But...where will I get my latte fix now?
February 6, 2011 5:04 PM   Subscribe

How do I rediscover my city before it makes me scream?

I just got back from a sad walk to the only coffee shop in my neighborhood; it is now closed, indefinitely. The disappointing discovery led me to start googling new cities to live in. Melodramatic, perhaps, but the truth is that I've long had itchy feet and need your help.

I bought a condo in a decent neighborhood in the downtown section of this small city about five years ago, and have lived here ever since. In total, I've been in this metro area over six years, which constitutes the longest time I have lived anywhere, ever. I bought because the price was right and, at the time, I thought the city was fine. A year ago, I had the opportunity to move out-of-state, but didn't take it for reasons that are irrelevant to this post. The opportunity was extremely appealing, but I thought I would be happy with my choice to stay.

But now? There is no coffee shop in my neighborhood, and nothing good that is open on a Sunday within walking distance. Every fun activity that I can think of is something I have done before. There are no neighborhoods I've never visited because I've gone everywhere. The city is small, remember? I feel like I've done it all already. And a couple of times since. I am So. Bored. And I do not deal well with boredom...

Honestly, all I want to do right now is move. But I am committed to another three years because of school. So my question to you is: what concrete strategies can I employ to rediscover the city and make it more bearable for me? How can I make the familiar exciting again? Have you ever fallen back in love with an environment that had grown drab to you? Do tell!

(bonus points for ideas that are inexpensive and do no rely on regular access to a vehicle)
posted by vivid postcard to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Seriously, I don't think this question is very answerable without a specific location.
posted by MadamM at 5:11 PM on February 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

What city? I ask because there are probably MeFites there who can help with specific ideas, but without knowing where you are this is pretty tough to answer.
posted by beagle at 5:13 PM on February 6, 2011

Response by poster: Eh, to hell with internet anonymity: Salt Lake City.
posted by vivid postcard at 5:15 PM on February 6, 2011

Find the history in the city. Take tours, or learn to give tours of the city. Learn all the strange little architectural bits and where to find them. Share those bits with others, in person and online through photo sharing sites, maybe. The more you know, the more it can get into your heart.

Find more people in the city you like, doing things you like to do. Find clubs and groups.

Find the new things that are happening right away. When a new coffee shop opens, be one of the first customers. When a new art gallery show opens, go to it. Get to know the people who are responsible for the art and theater and music that are happening, and get involved.

Find the local sports teams and support them. Go to the local colleges and take classes.

Any city can become less exciting the more into a rut or routine you're in. I think you have to shake things up and use the city to your best advantage, otherwise you're just replacing familiarity with new and shiny, and that's not sustainable.
posted by xingcat at 5:19 PM on February 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

If you are bored with your current neighborhood, you don't have to stay there. You could rent your condo out and rent an apartment elsewhere in the city, or even sell the condo altogether.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:29 PM on February 6, 2011

Can you take a few days out of town? Sometimes coming home after being away can give a new perspective. Also, if you are stuck in the regular routes you take to get places, choose new ones.

Finally, SLC has been featured in many movies - maybe take a movie location tour of the city?
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:32 PM on February 6, 2011

For me, the environment is really the people. Find more interesting people, and they will show you new things.
posted by sninctown at 5:50 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had this problem with Calgary until I met my husband - it helped that he had a car, but also that he had a lot of local knowledge.Xingcat has great advice.

Do you like photography? I'm sure Salt Lake City has lots of cool photo ops. You could blog this or find meetups. You could find a dinner group that likes to try different restaurants. If you have seen everything before, maybe going with a friend will help. Does your school offer a peer mentoring program? Taking an international student around to all the sights might give you a sense of pride or ownership.

If you are a student, do you get a discount card or rates to cultural activities? That would help with the cost. I don't know what else to suggest...any city probably has the same problem of seeing and doing things over and over again, but I find I often see different things each time I go. Good luck!
posted by Calzephyr at 5:53 PM on February 6, 2011

Find a hobby that will take you new places in the city (and keep you occupied at home). Build models: visit model and hobby shops. Learn to knit: visit yarn stores.

Take up geocaching: explore the city in depth, and find its hidden miniature treasures.

