A strange thing happened to me on the subway
Now, that in and of itself really shouldn’t shock anyone. Strange things happen on the New York City subway every day. In fact, more strange things probably happen on one single train on one single day than occur in a week in your home town. But this was an interesting one.
A few years back, I joined a trail running group on Meetup.com. And like many things in a fast-paced city of transplants, it was fantastic while it lasted. The cornerstone was two women from Germany who were roommates and had a large SUV, and then random people each week that stumbled across the listing and decided, sure, it would be great to get out of the city for a few hours, head into the woods, run a few miles, then grab some food.
I met some amazing people and even though the group disbanded, I stayed in touch with one of the women on Facebook. Even though she moved back to Germany, she reaches out once or twice a year to say she’ll be in town, and we go for a run in Central Park.
So despite 19 degree weather and a dusting of icy snow on the ground, that’s what I did at 10am today.
Which leads us to the subway. We’re dressed in full running gear, and I see a man descending the stairs. What’s interesting is that he looks like a totally normal middle-aged guy, but he has that look on his face that makes me think, “Hmmm, that guy is going to walk up and say something to us.”
The feeling is strange due to the disconnect. It’s common for crazy looking people to have that look and ask you something weird. And it’s common for normal looking people to make eye contact and then just walk by you.
So he stops, looks at us, and excitedly says:
“Hey! Are you taking the subway to Central Park? And then going running?”
We nod slowly, and reply yes.
And he just smiles, doesn’t say another word, and seems about as excited as can be as he just keeps on walking.
It was a strange interaction. Maybe he was a tourist and didn’t know if people really actually did that in Manhattan.
Which got me to thinking, that being a tourist is one of the most awesome states of mind you can be in. I’ll tell you why.
Why you should live your life like a tourist
You get up early and get things done
Did I mention it was 19 degrees here? Bitter cold. Poor running conditions. And I was under 2 comforters and sleeping soundly on a Saturday morning. But I committed to running early, and it made for a better day.
When you’re a tourist, every day truly feels like the minutes are slipping away. When I’m in a foreign city, there’s absolutely a clock going on in my head, tracking how many days I have left, how many things I want to do, and how I’m going to do them all. That’s a good feeling.
You’re bubbling with excitement
I go on a run in my local neighborhood about 3-4 times per week. I’ve done the loop in Central Park hundreds of times. But you should have seen the bubbling excitement of my friend. It didn’t matter that it was cold. Or early. She had flown from Munich and now she was getting to run in Central Park! She was elated!
That’s how I feel all the time when I’m on vacation. You should only hope to approach your work, your goals, and your relationships that way.
You do things you normally wouldn’t do
My friend and I talked about that phenomenon… we both live in one of the most desirable places in the world, with museums and art and music and theater, yet we don’t take advantage of the things around us often enough.
But do you know when we do? When someone comes to visit you. Suddenly, your weekend plans involve an itinerary that looks like the NY Tourism board put it together. But you know what? You’d be lying if you weren’t just a little excited by it.
You notice things you normally don’t see
In the middle of my run, as I was routinely staring down at the wet, black pavement as I normally do, my friend perked up and pointed at the snow-covered pond to our left, with trees in the background and skyscrapers bursting into the sky behind them. It reminded me to look around me and appreciate things in the moment.
You do things that scare you a bit
As we finished our run and made our way along Central Park South, we heard a couple with a thick British accent getting into a horse-drawn carriage ride. I caught the eyes of their young children, and sensed their amazement and a little bit of fear. They were in a foreign country, where people talked a bit differently, and a strange man was loading them into a strange mode of transportation as a massive horse towered over them 2 feet away, strained at the reigns. They looked a bit scared, but I’m certain they won’t forget the experience.
The two points I’ll leave you with today are really quite simple.
1) As often as you can in life, BE a tourist. Plan that next trip. See the world. Get out of your comfort zone.
2) The rest of the time, ACT like a tourist. The best thing about New York City for me is that you can feel like one just about every day. But even if your home town doesn’t give you that feeling, create it. Do things you normally don’t and take a moment to experience it through wide eyes.
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