Featured Travel Tips

Tips For Being A Tourist In Your Own Town

One of the things I love about being an expat is that you can feel like a tourist by day and return to your own bed by night. More recently though I’ve started to fall into a regular routine of work, rest and play, with not nearly enough exploring.

So I started thinking about some of the ways I could get that tourist feeling back and stop taking for granted the awesome travel experiences I have available right on my doorstep.

For any of you who have vowed (like me) to embark on more domestic travel this year, or who have felt the pinch (also like me) from an expensive last year, these are my tips for being a tourist/traveller in your own home town.

Embrace Your Inner Tourist

Let’s start with the obvious. To embrace your inner tourist you firstly need to shake off any notion that being a tourist is somehow wrong. You’ll need to forget everything you know about what is cool in your hometown, cast aside routine and be ready and willing to get tacky if necessary. When deciding how to fill your weekend think, “what would a tourist do?” Going to your ‘regular’ bar, shopping centre or curry house is not allowed under any circumstances!

Turn Off Your Data Roaming

How often do you have access to data roaming when you travel? Not very, I would imagine. Turn it off so you are not distracted by what your friends are doing or work emails coming through – you are on holiday remember. Pick up a map of the area from you local tourist office and be prepared to get a little lost.

Walk

Do you hire a car for every new city you discover? Thought not. Leave the car keys at home and get on your feet. It’s amazing what you can discover when you take the time to walk past it.

Bring Your Enthusiasm

This one can be tough if you have lived in the same town for many years but you’re not going to be able to get into the mindset of a traveller unless you rustle up some enthusiasm for the area in which you live. Fake it until you start to believe it.

Carry Your Camera

It wasn’t until I left London that I realised how little photos I had of my favourite spots as carrying a camera and snapping snaps is not something you do as part of your regular home routine. But it could be. Carry your camera and you’ll immediately feel more like a tourist, plus you’ll end up with a collection of great photographic souvenirs.

Research

Don’t just research the best things to do in your area but research how other visitors see your town. What do other people do when they come here? Read online reviews, blogs and Trip Advisor (warily) to get personal recommendations.

Do ‘The Thing To Do’ In Your Area

You’ve been bungy jumping in Queenstown, snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, got married in Vegas (well, maybe not) but what is THE thing to do in your area? What crops up again and again in the blogs and reviews you’ve read? It could be a good hike, a particular dining experience or simply posing by a well-known sign. Just do it.

Get On The List

Sign up to a local review site or newsletter to find out about event listings and openings. (In Sydney I love The Urban List who send out ‘what’s on this weekend’ details every Thursday. They also have listings for Brisbane and Melbourne. Back in London I subscribed to Emerald Street for daily inspiration.)

Save & Splurge

When I travel I like to explore both ends of the financial spectrum. There might be one night when we want to check out the Michelin-starred restaurant and another when we just grab something cheap from a food truck to keep the spending in check. Try adopting this attitude for your home town and see where you can discover by splurging or scrimping.

Sleepover

Of course, the best way to feel like a tourist in your own town is to check yourself into a hotel. Staying where other travellers stay is a great way to make friends, find out what everyone likes to do locally and (bonus) someone else makes the bed in the morning! You can also make use of the concierge at a hotel (or travel desk in a hostel) to give you some hints and tips on new things to do.

Join A Tour

I never knew how much I didn’t know about London until I took a walking tour on my last visit home. Joining a tour with a professional guide can provide insight into the history and culture of your home city that you never knew before. Urban Adventures provide professional (and fun) 1 day walking tours for many world cities or simply google ‘free walking tours in x’ to see what’s on offer in your area. (Note: it’s customary to tip the guide what you think the tour was worth at the end of anything labelled ‘free’.)

Join A Meet Up Group

A great way to feel like a foreigner in the place you call home is to throw yourself into a situation where you know no one! There are a number of meetups groups arranged online that bring people together depending on their interests, age and occupation. Travel blogging meetups are a great way to meet different people passing through your city, as are expat groups or even exercise classes. Search meetup.com for a list of events happening in your local area.

