Have you ever gone exploring in your own city?
We tend to get into ruts in our movements — go to work, go home, run errands or at our usual places. When we go out, we visit the same restaurants and coffee shops. I’m as guilty of this as anybody. But when I do venture out of those ruts, I remember how I crave new experiences.
After I’d been at my current workplace for several years, I discovered a lovely tree-lined walking route almost directly on the way home. True serendipity. Another time, I discovered a quiet street lined with townhouses, smack dab in the middle of downtown — that was such a shock I felt like I’d stepped into another dimension, as if I’d found Diagon Alley or a door to Neverwhere.
I’d been going for walks in a park for years before I realized that if I just continued a little farther, I could get right out to the lake and the beach. There are gardens hidden behind high-rises downtown. There’s a real cannon in front of one of the government buildings. It’s possible to walk along the waterfront or up the banks of one of the city rivers for far longer than I would have believed before I tried it.
I make a point of going to local festivals and other cultural events. There are a lot of them here in Toronto, and I miss most of them, but at various times I’ve been to Pride Week, arts festivals, music festivals, Greek and Caribbean festivals, science fiction and fantasy conventions, concerts, and so on. Each time, I see or hear or taste something new to soak up.
The best part? Most of what I’ve mentioned is free. It doesn’t take a lot of time, either. I’ve headed out on my lunch hour, or on my commute home via public transit, and made new discoveries within easy walking distance of my usual routes. And the thrill of discovery never gets old. It feels like a mini-vacation.
Last weekend I was in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, where I got to eat at a diner I’d never seen before (the food was mediocre and the place was freezing, but that’s not the point) and watch a whole new collection of people going through their own ruts. I was there because of another new experience — the Old Book and Paper Show, which was just as cool as it sounds. If you want to read more, hop on over to my write-up on the Turtleduck Press blog.
What unexpected local discoveries have you made? What’s your favourite way to explore your city or hometown?