Explore the unknown
There is nothing like travel to open the mind and expose you to new customs, cultures, beliefs, foods, art and attitudes. Even simple things like hairstyles and clothing colors can be wildly different in different places. If you’re traveling this summer, bring an open mind and focused attention with you. Instead of rushing around to check off a to-do list of Instagrammable sights, take the time to notice the new environment, make new friends and acquaintances, and see how people there live, work and recreate. Engaging with the local culture and having new experiences can be both awe-inspiring and mind-opening, which is really the whole point of travel — and of life.
Not everyone will be going to far-flung locations this summer, but everyone can bring a new focus and attention to their time off, even here at home. New York City is so vast that you could take yourself to a new neighborhood, type of performance or hangout every day and still have lots left to see. We are also a city of many cultures and subcultures, so challenge yourself to leave your comfort zone, explore and try new things.
Instead of dissing the tourists who slow you down on the street (admit it, we’ve all been guilty of that one time or another!), try to pick up some pointers. Slow down and see the world around you with new eyes, listen in a deeper way and use all your senses to take in this wonderful moment: You have nowhere to be and nothing to do but soak in the environment and observe the world.
The French have a word, flâneur, which means a passionate wanderer, someone who strolls, taking in the world on view. The poet Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) praised the flâneur as someone who finds “the timeless within the transitory.” That feeling is open to all of us, if we have the inclination to walk without a set destination, seeing what presents itself as we go. It’s a way to discover your surroundings on a deeper level and become acquainted with your own mind, curiosity and interests.
So whether you’re far from home or still in town, try wandering without a destination, seeing what streets and shops beckon to you and learning more about a city’s history as you observe infrastructure and buildings, old and new. If you’re staying close to home, New York is a city constantly reinventing itself; the old coexists with the new in interesting ways, allowing you to discover the past within the present.
For those who feel the true adventure lies within, a summer break can also be a time for meditating, going on a silent retreat or a yoga retreat, finding solitude in nature or seeking spirituality in any number of ways that feel personally meaningful. A sense of peace and happiness is the reward for exploring the unknown — whether it’s out there or within yourself.
Try a low-stress approach to your travels this summer, whether they are close to home or far away, and see what serendipitous experiences you find.