When I moved to Tennessee in July, I spent a couple weeks exploring the area, especially downtown, and figuring out where everything is. I was familiar with the general area, as my family used to visit several times a year when we lived in Georgia. But that had been eight years or more; most of my memories were foggy.
The agency I work for is headquartered in New York City. The Tennessee office is its newest satellite office, so a lot of people I work with moved down from New York and the surrounding area. In their first few weeks down here, I asked all of the obligatory touristy questions: Did you go to the top of the Empire State Building? Is the State of Liberty really that green? Do people really get coffee at Central Perk? What’s Central Park like?
I was shocked when they said they hadn’t actually done many of the popular tourist activities.
I’m writing today to say that it’s perfectly okay to be a tourist in your own city.
Being a tourist in your own city is not silly or lame. In fact, it’s the best way to get to know your city and find your favorite spots. I love knowing the popular areas in cities, even if they are tourist hot spots. Being familiar with the popular locations is good knowledge to have, for a number of reasons.Don't be afraid to be a #tourist in your own city. Click To Tweet
Every city has its tourist spots: things everyone does or sees when they visit a city. London has the Eye, Westminster Abbey and taking a photo in a red phone booth, among others; Paris has the Eiffel Tower; Philadelphia has the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall; Atlanta has the World of Coca-Cola and Centennial Olympic Park. Everyone knows those places and most everyone makes an effort to see them when visiting those cities. I will probably always take a red-phone-booth photo every time I visit London. I will always go to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. Even if those are “the tourist spots,” they are just as much parts of those cities as any other place, and they deserve to be visited just as much.
While the touristy spots are important to visit, the smaller, local places are often wonderful discoveries, too. A tour guide on one of my trips abroad told me that when you’re visiting a city, go to the popular spots, but don’t overlook the smaller, local places. “If you see a bunch of locals somewhere,” he said, “then it’s probably good.” This is especially true for restaurants, bistros and cafes.
As a tourist, following the locals’ footsteps often leads to the best discoveries. That’s how I found my favorite cafe when I studied abroad in London. Actually, it was a recommendation from the nice guy who helped me at the Apple Store, but close enough.
When my family and friends visit me in Tennessee, they look to me to be their tour guide. I’ve always loved showing my friends things and places that are special to me, so showing them my favorite places around town, no matter where I’m living, is a must. Visiting the tourist hot spots in my city on my own lets me get to know them, so I can share those experiences with my friends and family, too. I’m their tour guide for the time they’re with me, after all.Being a #tourist in your own city is the best way to explore. #travel Click To Tweet
Most of all, no matter how popular a place is, or how “touristy” it is to do some activity, it’s always worth it to go see and do it. Sometimes I feel like we get trapped in the mindset of, “It’s always going to be there, I can go see and do that whenever I want.” While those places may always be there, we may not always be in these cities and may not get to experience everything, even the touristy spots. My mom says that before we leave Pennsylvania, she’s going to make an effort to see all of the historical sights in Philadelphia, just because they’re there, and why shouldn’t she see them? Cities and the experiences you have in them should never be taken for granted.
Next time you’re out and about, embrace your inner tourist. It’s the best way to explore everything it has to offer. Above all, it really is the best way to get to know your city and feel at home. There’s no shame in feeling like a tourist. We’re all tourists to some degree.
Tell me about a time when you really embraced your inner tourist! Where were you and what did you do?