Getting Stuck In

When I was an exchange student in the USA, I was constantly trying new things.  I had a close-knit group of international and American friends, and our attitude was to give anything a shot (particularly if there was free food).  We crashed a Christian barbecue, a Korean pop music society, salsa classes, strangers' house parties; we regularly attended guest lectures and stand-up shows; funfairs, concerts, any event on campus, we'd be there.  So when I returned to the UK to complete my degree in Manchester I found myself restless.  My friends' excuses that they had too much work rang hollow when their downtime involved going to the same handful of clubs, or watching TV at home, instead of mixing it up.  After the excitement of being reunited with family and friends, the return from a significant time spent abroad can be quite depressing, so these are my tips for maintaining the spirit of adventure in your normal life.

  • Go to gigs - music, stand-up, whatever you're into.  I really like Sofar Sounds which organises gigs in people's living rooms.  You sign up to a mailing list that lets you know when the next event is in your city, and then get to attend a night of local artists in the comfort of someone's living room or garden!
  • Go to markets, fetes and festivals.  Here in Sydney there are a shit-ton of weekend markets, and different neighbourhoods often have small festivals, not to mention the huge Sydney Festival that takes place in January.  The picture up top is from the Tea Festival at Carriageworks, which is also where Sydney Fashion Week is hosted - and even if you haven't got tickets to a show it can still be fun to gawk at the fashion pack.
  • Websites like BroadsheetConcrete Playground and The Urban List in Oz are constantly updating with places to go and things to do.  One of my favourite things is discovering cool new bars in the city, and instead of returning to my usual haunts I've been working through the Urban List's Top 50.  Time Out is one that exists in most cities, and also keep an eye out on Facebook for events happening in your area.

  • Explore museums and art galleries.  I firmly believe there's something for everyone, particularly a city like London which is crammed with world-class museums with free entry.  If you don't like staring at old things there are excellent interactive places like the Science Museum or Natural History Museum and there are always new exhibits.  Even in the dead-end town I did my regional work there was the Griffith Pioneer Park (that I am so enjoying above).
  • Try a dance or yoga class, particularly if it's something you've never considered before.  Most dance schools have drop-in classes so you can find what works for you, and most yoga schools have introductory offers for beginners.
  • Get into some nature.  Take a train somewhere and go for a hike.  Instead of hiding indoors on a hot day, go swimming.  Explore an area out of your comfort zone.  Google local walks, and if you need an incentive, find ones that incorporate decent pubs (the UK's Campaign For Real Ale has several guidebooks listing loads of these).

The main thing about travelling that is so stimulating is being constantly challenged, physically and mentally, and that is the principle to replicate in your "civilian" life.  As banal as your own country may seem compared to the places you have been, there is so much to enjoy around you, if you try to take a look with fresh eyes.  Yes, the beaches of Thailand are visually spectacular, but there is beauty to be found in nature more understated.  No matter how well you think you know a place, there is always something new to discover, so get out there, and get stuck in.

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