I’ve lived in over 12 different cities and towns in 6 different states in my life, traveled to every region of the country, been overseas numerous times (although not enough if you ask me) and have loved (almost) every place I’ve been. I’ve learned a lot, seen tons of sights and met wonderful people that have turned into lifelong friends. But no matter where I go I cannot get over how many people haven’t traveled or gone anywhere. What overwhelms me the most is how many people live in a city they’ve been in all their lives and they haven’t seen the sights that are right around the corner from them. They have a loyalty and passion for the city in which they live, but yet they don’t know the city at all. For example the people that have lived in New York all their lives and have never seen the Statue of Liberty.
When I move to a new city there are a few things I do to make sure I get the most out of it.
First I make a stop at the Visitors Center and contact the Chamber of Commerce…yes they still have those. These community service centers are there for you and have all the latest information on what to do, where to go, events that are happening and dining options. The publications that are put out have a wealth of information. I read through them and learn about what’s around me. My husband actually finds me quite amusing with these guides, because I get scissors and cut out all the things I’m interested in. The pile I keep on my desk is much smaller than all of the magazines, guides and books I initially brought home.
Next I take all the cut outs and put events on my computer’s calendar with alerts of when they will be. Festivals, craft fairs, street fairs, farmers markets, carnivals, museums and the like. I keep a book of the restaurants I’d like to try, categorized by type of cuisine. I also incidentally keep a book in my car and I write a quick little review in it from each restaurant I go to. What we had to eat, did we like it, name of restaurant and location and would we go back again. There is another section in my book for places to see. Sights not to be missed, tourist-y stuff and off the beaten path things you learn once your in a city for a while.
Lastly, I actually go to the events, the restaurants and all the sights in the city. Not all in one day, but over time. One this weekend, one next month, whenever. I find my favorites and go back again and again, different times of day or different times of year. Being a photographer, this allows me to get photographs that may be unlike any previously taken of that place, which is good because if a place is popular enough it will have been photographed millions of times. How many pictures have you seen of Times Square or Santa Monica Pier?
Going to the events and sights allows you to really embrace a place. See it from the eye of the tourist, and see why people come to the city you live in and why they come back. You have the inside track and if you have friends come to visit you then you know where to take them. Which places to avoid, perfect time to go, and best places to eat. You’ve basically become an expert in your city and community.
So go ahead and look beyond the borders of your front lawn and get to know your own backyard. It may even spur you on to reach even further and see the world. You may not end up moving to a new city every couple of years, but it will allow you to see your own city with new eyes and a renewed sense of loyalty to your city and community. Doing all this allows you to fall in love with where you live and renew your passion for that city over and over again everyday. Happy Traveling!
Helpful links- US Chamber of Commerce with links to every Chamber in the USA