It is 2019 and I am a safari guide and a writer, spending most of my year outdoors, in the African Wilderness, looking at elephants. I advocate a life in Nature and a daily routine that respects animals, trees and rivers. But “easy for me to say”, right?
I know I am beyond lucky (and so, so grateful) to be able to get my daily Nature-fix, however, this has not always been the case. For almost ten years I lived the big-citiy-life in one of Europes major metropolis’: Berlin. Berlin always felt like a big waiting-room for me and I knew I wasn’t going to stay there. False dreams and superficial desires lead me to the hip and trendy, glamorous German capital and, as soon as I moved into my first apartment there, I knew it wasn’t for me. Now, I’m not saying “big-citiy-life sucks” but what I am saying is that Nature deprivation is real when you live surrounded by concrete.
It took me almost ten years to break out of the big city and start the transition into the life I live today. That transition still goes on, by the way… And, probably more importantly: That transition back into my very own wonderful wild started long before I decided to leave Berlin. It started in the big city, with a change of heart and a change of habits.
The following are my most effective life-hacks cultivated during that time of change, that slow awakening whilst walking the anonymous streets of Berlin.
My wonderful wild life-hacks to survive in a big city:
1. Walk. Walk literally everywhere.
It happened one gloomy Wednesday evening when I was dreading going to work the next morning. The most annoying part to me was always the subway-ride. I worked quite far outside of the inner city and it took me about an hour each morning on the train. I’m very sensitive to the energies around me (…aren’t we all?), so I was always dreading that train ride. I felt we all didn’t want to be there and, given the choice, we’d all run off and join the circus.
That Wednesday evening I came up with an idea. The only idea – besides actually quitting and running off – that gave me back some control and some power: I could walk. I don’t have to sit on that train and be miserable. I could literally just walk all the way to my workplace. Now, as I mentioned above, it took an hour by train to get there. So walking would mean probably between 4 to 5 hours in travel time… not exactly a walk in the park. But I was determined to give it a go. I set my alarm for 5.00 am – and the next morning something miraculous happened: I was excited! For the first time in months I was excited again to get up and go to work.
It was a beautiful day in spring and after a cup of coffee and some toast I set out into the crisp morning, greeting the world with excitement. I left before the heavy traffic started and planned my route through as many parks and green places as possible. It was lovely. When I arrived at work, I was not exhausted. On the contrary: I had unlimited amounts of energy and made it through the day effortlessly.
From that day on, I became Forrest Gump. I would walk literally everywhere, all over town. I figured, all it took was some preparation and some time I had to free up. My friends called me crazy, but I knew I had made a very important step into my own empowerment the day I decided to start walking.
2. Find some wild Nature.
Now, this one might seem obvious – “spend more time in Nature”…duh. But what I mean is to actually look for places that are still wild – meaning: not maintained by humans. This can be as simple as appreciating a dandelion breaking through the cobblestones of your street, or as adventurous as planning a weekend-excursion into a nearby forest. City parks, gardens or a balcony filled with flowerpots are the next best thing, for sure. But try to notice or spend more time in the places humanity seems to have forgotten about. Get out of the structures of the human brain which prefers to organise and apply straight lines to everything.
3. Make yourself an altar in your home.
I don’t understand this in a religious or Christian way ( but if you do, that’s totally cool with me) – what I mean is a sacred place in your home that you can turn to. Maybe you keep your favourite books there, some flowers, comfy pillows, a candle, some nice herbal teas or purifying oils, some rocks you collected on your last forest walk or some photographs from natural places you find calming or soothing. Honour this place within your home. Keep it neat. And always return to it when you need an energy boost.
4. Cook your own meals and take your time preparing them.
One of my weekly habits when still living in Berlin was to go the market on Saturdays and buy my groceries for the week. There is something about actually chatting to someone when shopping for apples and cauliflower and I much prefer it over the anonymous, cold supermarket-experience. Back at home, I tried to use cooking as a form of meditation and happy-me-time as much as possible. Now, I know this doesn’t always work because too often, life gets in the way and deliveroo is the only tolerable option to feed oneself – but every once in a while, there is a gap in which we can take the time to truly appreciate our hands for what they can make, our vegetables for how they nourish us, our time well spend preparing the foods we put into our bodies.
