When’s the last time you looked at the place you call home with the wonder and curiosity that fuels your travels?
Even as parts of the world begin opening up, international travel seems a long way off for countries still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re all feeling as grounded as a plane in a blizzard. But there’s no better time than now to channel all that pent-up wanderlust into our own cities and towns.
When’s the last time you looked at the place you call home with the wonder and curiosity that fuels your travels? Getting curious and exploring your own city isn’t just a boost to your local economy – it’s a serious mood booster for you. Tack on the exercise that comes with exploring on foot, and it’s a boost to your immune system to boot.
To stoke the fires of inspiration, we present our best tips to help you shed your this-is-home blinders and soak up your city like a traveller.
Follow your city’s hashtag for inspiration
You know all that obsessive scrolling you do on social media before heading out on trip? Apply it to your own city. Follow its hashtag. See what people are up to and posting about. You can also search your city on Pinterest, where ideas and inspiration abound. So many people are looking at their little corner of their city with fresh eyes. Spend some time seeing all the corners of your city through those various lenses and decide what you’d like to go see for yourself.
Get a fresh perspective on the familiar
Human beings are creatures of habit. Finding wonder in the familiar starts with breaking routine. Drive everywhere? Try walking. Live in a house? Get to a lookout point or view your city from the top of a skyscraper. When is the last time you watched the sunrise or sunset at home? Admit it, you’ve chased one or the other (maybe both) on your international adventures. Research the best places in your city to see both. Snap photos and compare them to other sunrise/sunset shots in your collection – or simply let the beauty of both experiences wash over you. Formed a two-home bubble with a friend or family member? Consider a brief home swap to experience your city from a different neighbourhood.
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Tap into your interests
Think about the things that fill you with joy when you visit a new place – museums, art galleries, theatre, street art, cultural attractions, sporting events, nature experiences – and hunt some up in your own city. Some you may not be able to experience in person, but many museums and galleries are offering virtual tours or setting up offsite drive-through exhibits. Take or create your own street art tour. Search for the nearest (or most far-flung) hiking trail. Airbnb has a running list of online and in-person experiences in and around almost every major city worldwide. You can take cooking classes, join guided meditation sessions on a farm with animals, go on walking tours, and more – at home and around the world. Explore your city’s Events listings on Facebook, blogs, and news sites. See what’s on offer, online and in 3-D reality.
Get a bloggers-eye view of your city
Search for city bloggers or foreign bloggers who have visited your city. Scan their posts for unique things to see and do. Get inspired by their experiences, thoughts, and reactions. Note what speaks to you. Follow their ‘a day in X-city’ itineraries.
Dive into your city’s history
History buff or not, brushing up on your city’s history is a sure-fire way to deepen your connection to it. If walking tours and hop-on hop-off bus tours aren’t yet available in your city, spend some time researching its historical highlights and the available tours. Ghost stories tickle your fancy? Read about the haunted haunts of your town and get inspired for places to tour or visit when possible. Have a love for certain global cultures? Research the formation of a cultural neighbourhood in your city. Then visit it on foot, walking around to note restaurants, shops and points of interest you’d like to explore. Railway junkie? There are museums and tours catering to that – and almost any other interest. Find an area of history that calls to you, and explore your city’s unique spin on it, noting places, people and sites of interest.
Forget what you know – get curious
When we visit a city in another country, we’re naturally curious. We follow our intuition and instincts. We ask questions. Peruse itineraries. Get recommendations. We do as much as we possibly can, experience and see as much as we can because we’re not sure when – or if – we’ll be back. How many things have sat on your must-see, must-do list for your own city? When it’s home, we always think we’ll have the time. And we never make the time. We think we know everything there is to know about where we live. But we don’t, so brush off that list. Get curious. Ask questions. Check off an item or two.
Tap into your inner tourist
You might be more traveller than tourist, but experiencing your city’s tourist attractions can be an eye-opener. Sure, there are the ones you know. The ones you take visiting friends and family to. How long has it been? Maybe it’s time to visit again. You have a different experience each time you visit a familiar place, because you are different with each visit. Then there are the places and experiences that may not be on your radar. Pick up a brochure (or two) at a hotel or info kiosk. Ask a concierge in a different part of town for their recommendations on what to see and do in the area. Poll friends for the best experiences their neighbourhood has to offer. Make a list of all the Instagrammable sights in your city and visit the ones that speak to you.
Get inspired by entertainment
Perhaps there’s a song with lyrics inspired by your hometown, or the city you currently call home. Or maybe a movie or television show was filmed there. Or a favourite book that is set in it. Let entertainment be your guide – create a self-guided tour of sights and places that inspired musicians, filmmakers and authors. See your city through their lens.