Most of us live in a reasonably large city, or in close proximity to a major metro, but how many of us know all guidebook.jpgthe hidden gems of our hometown? Two more questions and then we will get to a bit more substance. Have you ever called your town boring? Do you own a guidebook or literature about things to do in your city? My guess is that the answers to the last two questions are “yes” and “no” respectively. No matter the size of the city in question, the answers tend to be the same no matter who you ask. And I pose the question, why?

When we book a flight it seems that there is some switch thrown in our head that draws us to the nearest book store to buy a guidebook. We search the Internet, ask others advice in chat rooms, and plan down the detail, often searching for a place or experience that will give us memories of a lifetime.

However, when friends or relatives show up on our doorstep we take them to the same three or four places we have visited ad nauseam, often feeling like we could give the tour ourselves. From my experience most zoos have the same animals; TGI Friday’s has the same menu, and a natural history museum really does not have much variety, as history is…well history.

This month the “Rubber Meets the Road” barely gets out of second gear as we learn to explore the city we live in. Armed with some resources and a bit of detective work you can explore new possibilities, take a walk on the wild side, or confirm, that yes, your city is boring. The best thing about being a tourist in your own town is at the end of the day you get to sleep in your own bed. While the views are often better in other locales, I can honestly say that of the hundreds of hotels, motels and resorts I have stayed at, my bed is the best. The mattress is just the way I like it, I do not have to pay $4 for a glass of water and no one wakes me up at 3:30 a.m. by sliding my “easy check-out” paperwork under the door.

So I have rambled enough, now on to some tips on navigating your city in a way you never have before.

You are here, but you are not here. When you take a few days off, but tell work you will “be in town,” you know they will call. As far as they are concerned you are 10,000 miles away – this is your time to enjoy, relax and explore – they owe you that right.
Do, do not say. You have walked or driven by that restaurant hundreds of times only to remark, “we should go there sometime.” You are on vacation, make the reservation. If it is pricey, who cares, you are saving a boatload on your hotel bill ($0).
Buy a guidebook. Open it up and cross out every place you have been and then find one location you will visit.
Visit someplace that is totally out of left field and don’t always take the highway, you may be surprised. that sometimes it really is about the journey, not the destination.
Ask a stranger – give up control. At your first stop on your journey, find someone who you would normally not approach and ask them this simple question, “what is the one place I should visit that is not in any of the guidebooks?” When you get to that destination, repeat the process.
Finally, take a camera along and document your journey as well as your destinations and then put it into an album. This way the next time relatives visit you can pull out your own personal guidebook and have them choose a destination of their choice. Free your mind and enjoy the ride.

Happy trails…