You’ve hiked a volcano, slept amongst elephants, and swooped over ancient valleys in a hot-air balloon. Here’s the thing: That adventurous spirit you pack to unfamiliar cities doesn’t have to be restricted to exotic locations.
We often create a realm of comfort in our hometown, navigating the same routes and following the same routines, and forget to seek out new experiences in our everyday lives. The good news? With a shift in perspective, you might find that some pretty awesome tales are waiting to unfold without ever going to the airport. Here are five ways to get you thinking about your city in a new way.
1. Imagine a friend from out of town is coming to visit.
Immediately, a list of not-to-be-missed spots probably starts dancing around in your head. What this process may reveal is a tad embarrassing, but totally fixable: You haven’t even done half of the things on your “local’s approved” itinerary. Heed your own advice and visit these favorite stops.
Want to make it more interesting? Plan different itineraries based on type of traveler. Where would you tell a friend to go who is tight on cash? Soon you’ll have a list of free activities worth checking out. What about a friend who is an adrenaline junkie? The nearest jet-packing outfitter, high-flying zip line, or ice-climbing experience should be top of mind. And just like that, you have a list of activities for whatever mood strikes.
2. Think about what your city is known for.
Are you living in Memphis but have never stood on the famed black “X” in Sun Studio? Do you call yourself a Dallasite but have yet to partake in a barbecue tasting tour? And if you live in St. Louis, you’ve tried gooey butter cake before, right?
Sure, it’s cliché, but avoiding trademark experiences only because everyone else has already done it doesn’t make you any more enlightened. As one writer puts it, “This is akin to skipping dinner because the meal has gotten so popular.”
3. Consider visiting your local Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Ask questions, pick the receptionist’s brain on lesser-known attractions, and browse the free pamphlets. The clued-in employees that roam the halls here are on a mission to promote their city and ensure people have a great time, so who cares if you’re not a visitor?
Even better: Smaller towns typically have a CVB as well, and while the list of offerings might not be as extensive, the storied tales the employees may share can likely rival any big town.
4. Venture out solo.
When you explore on your own, you have no one else’s schedule to consider. Go ahead—strike up an hour-long conversation with the slightly off-kilter waiter at your local German restaurant. Rummage through that charming handmade furniture store even though you have no intention of buying anything. No one is going to stop you.
Walkable neighborhoods are the perfect setting to explore. Set no agenda, and you might be surprised where your own curiosity will take you.
5. Sit at the bar.
Usually, bartenders are masters in the art of small talk. Pull up a chair and act like you would if you were visiting a new place: Ask the bartender what they enjoy about your city, and you’ll likely glean some terrific pointers. (Plus, think about all of the juicy stories they can share about their bartending days.)
Bonus: Besides the perk of getting your drink faster, sitting so close to other patrons and chatty bartenders gives you unspoken permission to chime in on each other’s conversations. What that means for you? Shared stories, (maybe) shared food, and a shared experience that is anything but routine.
© 2016 AFAR Media