5. Join a Yoga-class.
Most people I know who live in a big city practice some form of exercise to stay fit – or sane, for that matter. And while I myself didn’t join a Yoga class when I still lived in Berlin – in hindsight, I wish I did! It’s one of the things that’s hard to come by when living in the bush – a Yoga studio 😉 I have been on the Yogic journey fully committed since the beginning of 2019 now and – I kid you not – it is the most important of all decisions I have ever made in my life. Nothing else will propel you back into your wonderful wild natural state as effectively and deeply as Yoga can. Yes, seeing a wild elephant is meaningful and powerful. But Yoga is something you can start right now and, if you stick to a daily practice, you will literally become the elephant with time – a sentient being, one with its body, emotions and surroundings.
6. Create a morning routine and stick to it.
How we start our morning determines our entire day. There is nothing more meaningful and wild than to step into your own power and make the decision to wake up one hour earlier than you would normally have to. This one hour belongs to YOU. It is there for you to do all the things you like, to check in with your body and mind, to create a powerful intention for the day and start it with fresh energy. Creating and honouring our morning routine is one of the most effective changes we can make in our lives, as it strengthens our self-respect, self-love, integrity and energy-levels. Taking time for ourselves is by all means not a selfish act – it is the opposite: Taking time for ourselves and creating space in our busy schedules means that we will have more energy for others as well. We will enter our environment much more calmly and won’t be triggered as easily. If you need some more inspiration on how to start your day more mindfully, consider reading Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
7. Mix it up!
Any change in your daily or weekly routine is powerful. I used to come up with all sorts of ideas to spice up my routine. For example, on weekends I would walk through the city like a tourist – consciously seeking out tourist attractions and looking at my hometown in a new light. Whatever you are doing on a regular basis – consider the exact opposite and see where that takes you.
8. Start with photography.
This is hands down the best life-hack to go outside and be more aware of your surroundings! When I still lived in Berlin, I bought myself a simple camera with this 50mm lens (50 mm is the comfortable distance our eyes need to focus on an object, so photos taken with a 50mm lens are the most natural way to snapshot our world).
I used to go on long photo-walks and give myself different assignments. For example, I would pick one particular colour and would only be allowed to take photos of anything thats green or blue or red. This way, I was much more aware of everything around me.
For a while I used to got to couchsurfing meet-ups. I was too scared to have a stranger overnight in my apartment (plus it was way too small) but there are regular meet-ups in every major city that you can join to interact with an international crowd. It’s exciting! And it might just be the start of a new friendship or the beginning of a new path in your life.
10. Plants, plants, plants!
Have a balcony? – Great! You know what to do… Have a community garden close-by? – Great! You know what to do… Have an empty window sill? – Great! You know what to do… And if you doubt the positive effect that close proximity to plants has on your health and well-being, read this article.
11. Have strict no-phone-times.
This one is a no-brainer, which is why it’s baffling to all of us why we don’t manage to stick to it…like… EVER. Switch on the screen-time calculator if you have an iPhone and commit to strict no-phone-times (e.g. after 08.00pm or on weekends) Another change I made was to move all my apps on the phone to the second page of my screen. This way, when I press the home-button all I see is my background-image. I usually choose an inspiring quote for this or a mini-version of my vision-board. Another tiny life-hack in terms of smartphones is to regularly move the position of your apps within the phone. It’s actually amazing (and shocking at the same time…) just how quickly our brains memorise the location of things and automate the fingers to get there. Sometimes I find myself staring into the Instagram-app and literally wondering how the hell I even got here! (Which is why I’m currently taking half a year off social media. I clearly have a problem… 😉
Anyway, my lovelies, as always I don’t claim to be an expert on anything. This is just what has worked for me in the past. All these habits and life-hacks definitely marked significant changing-points in my life and with each new thing I tried, new ideas followed, new directions opened up, new opportunities arose. I truly believe that, if we always do exactly the same, the results we get will ultimately also be the same. The key lies within forming new habits, lots of play, and a good kick in the buttocks sometimes, so that we take action and move closer to our most natural, wonderful wild state of being.
Lots of love,