which leads us to our next point.
2- Visit a part of town you normally wouldn’t be caught dead in
Our towns are all divided into burrows and we usually stick to the same circuit. We avoid certain areas because they’ve nothing to offer us. The shops are too expensive, or the restaurants are below our standards. This part of town is for latte drinking soccer moms and their private school children, whereas this part of town is lined with homeless shelters and salvation armies, this one is for twenty-something art students. They aren’t “our” neighborhood. I challenge you to spend a day in a part of town you can’t normally identify with.
Now don’t take the title of this tip too seriously. If you live in a dangerous city, don’t go getting yourself killed by wandering alone into a neighborhood the cops don’t even venture into, you’ll want to use common sense on this one please, regular travel safety rules apply. Also, to avoid problems, refer to the first tip and dress the part.
3- Eat something you can’t afford, or that grosses you out.
If you were traveling Italy and you were told the best Gnocchi you’ll EVER eat is in this small town you happen to find yourself in, but is just completely out of your price range, would you pass up the opportunity? Of course you wouldn’t, you might never be here again. You’d save up for a few days before, rough it at cheaper accommodations for a few days after, but you WOULD eat that gnocchi that every one and their mom recommended to you. Well take that attitude back home. Pretend it’s the last night to eat at that place you’ve been drooling over your entire life and spend the cash. No I’m not saying do this every night, and no I’m not saying put it on credit. I’m saying save up, rough it out for a while, and get ‘er done. Save up by eating at cheap greasy spoons you’d never go to otherwise, by eating street food you typically wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, or by venturing into china town and filling up on duck’s feet. Experience a part of your city’s culinary repertoire you didn’t even know existed.
4- Dance the night away.
Your town has a party scene. Don’t try to deny it. Actually, it probably has a plethora. You might end up at that same Irish pub every weekend listening to a U2 cover band, but somewhere else in town, there are girls in mini skirts flirting with the bouncer so they can get past that velvet rope and dance their little tushes off to LMFAO. Somewhere else in town there are angry tattooed teenagers pushing each other around a mosh-pit, and somewhere else still people are line-dancing to some live country. I don’t care how small your town is, there are places to dance to something you DO NOT consider “dancing” and I don’t even care if you like dancing at all. This is one of the biggest culture shocks I think one can experience, so put on your dancing shoes (or lace up all 12 holes of your dock martens) and get out there and dance to a scene you just don’t get. If you don’t know how to salsa, haven’t mastered the hipster “shoe-stare,” or have a day job and don’t want to chance the pit for fear of a black eye, you might want to stay on the sidelines and observe, at least your first time, but do at least go. You’re never too old for this, I promise. No I’m not advocating you should try to go rub up on that underage girl that somehow made it in if you’re a middle aged man, that’s gross and inappropriate–be classy about it please, and keep the creep factor at home–but do rest assured that genuine fun is recognized at all spectrums of ages, and some nights I’ve gone dancing to find everyone bored me except that senior couple smiling like they were teenagers again.
5- Cheer for the home team.
If you were in Barcelona, you would most certainly go see FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. It’s part of the culture! It’s such big deal there! You’d just have to check it out. Well you’re not in Barcelona (unless you are, in which case, Hola, com aquestes?) but there are most certainly people getting excited about their home team wherever you are. Maybe it’s the friday-night football at your local high-school, or an ice-skating competition. Maybe your town’s crazy over hockey, maybe there’s an ultimate frisbee game this weekend. Maybe street-kids are carving the local skate park, maybe two wrinkly guys are having the most intense game of chess that’s ever happened in the park across from your house. Go find a team or a player you don’t ALREADY cheer for (no cheating now, this is about experiencing NEW cultures) and cheer them on like it’s the last thing you’re ever going to do. Yes, according to my definition, dungeons and dragons is a sport, and so is drag racing (the legal kind, on real tracks, please don’t support illegal sports. Cock fighting is legal in some parts but not others, don’t support it where it’s not and support it at your own discretion where it is. It’s your life, make your own decisions, but keep it within the lines or the laws of the country you reside in. Thank you.)
A week has passed since this post and that means that the next 5 tips on curing your wanderlust blues are up!
Are you lost in wanderlust but stuck at home? Do these tips help you?
Have you done any of these already?