10 Ways to Be An Urban Version of Henry David Thoreau


Since I am deep into hibernation mode, I actually have some time to sit down and talk to you. Hibernation for me = staycation in New York City for sixty days. For these two months I try not to travel any further than the Metro North, or LIRR can take me. There are no suitcases, and I always sleep in my own bed. It’s the opposite of traveling for some. Since I am always on the go, I like to be able to shut down for a couple months and just enjoy my couch, the beauty of New York, and the snow. Max and I catch up on a lot of reading, understand ourselves better, and we work on developing a strong routine to set us up for success in the year.

It’s sort of like being a urban Henry David Thoreau. 

First, if you don’t know who HDT is, Google him immediately. One of my favorite literary writers and journalists, he was the mastermind behind Walden, or Life In The Woods (and was actually inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson -he was his caretaker and Walden Pond was on his property!). Anyways, HDT lived in a tiny house in the woods by the pond for two years to learn a simpler way of life. Basically, instead of working six days and resting one, he worked one and rested seven. Since I have no where near two years to take off, or a quaint little house by a pond, two months in Queens will have to do. But it works to enjoy the simpler things in life, and here’s why:

1. We enjoy nature. We walk to school every day by the water, through the park.
It’s a two-mile trek. Every single morning I start my day with no electronics, peaceful scenery, and talks with my son. Instead of waking up and opening my cell phone just to read 50 emails that are not life threatening, I start the day with Max. We play this game, “what do you like?” as we walk sharing with each other the things we love in life – from coffee, to LegoLand, to naps.

2. We exercise.
Since I am already out and about walking Max to school, it’s easy to just drop him off, jump on the subway and head to spin class for the day. I commit to two times a week (three if he’s with his dad on weekends). It’s true – you only ever have time for the things you make a priority. When you let yourself relax, and start your day off with clarity, fresh air and a great hardcore calorie burn, you mind is ready to take on the day and focus. I no joke, am always more productive on these days.**(I go to FlyWheel – a 45-min high energy burn so it doesn’t take up my entire day. I am up, drop off Max, walk to school and have gone spinning all by 9:45am! Sounds hard? It’s not – I wake up at 6:45. Leave for school by 7:30. Drop Max off at 8am, am at class by 9am. Over at 9:45am. 

3. We dance.
Every single day after school, we come home and we “shake it off.” Instead of television, we listen to music. We dance, sing and laugh off all the hardships of the day. I then leave the music on while Max helps me make dinner – which leads me to…

4. We cook our meals.
Instead of shamelessly ordering Seamless or going out every night, we actually plan ahead and order in our groceries for the week and cook. Listen, if you haven’t had a Saturday morning pancake and eggs making party with Frank Sinatra, you don’t know what you’re missing. 


5. We play.
We take the time to really hang out and play. With play-dough, with Legos, with the snow outside, chasing the squirrels in the park, people watching.

6. We say hello.
We make it a point to be friendly – we say hello to everyone – good morning to the people walking their dogs in the morning, our doormen when we come home, our neighbors in the elevator. Max is so accostomed to this, he even announces, “GOODBYE PEOPLE!” as we exit the subway. Listen, nothing can make more New Yorker’s smile than a happy toddler.  

7. We are farmers. 
Ok we don’t have chickens on our balcony (but I would if I could!) But we try to grow some of our own foods. Herbs are easy to grow, and are a fun way to teach Max how to learn how water, prune and even sprinkle in our foods. I grow my own garlic (just learned how from the Garlic Fest this year!), and we even picked up our own living pine tree after Christmas this year, which will be our sustainable tree for years to come. It’s little yes, but it will grow to be just the size we need. Simple is better. Less is more. 

8. We disconnect. 
Ok I admit, we do watch some Netflix, but I’ll tell you a secret – we don’t have cable. We never watch it, so why pay for it? Everything we need is on YouTube and Apple TV when we do. Plus, without cable, you don’t need a reason to turn it on. I catch up on my favorite magazines, the weekly and daily New York newspapers (yes, I STILL love paper!). Plus, Ever since I have moved to NYC, I haven’t had a television in the bedroom. I think it’s important to keep your haven just that – a place you can always come and enter and know it is relaxing. Before bed, we pull out a couple vintage Mickey Mouse books and read before we shut off the lights.

9. We say what we’re thankful for.
I have learned that you do really have to let it go. The more you learn to appreciate the things you DO have instead of focusing on the things you don’t – you can truly appreciate life. Seriously – I am thankful I live in Astoria. I have realized how much I love my neighborhood from the parks to the people to the food. I am thankful we are able to walk every morning, that I can afford to put Max in school, for the incredible job I have, and the rare opportunity to sit here and tell you all about it. Max is more thankful for things like Lego candy and dinosaurs, but he still loves to participate! 


10. We sleep.
I love sleep. If I could nap every single day I could. And on days I can, like today (Saturday!) where I plan to do nothing at all, I will. But we also go to bed so we get plenty of sleep. I know it sounds redundant, but listen to your body! If you’re not getting enough sleep, you won’t function properly! And let’s not forget – we still co-sleep. Nothing is better than cuddling with Max at the end of the day. Once day he’s going to be too big for that, and for now, I’ll take every snuggle I can. 

By | 2017-11-20T05:19:03+00:00 January 30th, 2016|activities, be a better parent, Favorite Things, Girl Talk, Going Green, Health and Wellness, ideas for kids, Kid Friendly New York City, Motherhood|Comments Off on 10 Ways to Be An Urban Version of Henry David Thoreau

About the Author:

Stephanie Barnhart is an award-winning blogger, columnist, and outdoor enthusiast writer featured in the Huffington Post, New York Times and other media outlets. She is also the NYC Editor for MommyNearest.com.