1) GET A BICYCLE
Having spent much of my childhood affixed to a bike, the need to use a bike as I entered my adult years seemed to all but disappear. I finally bought a new bike five years ago and haven’t looked back. Without question, it has been the best investment I’ve made since moving to Toronto. Not only does it allow you to bypass rush hour traffic, but nothing gives a greater sense of freedom than riding a bike (cue Top Gun theme song - Tom Cruise riding down the road in leather jacket, aviators, wind in his hair)…okay I’m back. The moment I jumped on the seat and started pedaling, everything changed.
Traffic jams are always an issue in the downtown core of large cities. Riding a bike allows you to move quickly and freely through the city…even during the rush hour. It’s like you’ve been given a special pass to access the city anytime you want.
The ripple effect of choosing a two-wheeler over a car might even surprise you. Consider your transportation options for a moment - car vs. bike. Riding a bike gets you exercising, which is great for your heart and helps lower the cortisol (stress hormone) levels in your body. And one less car on the road means less traffic, less pollution and money saved on gas.
THIS IS THE BEST INVESTMENT YOU CAN MAKE AS AN URBAN DWELLER. PERIOD.
There is a bit of a learning curve to navigating a downtown core on a bicycle but it doesn’t take long to learn how to be safe and confident. Wear a helmet because a vehicle will always win in a bike/car collision.
Bottom line: Riding a bike lessens commuter chaos, gets you exercising, moves you across the city in record time, and is good for the environment.
2) CHOOSE WHAT YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR MONEY ON
When you live in a big city you have access to so many great resources and activities. However, if you indulge in everything the city has to offer, you will quickly find yourself out of money. Big cities have all the conveniences but those conveniences always come with a hefty price tag.
The key to taking advantage of the wonderful resources offered in big cities is to decide what’s most important to you. Choose a couple activities that you value most and spend your money there. If, for example, dining out at the latest and greatest restaurants once or twice a week and taking yoga classes give you the most joy, then that’s where you should spend your money. If you love going to concerts and drinking americano’s each morning at your favourite independent coffee shop, then that’s where you spend your money. On the flipside, you’ll have to make sacrifices in other areas to maintain a happy balance. Eating out at some cool restaurants might mean having to make your lunch for work each day. Or maybe splurging on an extended trip to Iceland means you’ll have to give up on some great summer concerts.
The problem comes when we indulge in everything a city has to offer…eat out every night, two gym memberships, high-end car payments, season tickets to the Raptors…etc. You can’t do them all or you’ll bleed your bank account dry and find yourself stressed out.
When you really analyze what makes you happy, it’s usually a couple simple things that give you the most joy in life.
Bottom Line: Focus on what's important. Do it well. Forget the rest.
3) GET OUT OF THE CITY
You heard me right. This is not a typo. How can leaving the city be the best way to enjoy the city?
While the city is full of great activities and endless entertainment, this excessive stimulation can leave you feeling overwhelmed, cluttered, and stressed out. Do you ever get that clouded, head exploding feeling near the end of a work week? That’s when you need a break. Reconnecting with nature is the best way to clear your head, recharge, and lower that heart rate. Even if you’re not a passionate outdoors person, you only need to sit near a large body of water (if it’s available) to feel its immediate calming influence. Being near water is one of the best, and cheapest forms of therapy available on the planet.
If you can manage a weekend cottage getaway, then do it. Need an excuse to visit your out-of-town in-laws? Why not? Or go for an early morning weekend drive outside the city. A change of scenery is the best way to re-inspire your depleted self. If you can’t leave the city, then take your dog for a walk along the waterfront. Or just jump on your bike (see “Get a Bicycle” above) and go for a leisurely ride along some of the city’s bike paths. Treat it as an investment in your mental health.
If the bright lights and endless activities in the city are constantly stealing your attention, you'll always remain in an overstimulated state. If your mind is never calm, you can’t possibly contemplate anything meaningful in life.
Bottom Line: Getting out of the city from time to time is the best way to clear your head, and recharge your batteries so you're ready for the next great city adventure.
How do you find balance in your big city? Do you have any surefire ways to make urban living enjoyable? Would love to hear your comments or suggestions.