If you're a nomad at heart, you might have been too busy daydreaming of distant shores to notice the travel opportunities available right under your nose. It's a commonly overlooked fact that you don't have to go far to travel, and sometimes, it's nice to get back to your roots. So if you've found yourself stuck at home between trips and you're struggling to contain those itchy feet, why not get touristy on your own turf? Your home town or closest city has its own unique charm and history, and now's the time to discover it. Here's how to do it like a tourist.
1) Get a hotel room
It might seem silly to pay out on accommodation so close to your own home, but what better way to get in the touristy mindset? Plus, since you're not tied down by flights or other travel arrangements, your added flexibility in terms of dates will make it easy to pick up a bargain. Keep your eyes peeled for special offers and low prices on booking websites; check daily, if possible.
Staying in a hotel is always a novelty — no less so when you're staying just down the road. Make the most of the experience by choosing somewhere special like a quality hotel or a boutique B&B. Alternatively, check in to a hostel to meet travelers from around the world. Taking a night away from the familiarity of your own home can be refreshing whether you're on the other side of the world or the other side of town.
2) Take a tour
A local's knowledge of an area is often practical rather than historical or cultural. You might know all the shortcuts in town and the best places to get greasy takeaway after a night out, but do you know much about the history of the area? If you live in a city, you'll find there are tours running from time to time, and it's worth tagging along.
This is a great way to be a tourist in your own city, even if you don't have the time or money to splash out on accommodation. Take a historical tour, a wine-tasting tour, maybe even throw in a ghost walk for good measure. Whatever you learn from your guide, this is one of the most authentic 'hometown tourist' experiences going, and your knowledge of your city will be enriched as a result.
3) Go into foodie mode
When you've lived somewhere for a while (or even your whole life) it's easy to fall into a habit when it comes to dining out. After all, it's much easier to fall back on that trusty takeaway around the corner or the restaurant where all the waiting staff know you by name. If this sounds familiar, make it your mission to broaden your foodie horizons next time you're considering eating out.
Go for things you perhaps wouldn't have thought of trying before; that new Turkish restaurant, or the Vietnamese instead of your usual Chinese takeaway. This is a great way to learn about the cultural diversity of your city, and meet some people different backgrounds. So, for a month or so, resist the call of the familiar and make it a rule to visit only the restaurants you've never been to before.
4) Get snapping
Life is demanding and it's unlikely you find the time to stop and appreciate the aesthetics of your city as you're rushing to or from work. Slow things down by setting aside some time to go for a walk with your camera (or even just your iPhone). Photograph the architecture, the street performers the graffiti, the sunsets — anything.
Start to visually document your city and you'll find a whole new appreciation for its beauty. Share your snaps to Instagram to motivate yourself to keep going, and get other locals enthused too. Keep your eyes peeled for local photography competitions, or even consider running one, if you have the time!
5) Make it a date
Your city might not be short of attractions, but you're a busy person. You've probably fallen into the common trap of mentally listing off the things to do and see 'one day'. After all, those things aren't going to move from your doorstep. True enough, but 'one day' comes only when you tie yourself down to it, so crack out your diary and start filling those blank spaces with event, museums, and visits to points of interest. Commit, and get your friends and family involved, too. Once you get started, you'll soon see there's a lot more going on in your hometown than you realized.
So whether you're living in the place you grew up in or whether you moved to your city recently, make some time to get to know it. Exploring your own city is a great way to seek out adventure and broaden your horizons without the financial burden of flights or train tickets. You'll be impressed with what you find; in fact, you'll never fail to appreciate your city again.