All too often, I meet people who just want to get out of where they are and explore the world. A lot of these people have lived in their city for three, five, even 10 years. They spend their time looking at guides and photos of cities all around the world, hoping to find their next vacation spot or perhaps a place to settle down. Yet, they often haven’t even taken the time to learn about the place where they live.
It’s often all too easy for us to just fall into the trap of the regular 9-5 and take the city we live in for granted. Between the late work nights or perhaps the drunken party nights or perhaps dealing with the kids, we forget that our own cities are often a great source of culture, entertainment, history, and knowledge. There’s so much to do and see all around us, and many of us never fully take advantage of the sights and sounds of the place where we live.
Take the time to learn about the city that you live in. It’s full of history, significance, and will make you understand the things that you see everyday, instead of merely just walking by them. Those statues, buildings, and bridges all have a story. Learn about the “why” instead of just being content with the “what.” So, what are some of the things that you can do?
1. TAKE A WALKING TOUR
The best way to really learn about some of the most significant historic parts of your city is to take a walking tour. Here, a tour guide will lead a group (anywhere from 2-50 people usually) around the most culturally important landmarks and explain the history behind them, as well as any interesting stories of people that may have played an important role in that landmark. Walking tours are the best because they give you the opportunity to ask questions and even meet other tourists. Some hostels offer free walking tours (even if you don’t stay there), although the guide will ask for a small tip at the end of the tour, while other walking tour packages you find in brochures should be affordably priced.
2. TAKE A BUS TOUR
Bus tours are great for bigger cities that may have a lot of different landmarks that are spread out and can’t be covered by a walking tour. The pitfall of a bus tour is that your tour guide will often give you a canned speech, or even worse, there might just be an audio recording playing. The worst bus tours have an audio recording that plays over the loudspeakers that cycles through eight different languages so that you only understand what’s happening one-eighth of the time (as opposed to private headphones with selectable languages).
3. JOIN A PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR OR CLASS
If you’re an avid photographer or someone who just likes taking pictures, a great way to tour your own city is to join a photography tour group or class. Make sure with the instructor beforehand that what you’re buying also includes walking around the famous landmarks. It’s a great way to learn from an instructor, as well as fellow students. At the end, you’ll also get a chance to critique your work as well as the work of others to see which techniques work and which ones fall flat. Also, it’s a great way to meet other avid photographers.
4. CHECK POPULAR ATTRACTIONS ON A TRAVEL SITE
If you want to strike it out on your own, check the popular things to do on a travel site like tripadvisor.com. If you’re interested, you can always check on your smartphone what wikipedia says on your smartphone while doing your own self-directed tour. That way, you can stay at a site for as long—or as little—as you like.
Before you tour another city, don’t forget to tour your own. You see, somewhere out there, someone is sitting on a computer picking and choosing the top attractions that he or she wants to see in your city. What do you think? Have you toured your own city and learned something new?