Be a Traveler in your own city

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” – Andrew Zimmer

Let’s say for a moment that you have never been to the city that you live in. If you were visiting for the first time, what would you do; where would you eat; where would you go? Taking a day, a weekend, or a week, to be a traveler in your own city, opens you up to new possibilities in your life.

When my husband and I go to a new city we Google the area. We look for things to do and read restaurant reviews. We always try to eat somewhere local. At some point during the trip, we spend time driving around and just exploring.

Be a Traveler at Pal's Sudden Service
This is a local restaurant called Pal’s. They have the best sweet tea!

Do the same thing in your own city.

Act like you have never been to your city before.

Google your city name and see what pops up to do. For most of us, even those that live in small towns, there are things that we didn’t even know were there, or that we haven’t taken the time to do. I’ve heard of people that live in New York City that have never been to the top of the Empire State Building, or to Ellis Island. There are people that live near Disney, or a State Park, that have never been before. Often, if something is close to us, we think that we’ll eventually go, but we never do. It’s always there, so we take it for granted when we’re planning things.

Go see and do the big things, but also look for those things that are off the beaten path. If you live near Yellowstone National Park, go and see Old Faithful, but also take the time to see the rest of the park as well. If you live near Orlando, go to Disney, experience the magic, but go see things that are close by too. Like the Sugar Mill ruins in New Smyrna, or the Audubon Birds of Prey Center in Maitland.

Go onto Pinterest and search for your city. Make an entire board full of things that you can do in your area.

Go to your local airport or welcome center and browse through the brochures there.

Look for things that you have never done, but are interested in trying. It can be anything from finding the local parks and hiking spots, to taking a hot air balloon ride over the city, to taking a pottery class or a cooking class. You can search for free things to do or budget a little and spend. Just as you would if you were traveling.

Walk around the city as if you’ve never been there before.

Look at the displays in shop windows. Go into stores that you’ve never been in before. Take pictures of things that someone visiting would. Admire the architecture. Anything that you would do on vacation in a new city, do in your own city.

Be a Traveler at the Deery Inn
This is the Deery Inn, haunted by the spirits of those that have lived and stayed there.

Check out and see if there are any oddities in your area.

Be a Traveler and see oddities like this
We saw an icon, the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, taking pictures of a local icon, the spaceship in the background. This spaceship is on Roadside America.

If you’ve never heard of Roadside America, it’s a website that lists completely random things in most every city in the United States. Every time we are planning a trip, I look at this website to see what’s around. There are some of the most interesting, random, and completely weird things. Statues, space ships, oddly painted houses, oddly shaped houses, geographical points (like on State Street in Bristol, TN/VA where, if you stand in the middle of the street, you’ll have one foot in Tennessee and one foot in Virginia), abandoned places, and more.

The things on this website are sometimes tourist attractions, but more often than not they are things that are tucked in somewhere, or that most people wouldn’t necessarily notice.  

Take it one step further and be a traveler in your home. Treat it as if it were a hotel, or an Air BNB, for a night or two.

I know, you’re the one who will have to clean everything up in the end, but for at least one night, suspend that reality and just enjoy yourself. Don’t do anything that you have to do. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do if you were on vacation and staying in someone else’s house.

Plan ahead and set your bedroom and bathroom up like a hotel. Make the bed up nice, put little mints on your pillows. Put a basket with snacks in your room. Clean your bathroom up, declutter if need be, and make your bathroom a retreat for your “stay”.

Do things just as you were if you were on vacation.

Make a plan, get up, and start having fun. Or plan nothing and just see where the day takes you.

When we’re on vacation we try to find three things:

1) Local antique stores

We love to wander around antique stores and see what they have. It’s amazing what people have collected over the years. My grandparents were collectors and had an antique shop of their own, so we also like to play the “did we used to have it” game. It’s interesting to see all of the things that people used to use in their household. One of my favorite things to look at is old postcards. It’s fun to see what places used to look like; also, to read some of the crazy things that people write on them.  We find things that we have no idea what it even is, and things that we can’t believe that people ever owned.

2) A local pizza place

As I said, we like to eat locally as much as possible when we’re travelling. We try to avoid chain restaurants (unless they are local to the area) and places that we have at home. My husband loves pizza, so we always search out the local pizza place and try it. We’ll often ask around for recommendations from the people that live there.

3) Whatever that town or place is known for, and/or whatever comes up on Roadside America.

Generally, you find this out when you look the city up on Google or Pinterest. In Colon, Michigan, they were known for magic. Orlando is well known for theme parks. Pigeon Forge, TN for Dollywood. Hollywood for the walk of fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. In Marshfield, MA there is a general store, Marshfield Hills General Store, that Steve Carrell and his wife own.

You get the picture.

When we’re at home, we try to do similar things. We take a day every now and then to go look through the antique stores that we have here. They are always getting in new things. As long as we’ve lived here, there are still pizza places that we haven’t tried, or even heard of. We try the new places when they open as well.

How does being a local traveler benefit you in the long run?

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

Being a local traveler opens you up to new experiences.

Instead of going through the motions of doing the same thing, over and over, you seek out the new. The more you do this, the easier it gets.

You begin to see the things and people around you in a new light.

Places that you may have gone many times over can become new again if you see them as a visitor to your city would.

You may find new places to shop, eat, and play. You may learn new ways of doing things.

Pretending to be an outsider in your own city, helps you learn to enjoy the vacations that you take away from your city even more.

Instead of going to the same places and doing the same things, you may choose to venture out and have a new experience. Or if you do go the same place each year, you may do some exploration and find new things that you’ve never seen or done before.

Once you do go back to reality, your experience of “traveling” in your own city will stick with you.

You can use this experience and remember to take a step back when dealing with your day to day life. If you view your life, your problems, from an outsider’s perspective you can get a clearer picture about what is going on. If you allow yourself to step out of the situation and become a silent observer, you can more easily see the bigger picture. This can help you find a solution that you may have missed because you were too close to the issue. You give yourself the chance to be more creative about problem solving, or about life in general, when you aren’t going through life on auto-pilot.

You never know what you’ll find when you start looking.

Be a traveler in your own city
We never knew this little park existed and we drive by it all the time. It’s right behind the courthouse.

If we take the time to seek things out that we’ve never seen before, or to experience things as if it’s the first time we’ve done them, it will make us more aware of our surroundings. We will constantly be finding new and exciting places to go and things to do. We’ll begin to see the world that is just beyond the little circle that we often keep ourselves in.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller