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.
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.
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.
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?