Small changes

May 10, 2013

I love to set out on walks when I'm in a new place. It helps me to familiarize myself with my surroundings and feel more at home when I'm uprooted. But as I approach my 10-year anniversary of living in New York, I realize how little I walk around my own city and take advantage of all it has to offer. I know this is a pretty common problem for most people-when you arrive in a new place you take time to explore and get to know it, but soon enough you settle in to your daily routine and rarely have the time or interest to head out and learn more. In my defense, though, I do travel a significant amount, so when I am in New York, I just want to feel settled and relaxed and comfortable at home. Generally, my last priority is to be a tourist in my own city.

But since I started noticing my monotonous behavior in New York, I've taken steps to change it. The most major adjustment was, literally, to take more steps. I am primarily self-motivated, but I wanted to be accurate with my mission, so I went in search of a pedometer. I had been wooed by an advertisement for a fancy one in a fitness magazine, so I went to their website to investigate and found this statement: "Fitbit is dedicated ...to mak[ing] people more aware of their everyday activities and motivate them to do more...small changes to your daily routine can add up to big results." Yes! I agree! So I bought one and now am forced to hold myself accountable for taking at least 10,000 steps and 25 flights of stairs each day. As a completely irrelevant side note, the stairs situation is significantly harder when I'm not in New York. Apparently, not all cities are built vertically.

To ensure that I get my required steps in every day, I find myself taking public transportation less, which has revealed a world of hidden gems on the streets of the five boroughs. I have found boutique clothing stores that are otherwise obscured by subway stations, happened upon hole-in-the-wall restaurants with outstanding lunch specials, discovered tiny plaques honoring historic people who had stood there and been entertained by some truly indescribable wardrobe choices. I have also walked across several of the beautiful bridges and must admit that the city looks pretty stunning from all angles.

How many times have you been to your 'regular' Starbucks instead of finding the next nearest one? Go try it. It's not very far away and you just might find a new favorite haunt along the way. As New Yorkers, we are plagued by tunnel vision and confidence that the amenities in our own neighborhoods are unquestionably the best. In a city with over 200,000 restaurants, I promise that there is at least one delicious place in another borough. In the meantime, let apps like Yelp and Urbanspoon help you get out of a rut of ordering takeout and enjoy exploring new neighborhoods. After dinner, take a walk to a new yogurt boutique where you can indulge in all sorts of strange and wonderful flavors.

If much of this sounds like an advertisement for a new guidebook to New York City, I apologize. It's merely a suggestion (and probably a little self-entreaty) to get out and relearn the city in which you live. Take a new path every day-you never know what you might find! Adorable puppies, friends you haven't seen since high school or famous people trying to be incognito may be lurking just around the corner. Maybe you can even offer your seemingly hefty doggie bag of food to a homeless person who will be extremely grateful for it. And if all else fails and you get bored or decide that you could have spent your time more wisely, well, at least you'll be one step closer to being a fitter version of yourself.

© Leah Edwards 2016