A few years ago, before I headed out on my first solo backpacking trip, a friend and I decided to test my back and my pack by loading it up and heading out for a Saturday wandering the city. It wasn’t long before passing Portlanders got a look at our hefty backpacks, secretly filled with pillows and books, and they began asking where we were from. We had inadvertently become tourists in our own town.
At first we explained what was going on, which mostly resulted in looks of disappointment and a few quizzical stares. These friendly folks weren’t disappointed in my clever backpacking training, they were just disappointed that we weren’t really tourists. I don’t know about you, but there’s something pretty exciting about meeting tourists on your own turf. It fills me with a mix of pride for my city and excitement for meeting someone who could be from halfway around the world. But to these poor people, just meeting a girl from the suburbs with a pack full of pillows invoked neither of these feelings.
After awhile, stemming from our disappointment in disappointing others, and by a little personal curiosity, we started pretending that we were indeed tourists. Posing as Canadians (I can’t pull off an accident, so it wasn’t like I could pretend to be French or anything, right?) we wandered through downtown toting our packs while gawking at buildings and staring in bewilderment at street signs, by all appearances: frazzled foreigners in need of some local wisdom.
During our afternoon adventure, I learned quite a bit about a place I thought I knew so well. We received advice on attractions to see and places to eat, and usually managed to duck away quietly before we gave ourselves away.
If you feel like you’ve seen it all, or if you just want a creative way to kill an afternoon, try being a tourist in your own town. You don’t have to go all out and don a pack and cheesy accent, but there are lots of easy ways to see your town through the eyes of a tourist. You can head to a visitor information center, pick up a guide book, or just pull out a map, and begin exploring. Researching top attractions, and “must-sees” in your city or state are also a great way to learn more about your city. If you live in a big city, you might consider hopping on a city tour bus as a way to explore your hometown.
Don’t forget your camera! Not only will it complete your “tourist-look,” but how often do you spend time taking pictures of your beautiful hometown? Plus, if you share those pics online, you might end up enticing a few out-of-town friends to come visit so you can enjoy being a tour guide in your own town too! From new places to eat to neighborhoods to check out, who knows what you might learn by being a tourist in your own town.