Show Someone Around

The best way to see your home town through the eyes of an outsider is to show them around it. Sometimes it’s not until we show someone else the best parts of where we live that we begin to appreciate it.

Will you be exploring your home town more this year?

18 Comments

  • Reply
    Renuka
    January 12, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Nice tips! I HAVE kind of done what you have suggested here. When I was in Delhi, I often played tourist and set out for photography and sight-seeing. Now when I am in Hyderabad, i do the same. I go out to explore the heritage sites, and just a couple of days ago, I sauntered in a nearby farm and clicked a few pictures, too. I think it’s very important to explore one’s own backyard!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      January 12, 2015 at 11:02 pm

      Agreed. Especially when you live somewhere as diverse and photographic as India 🙂

  • Reply
    Jessica
    January 12, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Great tips. I live in Washington, DC and love being a tourist in my own city. Every now and then I take the metro during lunch to a museum (most of them in DC are free). I also try to discover new neighborhoods in the city. I always find great restaurants or cafés.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      January 12, 2015 at 11:03 pm

      I love the idea of visiting a museum on your lunch break – what an informative and enjoyable way to break up the day.

  • Reply
    Cathy (MummyTravels)
    January 12, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Great tips – one of my resolutions this year is to explore London more with my daughter. There’s so many amazing places in the capital, but it’s so easy to get a bit blase and although I’ll happily take her to Paris or Copenhagen, I’ve hardly been into the centre with her at all yet…

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      January 12, 2015 at 11:05 pm

      It always seems more of an adventure when you get to fly or go somewhere with another language but there are definitely lots of exciting things to do in London too. Will be interesting to see if your daughter enjoys exploring closer to home more.

  • Reply
    Katie MacLeod
    January 12, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    I’ve just moved to the NYC area, so this is perfect timing for me! Excellent advice – I’ll be making the most of it!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      January 12, 2015 at 11:06 pm

      O how exciting!!! Congrats. I look forward to seeing your posts about it.

  • Reply
    Lucy
    January 12, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Great tips, I have just been writing up some weekend guides to places I know well and in some cases lived for years and have been really shocked by how few photos of them I have taken, so a new year’s resolution is to take the camera out locally more. Also to fit in a few local breaks – next up is a couple of nights in the Cotswolds at the end of the month, only 40 mins from home but I’ve spent embarassingly little time exploring there yet.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      January 12, 2015 at 11:07 pm

      I’m the same Lucy. I’ve been writing about London but have no photos of places I literally walked past for years! I’ve also explored an embarrassingly little amount of the country – shall have to get out more on my next visit. Enjoy the Cotswolds!

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Marie @mariestravels.com
    February 11, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    I always pretend to be a tourist when I have friends from other countries visiting my town. It’s a lot of fun and I get to see things I wouldn’t see/do with the locals friends 🙂

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      February 11, 2015 at 10:22 pm

      This is a great point – showing someone new around your home town always helps to see it with fresh eyes

  • Reply
    Alek
    April 2, 2015 at 7:21 am

    These are honestly such amazing tips.

    I studied abroad in Australia this past semester, and I did everything from visit Cairns and snorkel in the reef to trek around Sydney and tour the Opera House. When I talked to my Australian friends, though, they hadn’t done most of the things I did because they were too ‘touristy’.

    When I came back to America, I realized I also avoided things here that I considered too touristy. But there is so much to learn about where I live, and sometimes the best thing to do is act like it’s a whole new place! There’s this weird sense of freedom when travelling that people often lose in their home city or country.

    I really love that you were able to put into words what I have been feeling I should do.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      April 6, 2015 at 3:42 am

      That’s so great to hear. It can be really easy to take for granted what is on your own doorstep and sometimes it’s not until you leave it that you realise how much you already have. Here’s to your sense of freedom and exploration continuing back home in the States. Happy travels!

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