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 – and it’s a lot of fun. It can break up the monotony of a long week, or be a small staycation. But more importantly, it can remind you to always stay present in life.

How do you take a staycation?

When my husband and I go to a new city we Google the area. We look for things to do, read restaurant reviews, and get an idea of what we might want to do while we’re there. On any trip we take, we always try to eat somewhere local, and, we spend time driving around and just exploring.

Try doing the same thing in your own city.

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.

If you live near a bigger, tourist type attraction, go do the big things, but also look for those things that are off the beaten path. For instance, 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.

Living near a place like that is great because you don’t have to try to see everything within a limited time. Most people who go to Disney have a few days or a week to try to take everything in. If you live near the parks, you could go to the special events, plan so that you don’t have to go on busier days, and take your time seeing all the tiny detail that they put into all of their attractions. It’s the same way with any other place.

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

Pretend that you’ve never been to your area before.

Google your city name and see what pops up to do. Go onto Pinterest, and 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.

If nothing else, 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, or into the ones you have been in with fresh eyes. Pretend it’s the first time you’ve seen these places. 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.

If you’ve lived somewhere a long time, and you feel like you’ve seen everything, try doing one of these scavenger hunts. Seeking out smaller things within the bigger picture can help you find something new.

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, all around us. Statues, space ships, oddly painted houses, oddly shaped houses, abandoned places, 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), 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 become a guest in your own 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, place little mints on your pillows, put a basket with snacks in your room, clean your bathroom up, declutter if need be, and make your home as close to a retreat as you can for your “stay”.

Plan your day(s) just like you would if you were on vacation.

I have to preface this by saying…some people are planners on vacation and some people aren’t. Either way you go, do that, but with the same feelings as you would on vacation. In general though, most people tend to relax on vacation. They worry a little less about time, diets, and they are a bit more adventurous. Even if you plan your days down to the minute, do it with a spirit of adventure.

We aren’t planners when it comes to most of our vacation time, so generally we have rather loose goals. We like to get there, see how the weather is, see how we’re feeling, and explore. A few things we always try to do, wherever we go:

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; or there are new restaurants in general.

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, but it also gives you the opportunity to see an “old” place in a new light.

Even if it’s somewhere that you’ve been over and over again, you can find a new menu item, a new corner of the store you’ve never seen, or a new path to get where you’re going. Jay Shetty talks about his time at the ashram, and how on their walks everyday their teachers encouraged them to find a new rock. He said at first it felt a bit impossible, but once he got used to looking for something different it became an activity he looked forward to. Each day the walk was a little different, even though it was the same path he always took.

This ability to seek out the “new” will spill over into the rest of your life.

The sense of always seeking to see or experience something new will begin to find its way into your everyday life. Not only will it help you to be more aware of your surroundings as you’re going through you day to day, it will also allow you to become a better problem solver. When dealing with issues at work, or at home, you’ll know that you can step back and look at it from an outsider’s perspective, and get a clearer picture about what is going on. Even if it’s something that has been going on for a long time, doing this gives you the ability to be more creative, and find a solution that you may have missed because you were too close to the issue.

Pretending to be an outsider in your own city has the added benefit of helping you enjoy the vacations that you take away from your city even more.

Because of your newfound sense of adventure, you’ll be more likely to seek out different places to eat, play and experience when you go on vacation. Even if you like to go to the same places every year, you will see new things about them.

We’ve been going to Florida for several years now, to visit family and explore around where they live. There are a few restaurants that we always love to go to when we’re there. Every time we go to those restaurants, I challenge myself to find something new. I don’t necessarily find something new to eat, because I always want to get my favorites, but some new decoration or a different view out the window. OR I actively appreciate the fact that nothing has changed and it’s the same place that I’ve always loved.

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, we will constantly be finding new and exciting places to go and things to do. Not only that, we’ll begin to see the things we do everyday in a new light. Sometimes this gives us the chance to appreciate it even more, and sometimes it allows us to shift or get rid of those things that are no longer serving us. Either way, we are more present in our daily lives and as a result, we create more and more of the life that we actually want to be living.

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