You lie on the bed and scroll: “Top 100 places to visit in a lifetime”, “How to travel on a budget”, “10 packing essentials”, “See the world in x days”…and you dream. You dream yourself travelling. Exploring the streets of ancient cities, climbing up the winding staircase in a medieval castle, getting a taste of far away cultures, seeing nature’s majesty and the delight of seeing things for the first time.
One day you’ll do all that. One day. Maybe you even have one of these escapades planned. You’re saving up. Scheduling your work around it. One day. One day you’ll be a tourist.
You grab your keys and go out to run some errands. You’ve done this a million times. You’re on autopilot, lost in dreams of travelling. “Excuse me.” someone says. You snap back to reality. They want directions. You help them and ask where they are from. They tell you. They also tell you they planned this trip for a while now. They saved up for it and scheduled they’re work around it. They are a tourist – in your own town. Why aren’t you?
Here are five ways you can become one:
Quick! What shape are the streetlights in your town? Think of a beautiful balcony you pass by…or a building decoration..or a bird’s nest somewhere weird. What colour are the roofs? Do you ever notice these things? Most people don’t. Try it. Look up. You’ll see all sorts of stuff: architectural details, strange improvisations, creepy old windows that look like straight out of a horror novel, funny decorations you don’t expect.
Looking up you find the soul of the city. Just like when you look at someone you’re talking to instead of looking at your feet. See it smile, see it frown, see the odd little quirks, the age lines and the passions and start to fall in love with it.
The best thing about exploring a new city is getting lost. In your own town you may have a good enough understanding of its layout to never truly be lost. Or so you think. Deviate from your usual routes. Take a side street or an alley. Venture between the buildings you usually pass by. Find shortcuts. Find dead ends. Find all the nooks and crannies, find every possible way of getting from A to B, and then some more.
Walk through time
Some cities are time machines. They’re old and you go there to walk on the cobblestones of time itself. You go there to get lost in history and hear echoes of the past. To look at the old winding streets and imagine the people that first made them.
Your town may not be like that. It may be smaller, younger and historically less significant. Yet it still has history. Look it up. Find out of old events. Go through old photographs and talk to old people. Visit the places that stayed the same and those that have changed, visit the monuments and the places where events you’ve heard of took place. Maybe your town is not that old, big or important, but time passes over it just the same. You just have to pay attention.
Go on a nature expedition
Grab your camera and go hunt some wildlife. Seriously. Give yourself a time frame and take pictures of all living beings that aren’t humans: dogs, cats, birds, lizards, insects, amphibians, beetles, fish, anything you can find. Look for them, take pictures and then count all the different species. See if you know what they are, why they live there. Or look for flowers. Or mushrooms. Or trees. Or clouds. Gaze at the sky. See how many spiderwebs you can photograph. Even in the greyest of towns nature is all around. Go find it.
See it for the first time
This is the easiest and the hardest thing to do. It’s the last on the list because it’s a mix of the previous tips. It’s a state of mind. Maybe a bit difficult at first but then it becomes the default. Look at everything with new eyes, new interest and new excitement.
You grab your keys and go out to run some errands. You’re doing it for the first time. You’re exploring, lost in a new place. You’re a tourist – in your own town.