I love traveling. I’ve traveled all my life on a regular basis until I came back to Japan in 2015. Since then, however, most of my holidays have been used to go back to France to see my family. I won’t lie, I miss going around the world and discovering new places.
In the last 6 months, though, I have found a way to solve this urge to leave: walking around town.
It isn’t about going far.
When we think about traveling, we always picture an exotic land, full of wonders. A place where the culture surprises us. An environment we don’t get to see often.
When I was a child, I would picture myself traveling to Japan, the US, Colombia, Australia, or Indonesia. Traveling within Europe felt like I wouldn’t be surprised. Yet, every summer, I’d go somewhere in Europe and still come back with stars in my eyes.
Nowadays, I live on the tiny island we call Japan. Sure, it’s large. But it’s still only half the size of France. There isn’t any neighboring country to go to in a few hours of train. As a result, found a solution: discovering my neighborhood.
Traveling is about novelty.
What does going to the other side of the planet bring? The bragging bonus of saying you did it. There are some other aspects too, but what stays in our mind is what is new. What feels new.
How do you feel?
The novelty itself doesn't have to really be new. It can also be the feeling of something new. You can be living a new experience, love it, only to go home and have a lingering sense it wasn’t the first time.
Some things are so amazing that, even after 100 times, they feel just like new.
When I was in France, I took a metro passing by the Eiffel tower twice a week for 2 years. Every time, I looked up in awe. Now, I go up the hill behind my place almost every single day to look at Mount Fuji in the far distance.
I’ve seen both countless times. Yet they still feel somewhat new. They contribute to my mind traveling far away.
Because that is what traveling in your neighborhood does. It’s about allowing your mind to wander around and see the beauty in tiny things all around.
You’re in? Alright, time to dive in the nitty-gritty.
How to prepare for a trip within your neighborhood?
Start by opening Google Maps. Look at your already-well-known neighborhood. See? That’s the supermarket you go to. There, you can see the hairdresser and the playground next to it. Over here, the coffee shop you love.
If you haven’t saved location on Google Maps, make a mental note of each spot you regularly go to. Notice you’re already seeing yourself in the street going to those.
Find one place far from your place. How long does it take you to get there on foot? 10-15 minutes? 30 minutes? 1 hour?
As a starter, you should probably stick to a place about 10 to 15 minutes away. Have one last quick look at the map, put your phone in your bag, and start heading there.
No music, no phone in hand, forget the concept of time now.
You know where you want to go. You’ve gone there before and you probably already have a sort of mindmap of the area anyway. Start walking and look around.
See the rose blossoming over here? That window up there in a moon shape? The dog sleeping in by the entrance of that house? The lights in this tower’s apartments? Oh, and what is that already?
As you walk, you discover a street you’ve been ignoring for the longest time. Go in there. Where you’ll end up won’t change. After all, this is your neighborhood. You’re bound to find your way back. But the path you’re on is about to change.
Discover the calm cul-de-sac around the corner. Appreciate how the buildings around here have a different structure from the ones in your street. See the trees in the distance? You’ve never seen them up close, have you? Now’s the time.
Keep walking, look up, feel the wind caressing your cheeks, enjoy the tiny small things around you. Find the peculiar.
Japanese people love giving French names to buildings. But they also don’t make much a difference between the “r” and “l”. While walking around, I fell upon a building with an interesting name.
As you walk around, make a point to go into any street you haven’t stepped a foot in until now. You’re bound to find a renewed interest in your neighborhood.
As you keep on repeating this, start going further and further, giving yourself more time. You’ll realize this might be better than traveling far, for three reasons.
- You can do it any day you want.
- It’s a relaxing activity good for your body.
- It’s much cheaper than going to the other side of the world.
On my side, after a few months going around, I discovered a place to see Mount Fuji without too many buildings in the way.
What story will you find hidden in your neighborhood? Let me know!