A lot of travel bloggers talk about how you need to make travel a priority in your life in order to check the items off your travel bucket list. I would argue, while there is some truth to this statement, I’d like to argue that by changing your mindset to that of a tourist you can accomplish a lot of your own personal travel goals. Speaking rather philosophically, we really are just all tourists here on this Earth and we’re all here for such a brief time. We get so caught up in the day-to-day that we pass by a lot of beauty hidden in the ordinary. We forget to pause and remember that as human beings we all require the same basic things from our cities but that each city brings it’s own unique flare to these things, and that is really the magic of travel.
I’ve been lucky enough to live in a number of tourist destination cities at this point in my life and I’m an absolutely voracious learner in life. I believe it because of this, I’ve grown to do things like stop and read the small historical plaques or google the random statue I just walked past. While I’m not trying to pose as some person that has it all figured out and can relish in the small, unique moments in life (trust me, I struggle with it a lot), I do think that my life experiences have taught me to approach life with more of a tourist mindset. Everywhere I’ve lived has been temporary, essentially, and I’ve tried to ensure I fit in as many experiences as I can in whatever short amount of time I have.
I usually try to find the thing to do in the place you’re at, so to speak. After graduation in Hawaii, I flew to the Big Island with my dad to tour Volcano National Park. Living in Australia, I jumped at the chance to go to a number Rugby League matches. Living in Norway, I sold strawberries at an Ikea for a local farmer. Living in England, I made sure I found a neighborhood local pub and got even more into Premier League soccer. You see? The thing to do in the place you’re at. In reality, a lot of people would view going to your local pub on a Friday night or selling strawberries as a pretty mundane experience. However, they’re experiences I fully enjoyed and the memories from them, I look back on very fondly.
In an effort to show people that you can be a “tourist of the ordinary” so to speak, I decided to create this blog and focus on the United States – my home country. I’m not one to shy away from the international long-haul flight by any means. I took my first flight before I was 1-year-old and grew up on the unaccompanied minor pass with TWA. I realize I’m incredibly lucky to have had these experiences in my formative years. I also realize that I’ve done a relatively poor job of exploring my country, to be completely honest. As I’ve continued to explore and meet people from all over the world, I’ve learned that this is not at all uncommon- regardless of where you’re from.
When I was moving back to the US from England, I struggled to think of a city I would be happy to relocate to. To me, the only options were Los Angeles or New York, and I had a boyfriend at the time who was also moving to New York. I started to realize then just how poor my knowledge of the local US actually had become over the years. I had no clue what it was like to live in a place like Atlanta or Seattle or Cleveland. I’m sure there was some wonderful, hidden gems in each of these cities…right? There had to be, I figured. Everywhere I had lived previously had the same basic universal staples, with a local flare to it. Every city, no matter where you are in the world, will have things like a park, local transit, a newspaper, popular restaurants and cafes, shopping, etc. Granted this is true for metro areas and may not be true for rural ones, but as I’ve started on my journey with this blog, I’ve yet to find a place where this is not true. Approaching these ordinary things as a tourist would can make you realize just how special your local area is.
I think this has been a beautiful realization for me. It’s helped me approach my solo day trips in a more confident mindset. Knowing that regardless of where you are, there are always certain tourist amenities you can rely on, you are afforded a degree of comfort that can be difficult to find in solo travel. It also helps to realize that regardless of where you are, there are going to be nice things to enjoy about a city if you look. It’s also true of where you are living right now. I bet there are places in your city that you’ve been meaning to check out for a while now. Why haven’t you? What are you waiting for?
This idea of being a “tourist of the ordinary” has been incredibly easy for me in New York City. I feel like I could live here my whole life and still not explore all the city has to offer. However, this realization really hit me in Hartford. I think Hartford was the first solo trip I went into with a clear and confident mindset. Hartford is by no means a tourist destination in the US. I’m sure people would spend hundreds of dollars to come to the US and see a number of cities before they ever considered Hartford. For how great New York City is, it is completely unlike the rest of the United States. New York is completely unique. Being able to lose myself in a pretty typical, small American town again, allowed me to see the beauty I frequently miss out on. I didn’t necessarily feel like a tourist due to the familiarity of being in “Anytown USA”, but I was one in reality. It’s a unique feeling you can’t quite find within international travel.
Admittedly, I wouldn’t be able to come to these recent realizations without making travel more of a priority in life. However, I would argue there is more than one way to achieve travel goals, and I hope my blog can demonstrate this to people in a way. Each city carries its own beauty that is waiting for you to find it and learn about it. If your goal is to travel, try to alter your mindset and start small. You’d be surprised how far small steps can carry you. Be a tourist of the ordinary with me.