By Tanya Silverman
Additional Contributors: Lisa Autz, Samantha Spoto, Nakie Uzeiri, Dane Feldman, Molly Freeman, Ashley Rodriguez
We long to get away from our confining routines. Craving a change of scenery often leads us to spend free time browsing for plane tickets, reading Wikitravels entries, or simply fantasizing about escapes to sandy beaches, cultural centers, or plush accommodations.
Realistically, though, we can’t always get away so easily. Instead of sulking about feeling trapped, we should instead try to find ways to take mini-vacations in the places we live.
Here are the ways we at BTR vacation at home.
Hike the City’s Outskirts
It feels so easy to get trapped in the city. Part of the reason for the metropolitan nature blues is that it can be difficult to get out, especially for those who don’t own a car.
Sometimes the longing for fresh air, flora, and fauna grows debilitating for urbanites by not being able to hike in the peaceful forested terrain they wish to enter. But oftentimes, city dwellers don’t even have to escape their city limits to have a nice hike.
Lots of cities’ outskirts have designated hiking areas. In New York City, there’s Inwood Hill Park at the northern tip of Manhattan island or Forest Park in eastern Queens. Another urban Forest Park that’s replete with mammoth old-growth fir trees exists far out west, taking up a good portion of Portland, Oregon.
Finding hiking spots in densely-populated metropolitan areas doesn’t require as much research as you may think–just look at a map!
Adventure in Unlikely Places
Sometimes all that is needed to escape the methodical, repetition of daily routine is a slight change in direction. Instead of taking the normal route to work, maybe walk down a street slightly out of the way to stop at a hidden coffee spot dwelling. Perhaps, instead of going straight home after work, walk down to a park and play chess with a stranger.
I once decided to stay in the city after work just to feed a curious desire for some adventure. I walked down an avenue I normally wouldn’t and found a great coffee shop perfect for reading. When I got there, I met someone who had done the same. We started talking about our books and eventually grew to enjoy the conversation enough to go out to dinner together that night. Out of the spirit of the evening, we both decided to try a new place to eat together.
I was stimulated by new locations, new tastes, and new friends. The point is that vacation isn’t some extravagant locale far away, it’s hiding underneath your ability to see new possibilities in the seemingly mundane.
Check Out the Local Culture
I spent the last four years living in the Hudson Valley, surrounded by open sky and mountainscapes. Now that I’ve returned to the bustling city, I’m taking advantage of all the activities that don’t require me to lace up my hiking boots.
On any given night in New York City, you are sure to find an event to attend. There are so many options, in fact, that it may be difficult to choose just one.
After work, I usually find myself at one of the many art museums (like the MoMA, which offers free student admission) or at the countless concert venues throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. On other nights, I like to get my fill of poetry and storytelling. The Union Square Slam, which takes place every Monday at Bar 13, offers free writing workshops and open readings. If I can’t make Monday’s event, I head over to The Sidewalk Cafe on Tuesdays for the Urbana poetry slam. On Thursdays you can find me at The Moth StorySLAMS, which feature themed stories.
The city is filled with creative people showcasing their talents and I like to seek them out as often as I can. Aside from viewing unique and captivating art, I almost always leave these events feeling inspired to create something of my own.
Find New Neighborhoods
One of the best parts about New York City is the fact that even people who have lived here for 30 years haven’t seen it all. With that in mind, it’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed, but there are ways to appease that feeling.
So, every four or so months that I haven’t taken a trip outside of the city, I’ll book a room for a night or two in a neighborhood of Manhattan in which I don’t often spend time. My suggestion is either to do that or to book a room within walking distance of areas you don’t frequent. If, like me, you spend a lot of your time on the west side, stay in Murray Hill and take a long stroll down to the East Village or even the Lower East Side.
There are tons of bars, restaurants, cafes, and small parks to check out. I love to treat myself to brunch at Cafe Orlin where I can sit outside and then head down to Tompkins Square Park and lay out in the grass with some coffee from Cafe Pick Me Up.
Sometimes it’s enough of a vacation just escaping to a different neighborhood.
Relax and Restore
Taking a restorative yoga class is a great way to relax just as if you were on vacation. You can feel revived and find peace just as you would on a nice warm beach somewhere on the coast.
In this case, you don’t have to travel too far. A class is a small, 75-minute getaway that you can make time for every once in a while, whether you’re living in a city or outside of one.
Taking a restorative yoga class is perfect for beginners as well as for those who might be more advanced in yoga. The class works in easy and relaxing stretches, breathing, and uses them to challenge your mind and body.
If you’ve never taken a restorative yoga class–or any yoga class for that matter–this is a perfect way to try something new and clear your head.
Take this class with a friend or two and make it memorable, you’ll definitely have a few good laughs and think back to the time your friend (or you) fell over trying to do a new stretch.
If you don’t have time for a full class, you can even try some of these poses at home.
Unplug to Escape
Personally, I’m a huge fan of social media, mobile technology, and generally being plugged in 24/7. You won’t hear me complaining about people who pour over their phones, constantly checking their Twitter feed–because I’m totally that person.
Not only do I enjoy being on my phone constantly, I also do a lot of work and socializing online. I email my coworkers, I tweet at friends, I Facebook message my mom, I text my dad. I use technology to communicate with all the people in my life.
All that being said, since so much of my life is online, sometimes the best way to escape is to simply unplug or log out.
If I go for a walk, sometimes I’ll put my phone on airplane mode so that I don’t need to be bothered by all the notifications coming my way. Or, when I’m relaxing after work, I’ll close my laptop and turn my phone on Do Not Disturb (seriously, it’s a wonderful feature).
With no alerts or buzzing phones, it’s much easier to step away from work- or relationship-related stressors and relax.
All photos by Ashley Rodriguez.