One thing I learned from studying abroad in London during my First Year Study Abroad Experience (FYSAE) was that curiosity and exploration are key to enjoying one’s surroundings. When I returned to Philadelphia, I was so excited to explore the city with the same zeal that I had in London. I’m rediscovering this lesson now on my second overseas study in Perugia, Italy.
But my heart is also still in Philly. Of course, it’s much easier to explore an area or city when it’s not your hometown. An unknown area is mysterious and full of opportunities to be discovered. Yet, we tend to forget that our hometowns can also offer this same adventure. All we have to do is jump in and explore with a tourist’s curious mentality. Here’s how.
- Do some research.
Read up! Grab a guide book, visit blogs and websites. These are all great ways to find out new things about your town that you, as an inhabitant, would probably have overlooked, or maybe even forgotten. Philly is only 15 miles from Arcadia and was just named the first U.S. World Heritage City. You might know about its rich American history, but when’s the last time you played tourist?
- Discover day trips
Oh, lovely little day trips. What a convenient way to be a tourist at home. Day trips allow you to explore the essentials of a town or city by just walking around, stopping in the cafes and shops, and chatting with the locals, you can learn a lot about an area that’s not necessarily in guide books. There are tons of towns to visit on day trips near Arcadia. Historic and artistic New Hope, Pennsylvania, and Lambertville, New Jersey, are my favorite day trips at home, and they’re just shy of an hour away from campus.
- Book tours, go to museums
Do the cultural things you wouldn’t normally do in your town. Book that ghost tour or buy tickets to the ballet. Visit museums and the “famous” restaurants. By doing this, you get to see how your city looks to an outsider. My suggestion for Philly? Climb to the observation deck in City Hall, and then you’ll really enjoy a new perspective.
- Take a friend around
Be a tour guide! Have friends or family members from out of town visiting you? Show them around your town. Do some research beforehand so you impress your guests with fun facts. Take them to the big landmarks, but also to your favorite local spots. You’re guaranteed to feel a spark of pride and appreciation for your hometown, and perhaps even learn more about it. It’s a win-win for you and your guests.
- Get lost
By far the best way to explore is to get lost. Take a different bus route, or go down a street you’ve never walked before. Give yourself lots of time to just wander. Take random turns, ask other locals for their suggestions on what to do or see, or where to go. You’ll stumble across new parts of your city, perhaps some hidden treasures, and you’ll be able to enjoy these new discoveries as a tourist does.
So, grab a map, a friend, and your camera, and go explore your backyard. When I am home for winter break, I am looking forward to doing as the tourists do in my beautiful Philadelphia.
Photos: Isabel Secanechia