I always forget just how necessary it is to regularly spend time somewhere different from your normal life. This past weekend a couple of friends and I went to Hamilton, Ontario, for a mini “staycation” retreat. We hold these retreats a few times a year, but this was our first time doing it in a city where none of us lived.
Now, Hamilton is not very far away from Toronto, and it’s not overly different, either! Of all the places in the world you could travel to, Hamilton is more similar to Toronto than it is different from it. And yet we really felt different in Hamilton! We were more open, chatting with people to ask for recommendations, ignoring our phones more often, exploring places in a more relaxed and intuitive way. By the time I got back yesterday afternoon, I felt like I’d really had a vacation.
Being somewhere new brings fresh perspective, even if the city bears some resemblance to where you live full-time. Being out of your normal routine, sleeping in a different bed, meeting different people, learning a new city layout, trying new-to-you food: it all adds up to a bit of a culture shift. It opens up new possibilities. Realizing that tons of people live here, in this city, in these ways, means that you recognize that you could live there too! Or make another big lifestyle change. Or do things differently. Travel teaches us that there isn’t just one way to live.
I feel like I’ve gotten most of my travel “heebeejeebees” out of my system after the years I spent abroad and nomading around. I like feeling settled, most of the time. But I still crave this feeling of realizing things could be different, of deep-diving into another city’s subculture. It’s nice to know that I don’t have to go very far to experience that feeling.