Five Steps to Surviving City Life

Having spent the past eight years of my life living in different cities both here in the United States and overseas, you get accustomed to life in an urban environment and how to make the best of it. If you’re coming from a rural town or a suburb, adapting to a city can take months or even years when you’re not used to the frenetic scenes, fast-paced traffic, and always on the go mentality. A fact of this day and age is that the urban population around the world keeps increasing and a good amount of industries, jobs including in the high tech world are based out of cities.

According to the United Nations, over half of the world’s population, currently live in an urban environment. The exact percentage at this time is about 54% of the planet’s inhabitants. That percentage is expected to steadily increase to 66% of the world’s population by the year 2050. It is also estimated that over 2.5 billion more people will be living in the cities by mid-century and these people will be mostly concentrated in the continents of Asia and Africa. The 21st century may be remembered as the first truly urban century across the entire planet.

I bring these statistics and predictions up to you, dear reader, not to scare you but to enlighten you about what city life is like. The chances are good that if you’re reading this article that during your lifetime you’ll have to either live in a city or travel there occasionally for work or tourism purposes. By following the five steps outlined in my article, you’ll be able to adapt quicker to urban life and have an easier time adjusting to a city overall. As someone who has consistently lived in cities big and small since I was 18, I am speaking from almost a decade of experience now. Living in a city can be quite difficult at first but it can also be very rewarding both personally and professionally. I hope that these steps will help you to make better choices, live healthier, and stay out of trouble with the locals.

Here are my five steps to surviving city life:

  • Adapt to the local norms and customs.

Whether it’s waiting for someone to get off the train before you get on or standing to the right to let people pass you on the left as they go down the escalator, observing local norms and customs in cities is very important. From the experience I have of living in cities, it’s better to blend in than to stand out. When it comes to the dress code, metro etiquette, or how to tip at the restaurant, it’s best to “do what the Romans do.”

It may take some time to adjust and if you’re new in the city, people will understand that you’re not aware as to how things work exactly. In order to save yourself a lot of trouble and angst, it’s best not to fight against the way things are even if you disagree with them. Cities are essentially a living culture that is adaptable to change only when a significant part of the population there wants things to become different. The best way to get used to living in a new city is to be observant, asks the locals if you have any questions, and do your best to understand the local transportation system which leads me to my next step.

  • Use public transportation.

Depending on which city you’re living in, there’s likely to be a public transportation system made up of buses, trains, and local taxis. In addition, there’s also the new popularity of Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services. In the modern city, there are plenty of ways to get around for cheaper than it costs to rent or own a car. The utility of walking or riding your bike in the city is also a great option and more environmentally friendly.

There are a few exceptions in terms of cities where it’s more sprawling and you would need to have a car but the majority of cities around the world encourage public transportation and its best not to have a car. If you need to get out of a car, there are rental car agencies galore as well as car sharing services that the urban dweller can use to get away from the hustle and bustle. In my opinion, owning a car in a city is expensive and a money sink. Between the cost of parking, the parking rules, and the higher cost of gasoline, it’s simply not worth it.

When you move to a new city, it’s important to take the time to learn the public transportation system especially for buses and trains. If you can afford to pay more, living in the center of the city will be more advantageous to getting around with public transportation. If you live on the outskirts of a city or outside of the city, then it’s more likely that you’ll need to have a car.

  • Do your best to meet new people.

Moving to a new city can be quite stressful and even lonely at times. If you’re new in the city and do not know anyone, that can be a real challenge. Luckily, I would say with the advent of the Internet, there are numerous groups out there especially for younger people in their 20s and 30s to meet like-minded people with similar interests and hobbies. One of the most popular websites for meeting new people is ‘Meetup.com.’

There are hundreds of groups in these cities that cater to professionals, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, sports fans, music fans, etc. Depending on how big the city you’re living in, the chances are good that you’ll find a group or two where you will have something in common with the people in the Meetup group. These groups are free to join usually and it’s a great way to make connections. I’m also quite partial to Couchsurfing, a website designed to help travelers around the world to get to know each other better and exchange stories about life on the road.

Usually, there are Facebook groups and local websites especially in the United States that focus on being social through sports. Whether its soccer (football), volleyball, kickball, etc., joining a social sports club is a good way to meet new people. The best way to meet people in a city though is just by opening your mouth and starting a conversation with someone who is a local. “I’m new here, what are the fun things to do in __________?” (name of city) That question alone should get the ball rolling.

  • Use common sense (Crime, Pollution, Weather).

Using common sense when it comes to living in a city is extremely important. Part of it comes down to doing your research about the neighborhood you’ll be living in, figuring out if there are any crime and/or safety issues to be aware of. Some cities also have an issue with air pollution and/or water pollution so it’s good to ask around about if it is safe to drink the water or if you need a mask to cover your face to breathe during certain times of the day. Being able to know what kind of climate a city has throughout the year is also key. There is a lot of information out there about the weather / climate zones that a city is located in.

For example, I knew that in Medellin, Colombia, there is a rainy and a dry season that changes depending upon the time of year. Otherwise, there would be no winter, snow, and the city would have a spring-time like climate otherwise. When I moved to Boston, I changed my mind set to reflect the new urban environment I would be living in. Instead of springtime weather year around, I would have to adjust to living in seasonal conditions again with colder winters and more humid summers.

Out of all the things that people overlook when moving to a new city in their country or outside of their country; it is adapting to the weather and climate conditions. Doing your research about crime, pollution, and the weather along with asking the locals is key to mastering this particular step. Also, it is key to know a little bit of information about each of the neighborhoods in your city and whether they are pretty safe or not. If you have children, knowing about the city schools should be high on your priority list.

  • Get out of the city occasionally.