Engage with your community. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Join the Big Brother/Big Sister program. Teach swimming at the YMCA. Clean kennels at an animal shelter.

Cultivate an outdoor sport. Spend your Sunday afternoons mountain biking, skiing, swimming at the community pool. Challenge yourself to find a new jogging route each week. Take up rock climbing.
posted by ErikaB at 5:54 PM on February 6, 2011

Are you sure you're not just feeling stir-crazy because of winter? Can you take up a new hobby? What about making art and leaving it in public places for people to find?
posted by runningwithscissors at 6:01 PM on February 6, 2011

Do you have any decent vacation time? Sometimes rediscovering a city is best done when you've had a chance to take substantial time away. You could try apartment (condo) swapping with someone somewhere else. Hopefully the time away will help you explore or find new interests to pursue when you get back to SLC.
posted by msk1985 at 6:12 PM on February 6, 2011

Response by poster: A side note: I actually am going to be taking a vacation in a couple months. Yay! Maybe that'll help any issues of stir craziness. But - one of the ways I knew that I was becoming tired of this city was noticing that the last several times I returned from a business/personal trip, instead of feeling that "ah...it'll be nice to be home" warm feeling I used to feel, I was filled with a mild case of dread, along the lines of, "christ...why did I decide to move to SLC, again?" after running through a million improbable ways to extend whatever trip I was on.

That...may not be relevant. Carry on!
posted by vivid postcard at 6:24 PM on February 6, 2011

Like xingcat said, tours--you could hook up with Couchsurfing or Hospitality Club (both of which let you just hang out with people if you'd rather not let them stay at your place). Showing other people around is a great way to rediscover a sense of appreciation for where you are. If they come downtown, it doesn't require a vehicle.

You could also make a practice of reviewing places you love on Yelp, if you don't already, and connecting with likeminded people on Chowhound. Both places have their drawbacks, but they have their uses, too. And you can check out Meetup.com -- there are often groups for restaurant-exploring and so on.

Around here, the parks district has some neat programs like trails challenges where you need to hike one trail in each of the regional parks in a year, which gets you out to potentially awesome parks that you otherwise might not have. That may not require a vehicle if you can hook up with a group.

Good luck!
posted by wintersweet at 6:30 PM on February 6, 2011

Get really into snowboarding.
posted by salvia at 6:58 PM on February 6, 2011

Yeah, start skiing or snowboarding. You're in a world-class location for that. Absolutely world-class.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:14 PM on February 6, 2011

Every month or two I get upset about being in The Wrong Place. I live in LA and it is, for all intents and purposes, the antithesis of my entire being. Furthermore I live in a fairly quiet and peaceful and empty and closed part of LA. There is no fucking coffeeshop. There are barely sidewalks.

One concrete thing that I've found very helpful is to get out on my bike and ride goal-free for an hour or two - each time going further and in a new direction from the last time. I just returned from a two hour ride out along the LA river, and it was hugely restorative. I saw bums fishing in the river, and a guy playing saxophone into a water outlet. I found an under-bridge space with unbearably great acoustics, and sang songs in it. And I wore off a bunch of anxiety.

SO my suggestion is - when warm weather returns - get a bike and a helmet and go explore. It's very different than walking or driving. I find it restores the feeling of living in a city full of life and activity. I realize this doesn't help you now, but you're gonna be there a while.
posted by fake at 7:15 PM on February 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't know what the zoning regulations are like, but couldn't you choose a suitable neighbourhood and open your own coffee shop? Or a coffee stand at first.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:18 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You describe free-floating dissatisfaction. A new location would probably be a cure, but so would falling in love/lust, developing a new hobby, developing some new passion.
posted by theora55 at 7:28 PM on February 6, 2011

Explore the geology of your area. Did you know that you live next to the largest open-pit mine on Earth?
posted by JesseBikman at 7:41 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey, nothing's tying you to your block. I'm about to move an hour away from work to be in a better place. It's worth it for me. Take some bus rides, explore some neighborhoods, see what clicks. Maybe in the course of that you'll decide where you are isn't too bad after all. Maybe you'll wonder how you ever survived so long here. But either way, you'll be better off for it.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:47 PM on February 6, 2011

Best answer: I've met many people who take the time to walk every street in their city to relearn what it has to offer (and "because it was there")
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:09 PM on February 6, 2011

Go hiking! I'd love to live in Utah for the open spaces! No vehicle? Maybe there's a hiking or outdoors club you could join.

