One of the best points of any journey?
The second day back home.
It’s like this. Being wise, you’ve taken an extra three or four days off work for a post-holiday holiday, just enough time to battle jet-lag and sort through the mail. The first day is all about sleeping – and on the second day, in the same exhausted, nervous fog you get after drinking too much coffee, you lurch into town…
…and rediscover it. By going away, you’ve unfamiliarized yourself with your own home. You can truly see it again. Because familiarity makes the world – disappear. When you know exactly where you are and where you’re going, your thoughts will turn to fresher topics and your eyes shift to cruise-control. Starved of stimulus, your awareness withers and you start to pine for novelty with a leaden, blunted heart.
So here are four ways you can fall in love with your surroundings all over again.
1. Read Like A Tourist
When I was growing up, my parents moved around a lot. (Nothing sinister about that: I’m a British Forces child). Consequently there were gaps in my knowledge of English grammar. With erratic formal tuition, I picked up some of the basics rather haphazardly – and it’s proving difficult to unlearn the worst of these habits.
Inside your head, the place you live is just like that, only much worse. You build your own picture of it, because there are no rules, no classes, no exams. And you build that picture out of your opinions and your specific, limited knowledge. It’s yours subjectively, incompletely, maybe even irrationally – except it feels like the truth, so you don’t question it.
(That’s why the town you grew up in was The Worst Place In The World when you were a teenager – and why anyone who said otherwise wasn’t just stupid, they were actually, like, Wrong).
So…pick up a Rough Guide. Pick up a Frommer’s, or a Lonely Planet. Read a novel set in the city’s past, present or future (for Yorkies, I recommend something by John Baker, or Sansom’s Sovereign). Read a Traveller’s History, such as this one. Peruse the thoughts of other people on topics you take for granted. This may feel very odd: isn’t this kind of reading supposed to be all about escapism? We want to read about Ligurian olive groves, or what Michael Palin is up to. Not the rain. Not the queues. We don’t want to go on a mental staycation, thankyouverymuch!
Except – that’s you talking. And on this particular topic, you can’t be trusted.
So pick up a book and ask someone else.
Isn’t it always the case that when people come to visit you in your oh-so-familiar corner of the world, you do things you don’t normally do? It’s a special occasion, so you go to that restaurant you’ve always wanted to try out, you visit that museum that you realise you’ve never been to (even though you’ve been living here [x] years and it’s only just next door, for pete’s sake)…you sit by the river with an ice-cream, turn to your friends and say “why don’t I do this more often?”
(Good question. Why?)
Visitors are a very welcome excuse to do things out of the ordinary. So fill that social calendar, and live your life out of the ordinary.
3. Live Elsewhere At Home
I can understand how this one may seem…a little weird.
It’s all very well trying to spring-clean your experience of a place during the daytime – but at the end of it, you go home to the same old house and it all stops there. Major interruption. Open the door, and there they all are – those zillions of reminders of the perspective you’re trying to shift. All ready to drag you back into the old way of thinking.
So don’t go home.
Book a bed & breakfast, or a hotel room, or go camping…all within a short distance of your own home. Wake up in a place weirdly familiar, yet not at all.
(My recommendation for any paperwork? Use another address – say, your parental home. Or lie. Just pretend you don’t normally live just down the road. People will think you’re deranged. Or in my case, people’s immediate suspicions that you are deranged will be confirmed).
4. Fake It
Budding actors or compulsive liars, this is your hour.
We are creatures programmed by our habits. Without that first cup of coffee in the morning, without the myriad rituals that assure us that the world has somehow held together for another day, we feel incomplete, unbalanced and cranky. Our habits dictate our emotional response to the day – and by habits, I mean three-dimensional habits. An action, a movement, a kinetic phrase uttered by the body in motion.
This is where bio-feedback is your friend. If you behave in the same way you do when you’re travelling, your body will involuntarily react in the same ways. Lift your head and look around (and look up). Stop walking like you want your walk to end as soon as possible. Let your eyes go wide.
It’s small change, but it all adds up. And pretty soon, it’ll all reach your brain, and you’ll start seeing things again…and then suddenly it’s no act, you’re not faking it, you’re really drinking in your surroundings with a thirst you thought was gone forever. You’re in love – and this time, it’s for keeps.