I have this little ritual that I like to do every now and then – pick a day where I become a traveler in my own town.
Last time, my day being a tourist in my own town (Seattle) looked something like this:
I hopped a Metro bus downtown, enjoying views out the window I can never afford to take in when driving. Then I walked around the legendary Pike Place Market, enjoying the sights and smells and thinking about how much I love markets, all over the world. I ducked into a café for a coffee and pastry, bought a bundle of bright sunflowers in the arcade, and chatted over spicy tea samples from an amiable vendor. Like any tourist would, I had my camera at hand and delighted in snapping shots of airborne fish, pudgy pig statues, crowds entertained by busking musicians, and travelers pondering the fabled Gum Wall down the alley. I walked down to the pier and enjoyed a pint of local micro-brewed beer and some raw oysters. It was a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable day.
One of the pitfalls of traveling to distant lands is the tendency to look at your own home as somehow mundane or less-than-exotic. I find that moving through your own home with the mind of a traveler opens you up to the true spirit of travel – that you get out of it what you put into it, and every place has its own mood on the map.
Here’s some pointers for creating your own ‘hometown tourism’ day:
• Utilize local transport – bus, light rail, bike or train – and observe the passing landscape as though you’ll be writing postcards about it
• Take lots of pictures; you’ll see your everyday world in a different way and it’s great travel photography practice
• Attend local gatherings, such as concerts, markets, rallies, or county fairs, to plug into community
• Look for art gallery openings, stop in your local museum, even check out the local taco truck that always has around it –find culture around you!
• Make a marked effort to chat with people. We are an insular society and at home tend to move about in personal bubbles. Try making eye contact, smiling and engaging in conversation – much as you would in a new place
• Absorb the curiosity and enjoyment of the people around you
• Find something new you haven’t seen – a hidden park, a statue or a historic site