Or... start a band or artistic collective endeavor and create a new music/art movement??

Or... Walk around and find funky looking or ridiculous stuff and take pictures, ie, get into amateur local photography.
posted by Franzilla at 9:00 PM on February 6, 2011

I can't tell you to be happy in SLC. I am pretty certain I would hate living there. But then I can tell you how to have a slightly better time living in a place you're unhappy with, which is what I'm trying to do. I'm back in my hometown due to family health reasons, a town I happily left some 25 years ago. I can't change where I am, but I can change my relationship to where I am. I got involved in bike evangelism and I have a neighborhood improvement group and a diversity activism group I stay connected to. I try, when I can find the time and money, to see as much of the interesting cultural activities as I can (this weekend I had to forgo seeing what was probably a great production of RENT).

The more you fill your time with activities that gratify and sustain you, the less time you'll spend regretting where you live. A coffee shop is just a third place anyway. Did you do anything besides buy your latte there, like participate in a poetry slam or a book group? No? Then what are you actually missing besides comfort calories?

Ultimately, you may still decide you want to leave this city, but it won't be because you weren't giving it a fair shake. Not that you owe the place anything -- again, it's just a place, but what you put into it is your life.
posted by dhartung at 9:09 PM on February 6, 2011

Consider doing volunteer work.
I have often found this to be an antidote for discontent.
posted by valannc at 10:52 PM on February 6, 2011

I had that with DC! (about the same number of years, and it was also the longest I had ever been in one place) I know it's a way different environment, but I revisited places I thought I knew and explored them more - sometimes new places had popped up, sometimes I just spent more time somewhere I wouldn't otherwise have. I started visiting things that were outside of my regular interests, and sometimes that was awesome and sometimes not, but it was interesting.

My change of heart came about because I had been doing some business travel and then taking an extra day or two to explore whatever that destination was, and since I was spending limited time I would research some things and have an idea what I wanted to see and then freelance from my plan. One day I passed by some random place near DC, a place that I passed by pretty ofetn, and I thought hey, that's funny, if I were making a list of places in DC to visit that place might have been on the list. It doesn't really make sense, but that gave me this new mindset and I was up a little bit more for exploring and for revisiting places that I had already seen/done.
posted by mrs. taters at 5:47 AM on February 7, 2011

Definitely get a bicycle, which will expand the choices of places you can go easily - your definition of "local" will improve. Here in Los Angeles, my "local" coffeeshops are a 20 to 40 minute bike ride away, which sounds far, but is good for getting exercise.

Another thing that will change how you see a place is to take photographs of it. Even the banality of the suburbs is a possible subject. The more you walk around and shoot pictures, the more details you will see. Make a photo series of plants coming into bloom in the next few months. Or make a photo series of the way the light changes at dawn.
posted by conrad53 at 7:05 AM on February 7, 2011

I live in a suburb of Lansing, Michigan, and if we lived in the city as we used to, it would be much like you describe. In fact, one of the reasons we moved to the suburbs was that we had to drive to the suburbs to eat in a restaurant (the downtown restaurants are mostly only open for lunch, to serve state workers), do our grocery shopping, see a movie, etc.

In Sunday's paper, there was an article about a women who is trying to walk every street in Lansing, 410 miles worth, apparently. She's taking photographs and blogging about what she finds. This strikes me as an interesting way to re-connect with a place.e

Also, I find that my partner and I rarely take advantage of what culture is here in town (we have three little kids and tight cash flow, but even before then). One of my goals for when we get out of this period of being chronically broke is to dive into some of the stuff that's always going on here: broadway shows that come to the local university's fancy auditorium; the symphony orchestra; the minor-league baseball team; women's basketball at the university; and so on. It may not make enough of a difference to you, but making a concerted effort to explore what's out there might help.
posted by not that girl at 12:32 PM on February 7, 2011

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