In C'mon, It's Just 7 Days, members of the Food52 team share what it was like to take on a personal challenge for one week: skipping caffeine, going plastic-free, and more. (Spoiler alert: We all survived.)
When asked what I like about living in New York City, I always talk about the diversity: the sounds, the smells, the opportunities, the people. Everywhere I turn, there’s something to explore and someone to learn from. Every day has the possibility to be an adventure.
And yet, recently I’ve found myself stuck in the same old routines. I’ve been making the same recipes, going to the same bars, watching the same TV shows, hanging out with the same people. There’s beauty in finding a pattern of things you like, for sure, but but it was all starting to feel a little stale.
And then our our team brainstormed personal challenges (as part of our C’mon, It’s Just 7 Days series), and trying something new every day for seven days felt like just the thing I needed to shake it up.
But what to try? I'd be home for the holidays and taking a family vacation so I really hadn't thought about it, but the possibilities certainly were endless. Here's where I landed in one week's time.
The New Thing: Shaking a Cocktail.
My dad is known for his cocktails, specifically his Cosmopolitan (yes, really). When I became of-age, he’d make them for me, my mom, and my sister Meg, sugar rim and all. After years of drinking them, I finally asked my dad to teach me how it’s done.
His recipe is simple: equal parts vodka, triple sec, and POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, then a splash each of lime and cranberry juice. The hardest part was shaking it (the shaker was cold!), but after a couple of attempts, I was proclaimed the new family bartender.
The Takeaway: Yes, it was great to learn how to make a Cosmo, but my dad’s excitement to teach me was even better. Next time I’m home, I’ll ask for a lesson in making his Old Fashioned.
The New Thing: Riding a Bike. Again.
Okay, so I learned to ride a bike when I was 5 years old. But I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s been years since I last peddled. After arriving in Florida for a weekend trip, my sister and I decided to take our parents’ bikes for a ride in a nearby state park.
The Takeaway: Sometimes, a “new” thing is just something you haven’t done in a really long time. As it turns out, riding a bike really is like riding a bike. But it made me rethink how I get from point A to point B. The seat was a little too high (and too rusty to adjust), but after a practice ride around a parking lot I was ready to peddle all day long. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the feeling of wind whipping back my hair, and it was beautiful to see the big white dunes and wild waves crashing on the sand.
The New Thing: Fishing.
Florida’s longest fishing pier happens to be located right next door to where my family was staying—and in 15 years of visiting there, we’d never once thought to cast a line. So when I implored my family to brainstorm new things to try with me, my sister Meg suggested we give it a try.
The Takeaway: Even after watching several YouTube videos and renting rods and bait, Meg and I were still fish out of water. Just minutes after picking a spot on the pier, an actual fisherman stopped us to explain how to bait a hook and cast a reel. Fishing, itself, was fine. I get the appeal of slowing down and the almost-meditative effect of casting and reeling and casting and reeling; but what impressed me most was how kind the pier community was to us. People not only gave us advice on where to fish, but would also just stop to chat about the weather, their days, and the upcoming fireworks. While Florida has been a home away from home for more than a decade, this was one of the first times it felt like we were part of the local community.
The New Thing: Turning Off My Phone.
On average, Americans check their smartphones 52 times a day. I’m hardly immune, and have wanted to experiment with turning off my phone for some time. For my fourth day of trying new things, I decided to go for 24 hours without cell phone access.
The Takeaway: I failed after just 12 hours. The thing I missed the most wasn’t texting, listening to music, or scrolling through Instagram (although I definitely missed those things)—it was looking up the random questions I encountered throughout the day. I would reach for my phone when I wanted to know what time a store closed, what the weather would be like next week, or how to get somewhere. I was surprised how much I relied on it for simple tasks.
The New Thing: Listening to a New Song.
Day five got away from me, and by 8 p.m., I still hadn’t tried anything new. Desperate, I texted my boyfriend to send me a song I’d never heard before in Spanish (his native language). He sent me this:
The Takeaway: I really liked the song! But felt frustrated by my limited ability to comprehend the words despite having studied Spanish fairly extensively in high school and college. Later, I spoke to my boyfriend about how sad I am to lose my Spanish, and we discussed ways we could practice it together, which is a “something new” I’m very much looking forward to.
The New Thing: Folding a Fitted Sheet Properly.
This “trying something new” experiment dovetailed with another work assignment—learning the best way to fold a fitted sheet for this article. I scoured the internet to find the easiest method, ultimately settling on a simple instruction from this unsung hero.
The Takeaway: I’ve learned the right way to fold a fitted sheet! And it wasn’t hard!
The New Thing: Taking a Nap.
I have never liked naps. Mainly because I just can’t seem to fall asleep if the sun’s out. But day seven was a doozy. After waking up at 3 a.m. for a flight, then getting #blessed with a middle seat and very chatty neighbors, I was a bit of a wreck by the time I collapsed on my living room couch. After crying from sheer exhaustion, both my therapist and boyfriend highly suggested I take a nap.
The Takeaway: No, I didn’t fall asleep. But I don’t consider this a fail. Closing my eyes and quieting my brain gave me a moment to breathe. After 30 minutes, I was able to get back up, begin unpacking, and brave the rest of the day.
Trying something new every single day was harder than I imagined it would be. While some opportunities naturally presented themselves, others took thought and planning (looking at you, fishing). And, of course, being on vacation added a wrench in my plans because, technically, every day was out of routine.
But I learned a valuable lesson over my week: no matter where I am, I can explore something new, and every day can still be an adventure.
How often do try new things? Let us know what they are the comments below.