I wouldn't be true to the Ms. Guided mantra if I didn't go against the grain at least a little from time to time. I'm in the business of planning travel and creating authentic experiences, so why write a reverse guide on how to travel like a local? For many of the same reasons, I endorse travel as therapy: To establish a sense of connection, expand horizons, learn to be present in the moment, see the world through others eyes, and to nurture well-being.
When I decided to make tourism and hospitality my business, I began exploring what my local area had to offer, using the some of the same techniques I employ when planning a trip. I was pleasantly surprised (and humbled) by how many exciting and interesting things there are to do and see within 20 miles of the home where I spend most of my time plotting the next worldwide escape.
Read on for 5 great resources to make your own backyard a bucket list destination.
Pinterest is my number one go-to when devising travel plans for myself or my clients. Type your city or state into the search box and you'll find more eye-catching photos and articles about your area than Monday morning commuters in Grand Central Terminal. The only disheartening aspect of this activity is that there's usually not enough time to see and do them all in typical vacation period. However, when they're local destinations, you have more than enough time and you don't have to wait to start ticking them off the list. Bonus!
Not only is it fun to browse what's offered in your community, but recently Airbnb has started offering "Experiences" with locals sharing their talents & passions to visitors. This also applies to local resorts and B&B's. Especially during off-seasons, you can stay at high-end or typically sought after hotels for a fraction of the seasonal price. I do this with my nephew from time to time and he loves it! They're great memories and we really do come home afterward with that "post-vacation high" feeling.
City Tourism Offices
If you really want to gain a sense of pride about your community, visit your local Visitor Information site or office. Tourism is big business and City officials know it, which is why they pour so much effort and fanning of their peacock feathers into attracting people to it. You'll find no shortage of "things to do" or "places to stay" there.
The world's number one go-to for what to do, where to stay and what others say about it all. You'll find every tour and interest under the sun - and stars - on this site. Find a local tour that interests you and book it. Having good insight of local history and culture creates a deeper sense of connection with where you live. It also makes you more interesting to the people you'll meet next time you're abroad who are curious about where you're from. One more added bonus? You're doing something "touristy" which means there's a good chance you'll be on the tours with visitors from around the world. Maybe you make a new friend or afford yourself the pleasure of returning the favor to those incredible locals you met on your last trip who spontaneously took you under their wing to personally show you the awesomeness of their city, homes, and cultures which became the very best part of your vacation. And now they go home telling their friends and family how wonderful the people in your country are (#citizendiplomat). Karma points abound!
A Parking Lot
Seriously. Park your car in your city's center and commit to just wandering aimlessly for a day. This is by far my personal favorite activity when traveling abroad. There is no better way to be in the moment, gain perspective, make delightful, unexpected discoveries and meet new people than "just getting lost". Even in your own city. While you're at it, try your public transportation system if you haven't yet. You may discover a valuable new alternative to your existing commute, or just how hellaciously grateful you are to own a car. Either way, you just had a mini version of a life-changing experience.
One last benefit of traveling as a local is that you are, well, a local. So you can shed your inhibitions about "looking like a tourist". Now that you're sheltered in the sanctuary of your hometown, go on and take that themed city center segway tour wearing a reflective vest and name tag. There is, after all, a reason touristy things are popular, so enjoy and try something new. Now go get lost!
"There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about" - Margaret J. Wheatly