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A Simple Guide to Exploring Your Backyard

 “People say you have to travel to see the world. Sometimes I think that if you just stay in one place and keep your eyes open, you’re going to see just about all that you can handle.” ~Paul Auster, Smoke

Traditionally, vagabonding requires taking an extensive break from your “normal” life. However, you don’t have to travel the world to experience an adventure. There are plenty of opportunities right in your backyard.

Last weekend one of my best friends came up to visit and I took her on a number of tiny adventures in Portland. We went on a walking tour of the city, checked out various art galleries, hiked in the park, enjoyed the happy hour scene, and more! It was fun to reconnect with one of my girlfriends and get to know Portland a little better.

Exploring Portland by foot made me realize that I don’t have to travel the world to experience a little adventure. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to be said for traveling extensively. It can change your perspective. However, going on an adventure at home can be just as fun.

If you love exploring, then this post is for you.

Let’s get going with a few tips:

1. Slow down.

It’s so easy get caught up in the rush of everyday life. So slow down and notice your surroundings. Be mindful of the small details in your own neighborhood.

2. Do all your errands by bike.

Riding a bike is fun and a lot faster than walking or running. You’ll be able to cover more ground and can stop along the way to check out local cafes, parks or other city attractions.

3. Walk or run in the early mornings.

Walking or running in the early mornings is a great way to see your city in a new light. The streets are quiet and it’s amazing what you’ll notice when you’re out and about. Every time I go for a walk or run I notice something different in my neighborhood.

4. Take small weekend trips.

Now that Logan is done with his Ph.D. we’ve been exploring Oregon. We took a lot of bike camping trips this summer, went to the Oregon coast, and by the time you read this post we will be exploring Mt. Hood.

And we’re even thinking about taking a few winter bike camping adventures. Camping is inexpensive and a perfect way to reconnect with nature.

5. Explore your local farmer’s market.

Attending local markets is a great way to get to know farmers in your community. Plus, buying and cooking new food can be an adventure. If you’re feeling adventurous you can plan a field trip to a local farm in your community.

6. Get your volunteer groove on.

Sometimes the best way to explore your neighborhood is by volunteering. When I moved up to Portland, I only knew a few people and realized I needed to get plugged into a volunteer network. I found the perfect home at Living Yoga. I’ve met amazing new friends through this organization and have gotten to know the yoga community in town.

So if you’re not volunteering, consider setting aside a few hours a week to do so. Or sign up for a monthly volunteer day with your family.

7. Try a new restaurant.

I love eating! It’s one of my favorite activities. 🙂 Breaking bread with good friends and family members is one of the greatest joys in life.

As I’ve said before, simple living isn’t about austerity. I still spend money, I just try to do so mindfully. When I do spend my cash, I treat myself to small pleasures (like trying out new restaurants).

8. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

It’s easy to get stuck in everyday routines. So it’s incredibly important to try new activities and add diversity to your routine. For example, there are always fun and unique bike related events in Portland. When I first arrived in town I tried to attend as many as possible. One of the most memorable rides was an Art By Bike event. A group of cyclists rode to different art galleries in the city. It was crazy fun and I met a few new friends too.

So sign up for a community event calendar and attend different events. You’ll be amazed by all the interesting people you meet.

9. Go with the flow.

Planning has it’s place. But, sometimes it’s nice to go with the flow by taking opportunities as they arise. Incorporate extra time and flexibility in your schedule to explore so you don’t have to rush.

Remember, there’s no need to rush. Be mindful, observe your surroundings, and have fun!

“Think of mindfulness as ‘hanging out, happily.’ Don’t expect a radically altered mind state – unless felling happy and relaxed is radical for you. Happy and relaxed probably will happen…But having an agenda adds unnecessary and unrealistic complexity to what should be simple.” ~Sylvia Boorstein


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Brett May 14, 2010, 6:11 am

    Great post Tammy. I know I still discover new things in my own relatively small hometown all the time.

    • Tammy May 14, 2010, 3:57 pm

      Thanks Brett! Have a beautiful weekend. 🙂

  • Joshua Becker May 14, 2010, 6:17 am

    Since you asked for suggestions: “Strike up a conversation with a stranger.”

    • Tammy May 14, 2010, 3:58 pm

      @Joshua – ohhh that is a good one! Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂

  • miss minimalist May 14, 2010, 6:48 am

    Love this post, Tammy! I’m lucky that my “backyard” is currently London and the English countryside — no shortage of things to explore. Have already enjoyed several picnics this spring, and looking forward to many more this summer!

    • Tammy May 14, 2010, 4:01 pm

      @miss minimalist – ohhh that sounds wonderful. I feel the same way about Portland. There is so much to see. I can’t wait to go camping this summer.

