I think most of us can agree that traveling is amazing, right? Do we need to spend some time talk about why? If we do, I totally can, because I love talking about traveling and why it’s great and where people have been and want to go. Okay, now that I’m on that train of thought, maybe we should spend just a brief minute talking about traveling.
Traveling is the best way to open up your world, expand it, and grow as a human being. Traveling helps us experience new and interesting places and things, hopefully expanding our minds to new ways of thinking. Traveling forces us to think about who we are, what we value and how we handle being pushed out of our comfort zone. And it reminds us of our place in this world, and how we fit in alongside all of the other beautiful things it has to offer. In the day-to-day shuffle, it can be easier to forget what’s out there, to allow your world to shrink down to the size of your neighborhood or city, and to forget how interconnected we all are. Traveling can blow that mindset right up and remind you how many beautiful places and people there are on this planet.
Okay, that wasn’t so brief, but once I started thinking about it, I had to talk about it too! Now we can definitely all agree that traveling is great. But, it can sometimes also be expensive and time consuming and difficult to do. Often we need to save up time, energy and money to travel. Just last week we talked about saving up for trips and provided a few suggestions for side jobs to help you get moving faster. But what about those times in between, when you’re feeling the wanderlust but can’t just jet off on a whim?
It’s these times especially when I think it’s important to be a tourist in your own town. “Tourist” sometimes has a negative connotation—no one wants to look like a tourist—but the idea is that we can come close to achieving the benefits of travel without having to leave our own city. I guarantee there are parks, streets and neighborhoods in your town you have never walked through, restaurants you’ve never tried, even major tourist attractions you haven’t made it to yet (I, personally, have lived in New York City for almost a decade and have never made it to Liberty Island).
It’s true you probably won’t be confronted with a vastly different culture (though that is possible in many larger cities) and you won’t be pushed out of your comfort zone in a hostel or really have to worry about a language barrier. But if half of wanderlust is the desire for new places and experiences, you can satisfy that any Saturday you like.
Here are just a couple ideas and tips for playing tourist in your own town. Even if you think this idea is crazy, lame, ridiculous—just give it a try once. Being a traveler means being open to new ideas and experiences right? So be open on this one.
- Take a tour. Whether it’s a food, history, pub, or ghost tour, you’re bound to learn, see, or eat something new. You might stumble upon something that changes how you think about your town, or at the very least, you’ll have some interesting new nuggets to add to your next cocktail party conversation.
- Take an alternate route. Most of us take the same route to work, in and out, everyday. Try switching up your commute. If you normally take one subway line, switch to a different one. If you normally take the bus, try driving. Or just finish your journey a little earlier and walk the last leg. Seeing something from a different vantage point—even if you’ve driven past a hundred times—allows you to take in new details. If you take the train, try combining this with reading a great travel narrative.
- Stay in a hotel. Is it a bit of a redundant expense? Yes. But #staycation, am I right? Book a night in a hotel, bed and breakfast, even a vacation rental and just get out of your own space for 24 hours. Use that time to do more exploring.
- Mix with other tourists. Finally visit that major tourist attraction you’ve been meaning to get to for years. Do it up, take your camera and try to see it with fresh eyes.
- Get (a little bit) out of town. Choose a random number of miles and drive out of town using that as a radius. Wander around the main street of a town a few miles away, or just drive around new neighborhoods and see what you discover within, say, 15 miles of your home base. We often forget to explore that which is just slightly out of our every day zone–when was the last time you thought about planning a “trip” to a place less than a plane ride or three hour drive from home? There’s all kinds of great stuff hidden in that in-between.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Try a restaurant with a cuisine that’s a little bit outside of your regular tastes. If you’ve never tried Ethiopian food, or fresh sushi or curry, maybe now’s the time!
- Have friends come to visit. It’s always fun to see your city through a fresh pair of eyes, and having out of town guests is a great way to have a tourist experience for a day or two.
Maybe you won’t experience anything totally life altering like you might by visiting Italy or Bali, but how can it possibly hurt to try? You might discover your new favorite restaurant, find a beautiful out-of-the-way nook that becomes your go-to lunch spot, or you might just feel a little refreshed by breaking out of your normal routine for a day or two. Either way, if you’re feeling the travel bug but can’t pick up and leave at the drop of a hat, touring your town might satisfy your wanderlust and open up your eyes to something new.