It is nearing the end of March and the sun is shining, Uni term is finishing, and the vaccine programme is reaching more and more people, meaning thinking about travel in the not-so-distant future is something to dream about again.
Whilst I can’t wait to explore wider, further and deeper into different landscapes, cultures and people, during these past few months I have learned to appreciate where I am now. I am incredibly lucky that my home city and university city are both beautiful, with a mixture of historic architecture, modern urban space and green countryside. When I was able to move back to university it helped me to realise not only how great my hometown is, but also the joy of being somewhere different – familiar but strikingly new. With that in mind I thought I would share a few snaps and tips for exploring and appreciating your local area, whilst travelling abroad is still not possible.
1. Look for beauty in the small details
When out on my daily walk, I decided to pay extra close attention to small details, changes in nature, shadows on architecture etc. In doing so, I stumbled across a small heart drawn in the condensation of someone’s window. It was a tiny, simple gesture but it brought a smile to my face, and for the rest of my walk I marvelled in the growing flowers, interesting brickwork and gradually changing landscape. By looking for the beauty in the small details you gain a new perspective, you are forced to focus on the moment and being in the present. It reminds us to take some time out from the stress of everyday life.
2. Take a new path when out for a walk
I have a slightly strange obsession with taking new paths, routes and seeking adventure even if it’s small. Even altering your route slightly can create interest and keep your mind more focused. Often when I get home from my walk, I will look at the path on a map and piece together its connections; by doing so I have built up a much stronger mental map of my city. This internal map provides multiple possibilities and when life returns ‘in person’ it allows me to get from A to B via the quickest way possible.
3. Revisit all your cities ‘tourist’ spots
This might sound boring and a little confusing – but the essence is this: if you were a tourist to your own city what would you see? What you notice? What would spark your interest? By refreshing your gaze and perspective it can help you to appreciate what your city has to offer that other places don’t. Even if your local area doesn’t have ‘tourist spots’ per say, what makes your space unique? Be grateful for the variety that each new place brings.
4. Move through your landscape in a different way
Whilst not many of us have driven in a car much in the past few weeks, I have seen many people walking, running, cycling, skateboarding and even on a scooter! Each of these different forms of transport allows you to see your area at a different pace, reach varying distances with ease and experience different emotions when travelling through the landscape. When walking you can take in more of your surroundings, whilst when cycling you can explore further afield places more easily and feel the meditative motion of turning the pedals and feeling the wind on your face. By varying (if possible) your mode of movement, it allows you to explore your local area from many angles, inviting adventure, calm or excitement depending on the choice you make.
5. Look up, not down
Last and certainly not least, Put.That.Phone.Away. It has become second nature for us to instantly reach for our phones when there is even a spare second in our day. But with so much of our lives on a screen, taking 30 minutes or an hour out of our day to keep our head up and take in our surroundings is so important for our mental and physical health. I love to walk listening to an audiobook or podcast, and whilst that is still keeping your mind engaged, it still allows you to look up not down – even if you’re lost in your music or story.