By Nicko Place

When you get to a certain age, life can become a routine.

I’m not even saying the word ‘dull’. I’m just saying that when you’ve danced the same steps a thousand times, they become routine. The same food. The same musical playlist. The same commute to work. The same gym routine. The same clothes. The same sex. The same conversations.

That’s why I’m a big believer in changing things up. It doesn’t have to be big, but it has to be something entirely new. I’m not here to preach at you; I’m just offering a fun challenge. Turn left instead of right and walk a new way to the station. Get a different hair cut. Try a new sport. All of those things. You get the idea. It can be as big or as little as you want.

Last Friday at 9 pm, I found myself sitting in Seoul, South Korea, roughly 8500 km from home, clutching a wad of 10,000 won notes, feeling sluggish with exhaustion (having left home at 3 am) and staring at a menu written entirely in Korean, surrounded by waiters who spoke zero English.

Life was no longer boring. And I was lucky that I was able to point to beer and was understood, and managed to point to a random item on the menu that turned out to be macaroni and cheese: not exactly high Korean cuisine, but perfect for a pre-fall-into-hotel-bed meal.

I spent five days exploring Korea, between work events, and loved getting lost in parts of the city, getting off the metro at mysterious stations, and just following roads to see where they led. Seoul has the equivalent of New York’s Highline, only just opened, and an incredible design museum that looks like a space ship, plus 15th Century palaces and wildly ornate gates. There was a lot to explore.

The weirdest kids bench in the world? Would never have seen it if I hadn’t landed in Seoul. Pic: Nicko

We can’t all afford to just flit 12 hours north to a mysterious Asian city. This was a paid trip for work, and I had never before really considered Seoul as a destination; hence my startled first night of realising I knew practically nothing about where I had landed.

But it got me thinking. That sense of ‘I don’t know the rules here’, of ‘I’m not sure what happens next’, of ‘What the Hell is that menu item?’ These are the fun moments.

We should work hard to find them, even in our everyday life. How? Easy.

Hit ‘search’ on iTunes or Spotify or Youtube, type in a random word, and then play music by bands with that word in the title.

Walk into a bookshop (yes, they still exist), and choose a book by an author you have never heard of. If you normally read fiction, choose something from non-fiction. If you normally read science books, choose fucking poetry. Shake shit up.

Why was this disheveled guy wearing these crazy shoes? Another mystery of Seoul. Pic: Nicko

I have done both of those things for years, when I’m feeling bored. Before iTunes, and the death of CDs in my life, I used to have a game where I walked into a music shop and had to choose a CD by a band I had never heard of, purely using The Force. It might be the band’s name, or the cover design, or the title of one of their songs. Something just had to spark my interest enough to think: sure, I’ll blow 20 or 30 bucks to follow that hunch. Yes, I have bought some terrible CDs that got listened to once and then summarily discarded (The legendary Kelly Slater’s attempt at music with his band, The Surfers? Shudder). But it’s also how I discovered Rodriguez, long before ‘Searching for Sugar Man’, and The Herbaliser, and a bunch of other bands that I now love. Likewise, I read an amazing non-fiction book about cod, the fish, and how the fish that simply could never be fished out was fished out, as industrial fishing took over. And a book about how the measurement of longitude, with the H1 clock at Greenwich, changed the world. ‘Fstr’ by James Gleick was a brilliant book, and probably still is, even if science dates.

Fstr, by James Gleick. One of my favourite books ever, chosen at random.

Regardless, I’ve used my random method to read stuff that I never ever would have normally thought to dip my nose into, and been fascinated, amazed, and bored stupid.

If you’re like me, you have favourite restaurants: places where you KNOW the food is amazing, the management recognise you and say hi; where you bump into other regulars. All of those things are comfortable and pleasant, and give you a strong sense of belonging.
But you know what? If your life feels stale, abandon that restaurant or pub. Just for a night. Go somewhere completely new; an eating destination you’ve always wanted to try but never got around to, or even, hell, a place you have literally never heard of before tonight. Seriously, just drive for a while, in any direction, see a restaurant, stop and go in.

Yes, there’s absolutely a chance you’ll have a crap meal, or bad service, or discover you absolutely hate kimchi. But you’ll have an experience. And you’ll have a new story. And you will probably appreciate your usual restaurant or pub even more, next time you turn up as usual, because now you can compare its reasonably priced and diverse wine list to the overpriced shit at that last place.

Or, then again, you might discover a new restaurant that rocks,  has better food, and even better atmosphere, or where you’ll meet your future best friends for life.

I don’t know. I make no promises.

All I know is that I landed in Seoul, and I was all at sea, and holy shit, I had a great week, having to think on my feet and try new experiences, time and time again.

At whatever level works for you, give it a try.

And we want to hear what happened! Brilliant success or disaster? Let us know in the comments below. If you haven’t worked it out by now, GiantsAmongMen is about nothing if not oversharing.