How to Be a Tourist at Home | The Mindset

Wednesday, February 17

    In this series, we share local adventures and help you find ways 
to be a tourist in your own hometown

I am guilty of silent tourist shaming. When you watch someone try to maneuver an unfamiliar place...well, let's just say it's quite amusing. There are the confused faces, the camera faces, the awestruck faces when they stare up at a monument you rush past every day. Tourists are very easy to spot, but how come? Perhaps it's their mannerisms or dress -- I mean, who wears ankle socks in the middle of summer?! But that's not quite it. Tourists are easy to spot because they're simply paying attention - to everything. Sounds, signs, storefronts, street art, statues...everything from magical to mundane is worth a few more seconds to think about, look at, listen to, or capture. They are in a constant state of trying to put together as many pieces as possible despite knowing they may never see the entire picture. They are, simply, in a different mindset.

Tourism, done well, has little to do with distance. You could travel to the opposite side of the world and be considered a "bad" tourist. Because, at its core, tourism is all about learning and curiosity driven discovery. And that can happen every single day, right outside your door. I never really thought this was possible until I tried it for myself and it's completely changed how I view my city. So, I'm excited to start this new series that will showcase ways you can capitalize on what your city has to offer. To start, I've gathered a few tips below on how to get your mindset ready to travel like a tourist in your hometown...

    Developing the mindset


You don't have to pretend you've never seen your city in order to see it differently. At least, that was my impression when I started visiting places I've known since my childhood. I kept trying to imagine as if I was an outside tourist looking at everything with a blank slate. I quickly realized...that's rubbish. Whenever I travel to a new place, I do background research, or I google pictures, or I figure out what foods are popular or how much people go dancing at night. We generally have some information or idea about a place way before we actually get there (sometimes without going there at all). Suddenly pretending like you have no background information simply doesn't work, nor does it feel natural. Admit that you're a tourist, even in your hometown. There's nothing to be ashamed about! And then, try to focus on everything you do know. Often times, you will find what's missing.

For example, I've always known there was an "Old Town" area of San Diego that I've visited numerous times over the years with my family. But, aside from the restaurants and a stroll down the main street, I had no idea about the specifics of the historical background in this area. So, when I went by myself a couple weeks ago, I skipped the main street and, instead, went into the museums nearby and historically preserved buildings. I actually spent time learning about the history of San Diego. It was fascinating how everything felt both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. This is the feeling you should be comfortable with because you'll likely experience it a lot.


The best part about being a hometown tourist is that you generally know all the "big stuff" already that non-local tourists are eager to first learn about: major parks, museums, popular restaurants, and scenic spots. Generally, you have a pretty good idea of what these look like or you've already experienced them once or twice, if not countless times. Now, you can go a level deeper. Pick a specific theme and start searching for places and things to do that revolve around that. For example, here are some themes you can try to explore: colorful neighborhoods, parks with live music, best restaurants for pizza, and scouting for street art/murals. By selecting a theme, not only does it allow you to tie together different areas of the same city, but it also allows you to focus on a very small aspect that you get to know really well. Remember, you're going to be in your hometown for a while. There's plenty of time to explore the smaller parts of your city rather than focusing on just the most popular things to do.


The most memorable aspects of traveling are often unplanned. You may have scheduled every single day full of activities, but then you accidentally miss the tour bus and you're left in a place where you just have a map and little information. So, what do you do? You make the most of it. You talk to the locals to find out what's around, or you try out new foods, or you walk to explore the place just for the heck of it. This mindset of spontaneity is exactly what you should apply to your tourist adventures at home too. Use a mix of both researching local events (concerts, museum exhibits, new restaurants, etc.) and spontaneously choosing a place to explore. Some of my best adventures happened in-between classes when I randomly decided to visit some area of San Diego without a plan. I parked the car and simply wandered around. I spoke to some local artists, learned about their craft, and even purchased a couple momentos of the trip, which brings me to my last point...


When you're visiting sights and areas on your home city, keep in mind that your tourism (though local) should still be celebrated and remembered as if you traveled half way across the world. Bring your camera to capture your home-based adventures, share them with friends or family, try a new dish or pastry, and buy small tokens that can remind you of this adventure, such as a small painting from an artisan or a funny postcard from a museum gift shop. Collect and celebrate your local exploration no different than a global one.

All of these shots were taken from a spontaneous trip to Pacific Beach in San Diego, when I luckily had my camera in the backseat! I hope you found this post helpful, and I'm excited to start featuring some of my own local favorites in this series! 

Where do you live, and do you think it's easy to be a tourist at home? Share your thoughts below or share with a friend who could use some motivation!


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