Ten ways to escape (from your routine) this month on a budget. These suggestions offer ways to change up your life, so you don’t spend the month shifting between staring at depressing news and trying to get hooked on a new TV show to distract you from the routine. There’s so much more out there—I know it, you know it, but it can be hard to make a change, so here’s some inspiration to go with our monthly theme of getting away.
Get started on learning to play an instrument. If you have one at your house already, start with it. Look for local instructors—your aim isn’t to set up weekly lessons for the next year, but rather to have someone walk you through some introductory positions and exercises to show you where to start. After you have a few lessons down, you can continue on your own with the help of some handy youtube tutorials, like this one for guitar.
Take a reading challenge to cover one author or group, like Isabel Allende or the Beats. This is like designing your own mini-course, with the aim of expanding your knowledge base and enriching your life and your conversation. Literature can help develop your empathy for other people, but it can also make life more enjoyable by providing insight into your personal relationships—basically, a great read can be even better than a long talk with an old friend at offering perspective, and focusing your reading efforts over the period of a month or two on a certain writer can bring incredible joy and understanding to your life.
Learn to cook or bake something new. I don’t just mean try a new recipe, but really learn to cook something well—this takes practice, since you will most likely need to cook it badly many times before you develop your approach. Go out on a limb and think about the most delicious dish you’ve had that you don’t know how to prepare, and then make a plan of action on how you will learn to master it in the next month. I did this with scones a few years ago, and it has paid off tenfold. Now I can make them without a recipe and always know what to make for a gathering that people won’t be tired of. Helpful things to have on hand before starting this mission: membership to a big box store like Costco (so you can buy large containers of the necessary ingredients), patience, and sympathetic people willing to taste your efforts. For inspiration, read this interview with chef and PBS cooking show host Pati Jinich.
Indulge in a serious pampering regimen. Massages — yes, of course, always. But this time, go beyond the expected. Always wanted to try acupuncture? Heard about a new bath house in your city that you’re curious about? Now’s the time. Make it your aim to schedule at least two pampering sessions per week for the next month, and feel like the queen you’ve always been (underneath your tired shoulders and sore feet). If you live in an expensive area and want to minimize costs, try some at home pampering activities or find friends or a family member to go in on Groupon’s with you.
Play tourist. A lot of times we don’t go to the major tourist attractions in our home areas unless we have out of town guests, in which case we’re cast in the role of tour guide. This month, try exploring the town you’re in with the wide-eyed wonder of a newcomer. You might be surprised by the people you meet or the appreciation you gain for your area’s history.
Join (or create) a group. This could be for something you already do regularly, like reading, or something you have been wanting to do more of (hiking, let’s say). Look for groups on Meetup or put the word out that you’re looking to form a group. Ask a friend if she knows anyone who might be interested in your chosen activity, and see how quickly your group gets going. With one evening a week, you can really launch into a whole new phase of life filled with more of what you’ve always wanted to do. This is also a great way to make new friends who share your interests.
Try a new sport or physical activity. I’m not talking about prioritizing more treadmill sessions or barbell workouts, but rather about breaking out of your routine by introducing a fun new game or class, like racquetball or aerial yoga, into your week. You could aim to try a new activity each week, in hopes of finding one you want to stick to by the end of the month.
Take a weekend roadtrip. Leave Friday after work, return Sunday by dinner. Gather your significant other, family, or best friends and find a scenic destination close by (make it under four hours by car to maximize the time you have there) to escape to. Yes, traveling can be expensive, but it can also be done on a shoestring—you just have to get creative, pack snacks, and focus on the time with your loved ones (and your playlist, of course!) In fact, here are some tunes to jump start the weekend:
Take a tech vacation. One way to escape from the crush of everyday life is to turn off all your devices for a full weekend — TV, computer, tablet, and yes, phone. Ok, so maybe you’ll need to check your phone once a day, but turn off the ringer and any alerts, and only look at it for ten minutes one time on Saturday and one time on Sunday. And no Twitter. Why? This exercise will force you to pay more attention to your surroundings, reconnect on a human level with the people around you, and allow your mind the freedom to think more creative thoughts. As an added bonus, you’ll probably sleep better.
Refresh your music collection. It’s just as easy to wind up in a music rut as it is a food rut. You like what you like and don’t have the energy to find something else as satisfying—fine, comfort is nice. But this list isn’t called “10 Ways to Feel More Comfortable” it’s “10 Ways to Escape” and that means broadening your base of experience, as in stepping outside your comfort zone. For many of us, some new music filters in every few months via friends or the radio during the daily commute, but what I’m suggesting here to make a concerted effort this month to dramatically expand your listening. Ask ten people whose taste you admire to name five albums or artists they love. Use youtube and spotify to help you identify new artists similar to those you already like. Find out what concerts are coming up in your area and go! Make moves, ladies!