Finding the Oasis

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It’s tough feeling stuck at home when all you want to do is travel.  I just happened to stumble upon this article a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.  Although my first reaction was to be cynical (Bored in San Francisco?  Really?  I’d love to see her try out a day in SEK hell!) the overall message was an enlightening one.  There are (unfortunately) a lot of times when traveling is just not realistic.  Whether it’s a commitment to work or being strapped for cash, it isn’t always in the cards…and for those of us bitten with the travel bug, that can be torture.  Sometimes you have to have a backup plan to satisfy the urge.

Since I’m not exactly in the position to do any crazy traveling this summer due to a lack of money, I’ve been feeling pretty restless.  After reading that article and reflecting on it, I am determined to revamp my attitude toward my surroundings and look at this place with new eyes.  In other words, I am working on finding the oasis in this desert of a situation.

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The whole “being a tourist in your own town” thing is a lot easier said than done when you’re dealing with a small town. Some of the article’s suggestions aren’t even options around here (This place isn’t exactly crawling with museums and culturally diverse neighborhoods).  Still, the point of the article is to satisfy your wanderlust with new experiences, and that can be done whether you’re in a town of 50 or 500,000…smaller towns just take a little more creativity.

With this inspiration in mind, I’ve been making it a point to find little bits of adventure in the monotony.  Here’s what I’ve been doing to stay sane during this traveling dry spell.

Wander downtown

Although I’m in my hometown, this is the first time I’ve really lived here for about five years.  While many things have not changed, there were quite a few new shops there  that I hadn’t been to before.  We walked around and actually found a couple of hidden gems.  There was an antique shop full of interesting tea sets and I definitely would have bought one if we weren’t about to move across the Atlantic.  There was also a super cool used book store (pictured above) that is quite literally exploding with books – a language teacher’s dream.  The inside of the store was total chaos, but it was so fun to look through all of the titles.  I walked away with McCarthy’s The Road – and for only $4!  Once I find out for sure which classes I’m teaching next year, I will definitely be back for a few more!

Check out the local parks

Most towns, no matter how small, usually have at least one park.  I was actually surprised at how many parks there are here when I started seeking them out.  Some of them are pretty ho-hum, but some are pretty nice.  The Europe park even looks quite a bit like a little European cafe!  It’s the perfect place to sit down with a cup of coffee and a book or sketch pad and just escape for a couple of hours.

Try a new restaurant…

Since I’ve started this little experiment, I’ve been on the lookout for any restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries that I haven’t tried yet.  Surprisingly, these things can go unnoticed pretty easily since small towns tend to rely a lot upon word-of-mouth marketing as opposed to more traditional strategies.  Being somewhere new and unfamiliar can make you feel like you’re somewhere else – at least for a little while.

…or order something new at an old favorite

If you happen to be somewhere where there aren’t any new restaurants to try, you can always opt for a new menu item at one of your regular eateries.  You might be surprised at how refreshed you feel when you don’t just order the usual.  If you’ve had everything twice over, make the experience a little bit different.  Go out for dessert and drinks only.  Dress up.  Pretend you’re Gordon Ramsay and criticize every aspect of the restaurant from the decor to the plate size.  Whatever it takes.  My sister and I even made a fancy breakfast and ate it on my mom’s bistro-style patio set outside just to try something different and it definitely worked!

Sign up for a class or activity

If you look hard enough, there’s usually something going on in even the tiniest of towns.  After browsing a bit, I finally found a good yoga class that only costs $5 per week.  My sister and I are starting tomorrow evening and I can’t wait!  I’ve been wanting to try yoga for awhile and now I have no excuse not to.  In addition to fitness classes, you can also try art, bird-watching, volunteering…whatever is available!  Just keep an open mind.

Go to the library

If you ask me, a book is the ultimate escape.  Nothing transports you to another world quite like reading about one.  My reading list is a mile high and I never seem to catch up on everything I want to read, which makes right now the perfect time to do so!

Take long walks

Sometimes it’s not about where you go, it’s just about going.  If your car doesn’t suck, you could also go for a drive, but I actually prefer walking for the fresh air and the exercise.  We walk at least a few times a week and we try to pick a different walking spot each time just to switch things up.  I also like to walk around at night with the Google Sky Map app and look for constellations.  Walking around seems to bring out my pensive side and I tend to have the best conversations and inner reflections when I’m going on a walk.

Say “yes.”

Another thing I have found to be helpful is simply saying “yes” more often.  If someone invites us to do something, I go, even if I’m not really feeling it at first.  It can be really easy to dismiss plans that don’t sound like much fun, or that have been done a million times (especially if I’m engrossed in Netflix), but anything can be fun if you make it that way.  Ultimately, the key is to make room for new memories, and if you’re with the right people, it’s hard to go wrong.

Having a good attitude can make all the difference in a less-than-ideal situation.  Even if you’re doing something for the bazillionth time, don’t be afraid to try it again in a new way.  It’s all about making something feel new and unfamiliar – after all, that’s what  makes traveling so alluring.  I’m planning to keep going with this little experiment for the remainder of the summer.  Some other ideas on my list right now include checking out all of the seedy bars in town, trying some new international recipes, and going to the local water park.

To anyone out there reading this:  what do you do when you’re itching to travel, but can’t make it happen?  I can always use ideas!

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