It’s the time of year when, at least in the northern hemisphere, time slows down. Adventures are scarce. The air is dry. Pockets are empty and, even in the most populated cities, it feels as if silence inundates every single corner.
I dread winters in London. Every year, November ends and the knot in my stomach signals the shortened days and the arrival of darkness. My life suddenly is at a standstill.
This time is different.
A friend I knew from university reached out and invited me to a photographers group. Close friends come over for breakfast and for walks to discover new marketplaces in town. We take corners and we explore back alleys. We wrap our freezing hands over steaming cups of coffee.
Learning how to be a tourist in my own city is a new skill to me. I used to spend all weekends watching episode after episode of trashy TV. My camera was dusting in its bag. Once, a colleague took me aside and pleaded me to get out.
“Your camera is begging to come out”, she said.
That was what got me out of the living room and into the buzzing streets of London. However, there are other ways to shake off lazy mornings and learn to love your city.
1. Take your camera
If photography is your thing, practice it. Letting your camera rot in its case will create feelings of guilt. Every time you go outside, take it with you! Even if you only take one or two shots you’ll force yourself to look at the world differently. Slowly, but surely, your hometown will show you her quirks and secrets. Soon, you’ll be hungry for more.
2. Pick a hobby far from your home
That’s sailing for me. My club is an hour away from where I live and I have to force myself to make it. Every single trip and sail is worth it. I become relaxed and I feel loved. On top of that, I feel a local in a different neighbourhood.
3. Set yourself a challenge
Is it writing about a certain street? Do you want to find the perfect coffee shop? Do you want to discover a different side of your town?
A few months ago I set myself the #30daysoflondon challenge, whereby I took a picture every single day for a month. As my immediate surroundings were exhausted, I had to find inspiration elsewhere. In return, I fell in love with London again.
4. Join walking groups
There are free walking groups in every city. Sometimes they have a specific purpose (photography, drawing, swimming, pub-crawling) although other times they just seek walking beside like-minded individuals.
5. Find a local
Be that a pub, a coffee-shop you can go to regularly or a grocery store. Having a place be part of your routine will make you see your own area with new eyes.
Next time you go elsewhere, it will feel as if you’re in a new place.
6. Follow the trail of a book or a film
This is not something I’ve tested, yet in London it is not too hard. Whenever I read a book set in London I get little butterflies in my stomach if I recognise a street, a restaurant or any other location. If I happen to go there, it almost feels I am in a parallel reality.
London, being the popular book and movie background it is, caters wells for this. We’ve got the trolley in King’s Cross, Big Ben, St. Pauls or Millenium Bridge. There are always new secrets to uncover.
7. Chase weekend markets
Street food. Antiques. Second-hand clothing. Flowers. Furniture. Nowadays there’s a market for everything and everyone. The best ones don’t tend to be outside your door, so the trek will always be satisfying.
We might not be able to make the most of our town forever.
Break-ups might put you off going to certain areas and you feel claustrophobic, a job could be too demanding or you might not be able to stay in the country forever (*cough* Brexit *cough*).
The time is now. You’re living now. Who knows, your favourite place on the planet could be just a stone throw away.