What do you see when you walk around your neighbourhood?
Do you see the trees for the shadows they cast on the avenues below? …
the pavements for the gutters that collect new and strange objects every day? …
the objects for the people and events that discard them or leave them behind?
It’s easy to muse over the new, the exotic, the foreign. That’s why we travel right? We get complacent with our lives, bored with our surroundings. Nothing “excites” us any more. Time to move on. Experience something new.
So you go to Asia, where you get accosted by colours and people and sounds and smells, every minute of every day, until you end up praying for silence or in silence at some ashram on a remote hill. Which you also write up as an “experience”.
You make five pages of notes on the wonders of Chai (tea) and the way Indian women wear their saris. “Such dignity!” “Such style” (who are you? Anna Wintour?)
You muse over train travel like it was a new form of transport, worthy of deeper introspection, and not the quickest way for billions of people to get from point A to point B.
You get up before the sun to photograph how locals pass their mornings (stretching, eating, socialising) and spend the hours before sunset walking the streets in search of a character-lined face cycling on a rusty bike past a crumbling wall (oh the textures!), and consider yourself a lottery winner if all of this happens in a shard of golden evening light.
And then you come home, only to sleep in until the white light of mid morning, walk past old people like they were invisible, never take note of how your fellow countrymen eat, socialise or wear their clothes and generally treat your camera like it was an ornamental piece and your notebook like it was a strange relic from some past life (that you don’t care to remember).
pic: a walk i do every day, seen a different way
Aah yes, home is where your sensory organs go to take a rest and that curious part of your brain finally goes on sabbatical. You have become an insider again. Everything is familiar which means that nothing is note-worthy.So when I ask you again, “What do you see when you walk around your neighbourhood?” do you think you can think of something new to report?
This is my task, now that I am home, for a week, a month, a season. Who knows where the autumn winds will blow me? I’m not sure if I can become an “outsider” in my own city, but I can at least aim to be an “insighter” – an insider who offers some insight into my beautiful, complicated, tourist-friendly city that presents a pretty picture. One thing I know is that I don’t want to pass my days waiting for the next new thing to come along. I want to look at the old anew, see the familiar with the curiosity of a Cat and the wonderment of a child discovering its surroundings for the first time. Tall order I know but I have some room for growth.
pic: my aim is to see the beauty and design in the everyday, every day
I was musing on this idea when I came across Alastair Humphreys (www.alastairhumphreys.com) and his MicroAdventures, which seems to find a happy balance between discovering your surroundings and planning a big adventure trip.
Some say MicroAdventures are just a rebranding of outdoor activities to make it more hip but then that theory discounts the fact that an adventure is really just about challenging yourself in new ways, pushing your boundaries, taking yourself out of your comfort zone, which doesn’t have to be in the wilderness, surrounded by the howls of hungry wolves.
I agree with every person who shouts from their homebuilt treehouse that “adventure is only a state of mind” or as Stuart of the www.familyadventureproject.org puts it: “MicroAdventures are about doing something small, new or spontaneous amidst or instead of your everyday routines.”
It could be as simple as trying a new route to get to work or bicycling through a suburb you have never been through with a specific task in mind (find a gift at a charity shop).Life works better when you keep it simple.
Here are a few ideas to get you out of your comfort zone/rut/routine and experimenting in your own city.
1) Geocaching: there are treasures hidden all over your city. You just need to know where to look by using various GPS-enabled devices. see geocaching.com
2) Pub/bar crawl with difference: feel like you visit the same bars and order the same drinks? Flip it. Go to your favourite bar and order your favourite drink and then ask the barman for their favourite bar and what to order there. Rinse and repeat as often as you like.
3) Secret rendezvous: invite friends to a lunch/picnic/event but don’t tell them the location. Instead give them a starting location where they can walk from and then make them work out where the rendezvous is by way of sms/mms clues that can include riddles and pictures of landmarks/icons along the way.
Who knows where my local musings will take me …(just as long as they don’t take me too seriously).