The first few months in a new place are what I like to call the “Lonely Planet” months. That time period when, bereft of any other household belongings, the only the thing to read in the entire house is the “Welcome” packet left on our kitchen table and the Lonely Planet we packed into our suitcase. With no stuff to tie us down, no friends to hang out with yet and the thrill of the adventure still so fresh that even going to buy vegetables feels exciting, there is really nothing else to do but go exploring.
But at some point, we always lose momentum. Around the same time we check most of the major sites off of our list, inevitably our stuff arrives and we spend a couple weeks holed up in a sea of packing debris. With a house full of stuff, there are suddenly errands to run–groceries to buy, hair to cut, work to do. It’s also around this time that all of those nervous, awkward, “my name is ____ we arrived in _____, we were last posted to _______” conversations give way to a circle of honest-to-goodness friends to invite over for brunch or out to that cafe that we all liked that one time where Will actually ate something and the coffee was decent.
Suddenly, going exploring isn’t as easy as closing our eyes and opening to a random page in a guidebook or just going out to run errands. To find a new adventure, we have to do a little more research and program our GPS. We have to be committed enough to trade the comforts of home and routines–of making Sunday morning pancakes in our pjs while listening to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” podcasts-for the possibility that we will go out and get sweaty and tired and lost and possibly cranky to visit a place that isn’t all that and a bag of chips anyway.
And so, the Lonely Planet period is always followed by a “how can we be so boring while living in such an exciting place?” period. At the time, it doesn’t feel boring. It feels really good to have a stocked pantry, a comfy couch, and a circle of friends to call up for playdates when we don’t feel like going through the hassle of, you know, going some place new.
Until one Saturday. One day when we have no set plans and look out on the landscape of a weekend that looks exactly like the one before it. And, for the first time since we arrived, that prospect no longer feels wholly satisfying anymore.
And so, its back to that list of recommendations and of places we drove by once but didn’t have time to get out and explore. We pack a thermos of coffee and enough seaweed to pacify an army of hungry, overstimulated toddlers and we head out to the open road–or at least the road we haven’t traveled yet.
But not without stopping first for croissants at the patisserie we consciously thank our lucky stars for every single weekend. The one that we are convinced wouldn’t go out of business in Paris and that would have, single-croissant-edly, transformed Chengdu into a garden spot. There is something to be said for not throwing all routines out the window.
Last weekend, our outing was to Sharma Farms, a massive plot of landed covered in warehouses and at least 3 acres of furniture–everything from vintage long boats to marble elephants to ancient looking stationary boxes to beautiful old vanities to gargantuan wooden doors to contemporary-feeling dressers and coffee tables. Sharma Farms does everything from refinish old pieces to custom build new ones based on both antique and contemporary designs. It’s a well-known destination for expats seeking to furnish an entire home in one outing and for people like us who just enjoy wandering around to see it all in one place.
We came with low expectations and zero intentions of buying anything, seeking only to wander around until Will had had enough. We emerged from the stuffy, 90 degrees-in-the-shade warehouses, two hours later, with a long wish list of "maybe before we leave?" ideas and a surprisingly thrilled toddler. Apparently 3 acres of cabinet doors to open and shut, drawers to pull on and miniature wooden war ships to sit, in is basically the equivalent of toddler nirvana. Will loved nearly every minute of the trip.