I know from my own personal experiences that city life can be really rewarding but also quite stressful. You’re interacting with hundreds of strangers each day who you don’t know that well and are often going through life at a frantic pace. It can be overwhelming to our senses especially when it comes to all of the light, noise, traffic, and the amount of people nearby. Cities can also feel claustrophobic at times. That is why my last step focuses on getting out of your comfort zone to leave the city every now and then. Mixing it up to be in a more rural area with mountains or in a small town by the sea can really do you a world of good. In all honesty, cities are not the most natural environment for human beings to be in all of the time.

Collectively, we really need to be in nature whether its’ in the woods, in the mountains, or by the sea. Going for a hike, doing some fishing at the lake, or relaxing with a book at the beach are really good ways to help our mental health especially if you spend 90% of your time in a city. On top of that, being able to get some exercise and being outdoors will do you a world of good both mentally and physically. Even if it costs you some money and a rental car, leaving the city can be very beneficial to surviving city life. If you’re reading this article and haven’t been to either the mountains, the lakes, the rivers, or the beaches in a while, consider doing so if possible.

I’m quite confident that if you follow each of these five steps, you’ll be able to survive life in the city. Even if you’re only able to one or two of them, you’re setting yourself on the right path to developing a healthier mindset when it comes to urban living. I hope this article helps you and feel free to leave me a comment below if you have any further questions. I’d be happy to answer to the best of my ability.

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The Thrill of Skydiving

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“When the parachute opens up, you have to remember to hang on tight but also to enjoy the    great view.”

 The airplane starts to whirl its engines and ascend slowly up into the atmosphere. I’m as calm as a Hindu cow trying to remain unaware of what I’m about to do. My instructor who is tied at the hip straps me in as tight as possible as a necessary safety precaution. I am still in denial about what is about to happen to me but it’s too late now. There is simply no way to turn back now.

It was my 22nd birthday and I wanted to do something special for it. I told my parents, my friends, and others what I wanted to do to celebrate the occasion. They all thought I was crazy but it was the daredevil in me that wanted to make this become a reality. The head pilot of the small Cessna plane indicates that they’ve reached a cruising altitude of 13,000 Feet (4,000 Meters) and it’s time for us to jump out.                                                                            

One of the instructors opens the plane door and gives the go-ahead to his colleagues who are doing practice jumps like it was the most natural task in the world. You have to be somewhat crazy to be a skydiving instructor and do this day-in and day-out but 15 minutes later; I will completely sympathize with why they do what they do for a living. My instructor taps me on the shoulder and says that, “it’s go time!” We both stand up and move intermittently to the door opening.

I’m in the front with him secured to my back. I can’t help but peer out into the abyss below and realize what I’m about to do. The only actual moment of sheer terror I had was when we were about to jump out of the plane. My mere mortality is on the line and the cold air and wind of the Atlantic Ocean hits me like a brick. My instructor and I push ourselves out into the deep blue sky at a top speed. The feeling was similar to what’s been said before in movies about how in the deep reach of space, “No one can hear you scream.”                                                          

That is also true at the altitude of 13,000 feet (4000 meters). Shock and bewilderment leads to joy and exhilaration within seconds as I cascade down towards the vast and beautiful scenery below me. The vast Atlantic Ocean is to my left, Long Island with its’ sandy beaches and green parks right below, and the outline of New York City’s skyline is in the far distance to my right. It’s an absolutely picaresque view and is amazingly beautiful to behold. I have never felt more alive in my life and the rush of adrenaline pulses throughout my body. Nothing has come close to this moment before now and nothing has replicated it since then. I’ve never felt so free as you scream, yelp into the air the sounds and vibrations that no one will ever hear. Those two or three minutes of descent before the parachute is deployed last for what seemed like an eternity as I take in the view and remain at peace among the loud blowing of the wind, and the clear blue sky.

After the parachute successfully opens up, I hang on tight as I come down smoothly with my instructor from the highs of launching myself out of a moving plane, and come to the realization of how the sea, the land, and the greenery really is. It’s the closest I’ll get to playing the role of an astronaut and that’s fine with me. What I have done is mundane compared to the years of training, and expertise, which they must achieve before being able to fly into space.

The instructor asks me about how I’m doing during the descent back to the landing zone and I simply reply, “Amazing. Absolutely amazing.” To see from the air where I grew up and spent my formative years from so high up is a great perk added on to this wild and unique experience. Descending to the ground was probably the trickiest part but it was incredible to be able to parachute down to our landing spot in only seven minutes time. My father meets me down near the landing zone where we took off only twenty minutes ago and asks me, “Well…How was it?” I tell him that it was, “The rush of a lifetime.”

It has been over two years ago now when I first decided to try my hand at skydiving. I don’t regret it and I look back on the experience very fondly. It is inherently risky and I do not recommend it to everyone. If you are not a thrill-seeker or a risk-taker, then it may not be for you to begin with. However, if you want to feel the most alive you’ve ever been, conquer a fear of heights, experience a breath-taking view or to really try something new, I cannot recommend skydiving enough. I’ll always remember the exhilaration and jubilation that I felt when I landed from being thousands of feet in the air mere minutes ago.

I’ve been lucky enough to ride in a hot air balloon while watching the sunrise, or parasail close to a group of islands, and drive a jetski at 60 MPH (100 km/h) but none of these experiences still compare to the thrill of skydiving. It’s one of the greatest thrills that you can ever have and I highly recommend this activity to my readers. Just remember to be safe, choose a reputable company, take deep breaths, and make sure you know what you’re getting into. I promise you that you won’t regret the experience or forget the memories that you made from going through with it. If the elderly folk in their 60’s and 70’s who were in my group on that sunny day in October two years ago can skydive at their advanced age, then so can you!