As an avid traveller and someone who is always planning her next trip overseas, I’ve learned why it’s so important to keep the wanderlust mindset alive while moving through the routine of work and daily life.
For the past few years I’ve been caught in a crossroads between putting down roots and advancing my career, or taking time off to travel abroad. After weighing the options upon graduating university, I decided that I could have it all! I thought to myself, why can’t I put down some roots in a city and work on my career, while still feeding that travel bug by booking a few trips each year during my holiday time? The greatest realization came to me when I discovered how to be a tourist in my own city, allowing me to keep that wanderlust spark burning bright in between jetting off to my next adventure.
Here are my top 5 ways to be a tourist in your hometown:
1) Make a bucket list of fun adventures that you can have in your own town
Many travelers embark on an adventure with at least some idea of what they would like to see and do in that particular place. Whether you make a physical list or a mental list, bringing that notion of a travel bucket list to your hometown forces you to get out and do unique things outside of your daily routine. Your bucket list doesn’t need to include visiting world famous landmarks if you don’t live in a big city, but instead can be as simple as going on a nature walk or checking out a cool new restaurant. Each season, I try to make a bucket list of “mini-adventures” in my own city and work towards checking each and every item off that list. For example, in my hometown of Ottawa, Canada, my Summer 2015 Bucket List included hiking as many trails as possible in the Gatineau Hills, checking out the light show at Parliament, and sightseeing the Rideau Falls (which, interestingly enough, I had never seen before in all of my time in Ottawa). During this past winter, my current bucket list included skating on the famous Rideau Canal, checking out the ice sculptures at Ottawa’s Winterlude, and snowshoeing through some of Ottawa’s many picturesque trails.
2) If you know someone who is going to be visiting your town or city, offer to play tour guide
What better way to be a tourist in your own town than to spend time with an actual tourist? If you have friends who live in another town, even one that is relatively close by, plan a fun weekend of showing them all of the awesome things your town or city has to offer! Make an itinerary for each day and check online for ideas of things to do if you’re having trouble coming up with some on your own (e.g. TourRadar, TripAdvisor, etc). I’ve been lucky enough to meet friends during my travels abroad who have since come to Canada, and playing tour guide for my out-of-town friends really helped me rediscover—through the eyes of a traveler—some hidden gems in my city that I had forgotten.
3) Take your camera when you head out on a local adventure
Most travellers never leave their hotel or hostel without their camera because they want to create long-lasting memories that they can remember for a lifetime. Doing this when you are going on a local hike or visiting a landmark in your hometown can awaken that travel mindset instead of feeling like it’s another run of the mill day. Whenever I check off items on my seasonal bucket lists in my hometown, I always bring a camera to capture special moments and beautiful places. When I look back at these photos, I’m reminded of how beautiful my city is and how there are plenty of opportunities for new experiences within my own city for a travel enthusiast such as myself.
4) Take “mini-roadtrips” to a town or city close by
Have you ever had a nearby town that you’ve always passed by while driving, but have never actually stopped to check it out? There is no time like the present to make a plan to explore that unexplored town and discover all it has to offer! I’ve taken the back roads from Ottawa to the nearby 1000 Islands many times for weekend cottage getaways, and there are several charming small towns on the way. One day, we decided to stop in Merrickville, Ontario, a quaint but beautiful town on the water about an hour outside of Ottawa. Though we only stopped for a few hours, we toured the beautiful locks by the water, found an amazing used bookstore, and a plethora of cute little cafes and eateries (my favourite specializing in homemade chocolate, fudge, and ice-cream). The next time you’re yearning for an adventure in your own backyard, consider driving or taking a bus for a day trip to a nearby town and go explore!
5) Treat yourself to local cuisine
When you’re travelling, one of the best parts of visiting a new place is getting a taste of the local cuisine. Why not bring that taste in travel (no pun intended) to your hometown? Finding local, family-owned restaurants and eateries is a great way to break from routine and try something new in the same way you would while traveling. Perhaps your town or city even has some dishes that are special and unique to that place. For example, no winter in Ottawa is complete without heading down to the Rideau Canal and chowing down on a Beavertail pastry. Trying local cuisine is a great way to treat yourself to a good meal, and treat yourself like the traveler at heart that you are.
Making the decision to become a tourist in my own city has enabled me to see my city through the lens of a traveler and has renewed my passion for all that my city has to offer – and has made the “in-between” period a lot more fun!