Monday, April 5, 2010

What to Do When the Thrill is Gone

A friend once told me that anything in life has the potential to be exciting until the activity becomes routine. After this happens, according to my friend, life is 'Deathsville.' When sex, work, leisure time, cooking etc. become predictable affairs it's easy to become bored and unsatisfied with life. You resign yourself to routine and become deadened to the wonderful adventure that is living (note the word choice; there's a difference between living and merely existing)

This topic was addressed in the outstanding 1999 movie American Beauty, which stars Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham, a middle-aged professional who rediscovers his passion for living. Spacey and Annette Bening, who plays his wife, are reason enough to see the movie. But if you enjoy intelligent scripts you'll be in movie heaven.

Since my motto has always been, "You only live once," I think it's a shame that so many people go on autopilot as they age, surrendering themselves to a life spent going through the motions without any substantial thrills or excitement.

With that in mind I have a few suggestions on how to turn things around when 'the thrill is gone' from life:

1) Travel

This has always been my preferred method of breaking away from routine. Going somewhere on planet Earth where I've never set foot gets my blood pumping every time. From the time the airplane's wheels leave the ground I'm switched on and ready for new experiences.

My own fairly limited travel experience has taken me to the winding Medina of Fes, Morocco, to the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, to Ground Zero in New York City and to the foot of the Siegessaule in Berlin. Exploring unfamiliar terrain puts my brain in 'On' mode. Anything has the potential to be interesting when you travel. Cafe watching, getting lost, eating different foods and meeting strangers are some of the best things about travel. I recommend keeping a journal - my own travel journals help me recall memories from my journeys far more clearly than photographs (though having a camera handy never hurts)

As a matter of personal preference I usually travel alone. It's far easier to interact with the world and people you meet as a lone traveller than as part of a group. And you don't have anyone dictating their agenda to you.

2) Take a hike

If you're cash strapped or have limited opportunity to explore the world because of job commitments, going for a walk can be another way to bring variety into your life. When I say go for a walk, I don't mean stomping up and down the routes you cover in your daily routine. Find somewhere in your town / city / metropolis where you've never been before. After living in Toronto for 6 plus years I've explored 99.9 per cent of the city's downtown core by foot or bicycle. Places I have yet to see in the Greater Toronto Area include the Scarborough Bluffs, the Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, which was used as the protagonist's home in Jon Poll's Charlie Bartlett, and the Don River Trail which can be entered from the Don River bride that crosses Queen Street East.

3) Explore an abandoned Mental Hospital / Swim in a hotel pool

Not that I've ever done this, mind you ; - )

But if you're considering it the website provides great tips on how to plan and execute such adventures. I find that most people enjoy visiting places where they're not supposed to be. The prospect of being caught adds to the excitement. And as long as you're not hurting anyone or damaging property I don't see anything wrong with a little exploring. has a particularly good article on exploring the abandoned Whitby Psychiatric Hospital. Depending on how much of an adrenaline junkie you are, exploring this site could provide hours of enjoyment. I wouldn't suggest going alone though. You never know when you might run into Freddie, Jason or Michael Myers.

4) Eat in the Dark

Sure, anyone can go to a restaurant and order dinner. But have you ever tried eating in pitch blackness ? The idea of not being able to see what you're eating may bother some, but think of the opportunities to play footsie under the table without anyone noticing.

From the research I've done, restaurants where you eat in the dark are a trendy concept that's been gaining popularity in large cities. In Toronto we have O. Noir at 620 Church St. My friend Paul Bellini reviewed O. Noir in his column for
Fab Magazine. You can read Bellini's review here.

5) Plan a Surprise Date

From the moment I read about this concept it appealed to my love of adventure. Simply put, it involves surprising your partner with an activity that's new and engaging - ideally something neither of you have done before. The list of possibilities is huge - from tame (a new restaurant, seeing a movie, going to a concert) to moderate (going to Wonderland, jet skiing on Lake Ontario) to extreme — sky diving, airplane flying lessons, sex in public, dinner with Darth Vader (you get the idea)

The list could easily be longer, but I'm sure after reading this post you have some ideas of your own. Everyone is willing to push their limits to varying degrees. Just remember when you're down or in a rut, "you only live once."

Final note, check out this video of Halcyon's 'On and On.' Considered a classic trance song, the piece has been used in several movie soundtracks. Listening to it always reminds me that life is extraordinary; but you have to keep your eyes and mind open to realize it.

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