  • Baran May 14, 2010, 6:50 am

    I used to explore and take photos in my backyard at least half an hour every day. It lasted a couple of months and each time there was something new.

    • Tammy May 14, 2010, 4:01 pm

      @Baran – Great tip. Thank you. 🙂

  • Deb J May 14, 2010, 6:51 am

    Good post. I can’t add anything. We are disabled and can’t do the bike thing but I’ve been getting out on my mobility scooter and exploring. It’s fun.

    • Tammy May 14, 2010, 4:02 pm

      @Deb – very cool. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Lisa May 14, 2010, 8:08 am

    What a terrific post! Vagabonding is a great word to describe what we do on a regular basis. There are new things to discover every day…even in this small town. Recently we’ve upped the ante…buying a few acres in the woods and a used camper that we intend to leave parked there. Weather permitting, we’ll move the camper to its permanent spot this weekend. Then whenever we have the urge to escape to nature, our private space is ready and waiting for us.

    • Tammy May 14, 2010, 4:03 pm

      @Lisa – that sounds like so much fun! Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  • Ben Cote May 14, 2010, 8:51 am

    Great post

    I signed up for a salsa making competition at a local wild west fest going on at a local park this weekend. Can’t wait! I’m going to make some awesome salsa and kick some butt!


    • Tammy May 14, 2010, 4:04 pm

      @Ben – ohhh I love salsa! Have fun at the wild west fest. Totally awesome!

  • Eric Normand May 14, 2010, 9:36 am

    So great! I’m about to go traveling myself, but I always wonder if I would just explore more of my own town, I wouldn’t feel like I needed to leave to have adventures.

    • Tammy May 14, 2010, 4:06 pm

      @Eric – I love traveling too. We are planning on biking across the U.S. sometime next year and can’t wait. But I truly love exploring my own town. I see something new everyday in my neighborhood. It rocks.

      Have fun traveling. 🙂

  • Zengirl @ Heart and Mind May 14, 2010, 12:06 pm

    We do almost everything on the list. Since having kids, I am exploring more neighborhood parks now and it has a very positive impact on me and my little one’s life. We also love our weekly farmers market, here in California, you can throughout the year, at least a few of them and it also supports local farmers and growers too. Win-win situation for all.

    • Tammy May 14, 2010, 4:07 pm

      @Zengirl – very cool. The farmer’s market is one of my favorite weekend rituals. There is so much to see – food, people, flowers, etc. 🙂

  • Nate Dodson May 14, 2010, 3:50 pm

    Great post. It can be hard to just accept where you are and not yearn for the next new place. Which is weird, because often – your own backyard is full of “new” exciting things & places. We lived in Portland last year, its such a great city. Be sure to hit up the Angels Nest hike in the gorge, ecola state park at the coast, pizza at apizza scholls, sunsets at mt. tabor, and waffles at the waffle window.

    • Tammy May 14, 2010, 4:10 pm

      @Nate – thanks for the Portland tips. I haven’t been out to Mt Tabor yet or to the restaurants you mentioned. I’m taking sometime off next week (my mom’s coming into town) and am excited to explore new areas of Portland. Especially, the Gorge. 🙂

  • Katie May 14, 2010, 5:40 pm

    Terrific and simple ideas. I really like the idea that we can see a whole new world all around us if we just look and move and explore a little differently. Lovely blog.

  • Tom May 16, 2010, 7:15 pm

    I love that you use a Mora Clipper to do your salad!

  • Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell May 17, 2010, 4:28 am

    Great list! Since we’ve moved to our little house, we’ve tried to find at least one new thing to do each week. One thing I would add is to check out the newspaper, many have suggestions for things to do in your area. Also, look on your state’s calendar of events. We found a great historical tour guided by the state historical society of our little town. Gave us some great information about it.

  • Logan May 17, 2010, 11:36 am


    Of course! Its an inexpensive, decent quality knife that is easy to sharpen. Plus the rubber handle is the bees knees for grip after all the water from washing the veggies. We learned about them via Cody Lundin of http://www.codylundin.com/ 😉


  • Victoria May 18, 2010, 5:10 am

    Tammy, this is such a great post! I live in Phoenix and there’s always more to explore and discover here. Whenever my sis-in-law (and best buddy) comes to visit in June each year, we go on mini-adventures in town. It’s great to break out of my routine and see the city through a nonresident’s eyes! And, P.S., I love the photograph montages you’re creating. They’re gorgeous!

  • gina May 19, 2010, 6:43 am

    Be friendly. Our house is on a road that a lot of people walk their dogs on. I try to say hello to everyone and met a lot of cool people this way. I talk to people in lines, at the park. Spending time in your front yard is also a great way to observe and know your immediate surroundings.

    • Tammy May 20, 2010, 6:19 am

      @Gina – Awesome suggestion. Thank you for leaving a comment. 🙂

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