I was walking through Kensington this week with a frozen yogurt in hand when I realized I’d just walked past three relatively new businesses that I’d never step foot in yet.
I noticed there are so many of my favourite spots for eating/caffeinating/shopping within a few minutes of my bedroom that I haven’t stepped out of my local comfort zone to see what else is up.
It struck me, as I adjusted my fanny pack outside Pages Books, that it was time to be a tourist in my own neighbourhood. No Air Miles required. It’s something anyone can do in their community or in their city real easily. The perks? At best, falling in love with home all over again. At the very least, it’s a chance to find a new place for a snack on a rainy day.
Why be a tourist in the place that you live?
No matter how much we think we know home, there’s always more to uncover. A few blocks from our apartment there are two houses that have been converted into B&Bs. We were cycling past them the other day when Jason wondered out loud, “why would anyone stay in a B&B on our street?” (Rates for these particular B&Bs run $125-$195, by the way, according to their websites.)
Jason’s question wasn’t really literal, though. We both know this ‘hood has some awesome happening. People want to be here, but it’s easy for us to take for granted when Kensington is right here waiting for us all the time. (Taking one’s inner-city surroundings for granted, by the way, can be alleviated by having a friend that lives in the suburbs against her will who can bend your ear with tales of long commutes, dearth of parks, and only one good pub (and it’s in a strip mall).)
My hypothesis is that playing a tourist in my neighbourhood makes where I live just that much better. This feels silly to write, because yes, I live in a neighbourhood with a ton of amenities—but I know I’m overlooking some options simply because I’m stuck in my habits when it comes to things like:
- where I go to drink tea and write when I need a change of scenery from the apartment
- my first choice for a walking route
- where I shop (or rather don’t think to shop)
- where to grab a quick lunch
Now, there’s nothing wrong with defaulting to my beloved Kensington Pub for a hearty, homestyle lunch, or beelining to Higher Ground for a tea and writing session because I know the volume is usually the perfect level for focusing.
But what if I’m missing out on some other greatness? It’s time to put on my fanny pack and find out.
How to be a tourist in your own city
My hyperlocal tourism is a work in progress. Like any tourist, I’m sure I’ll pick up some ideas to make the experience even better as I go on. Here’s what I’m going to try and what I’ve already done to see my neighbourhood like I’m someone staying in an AirBnB rental, adjusting to Calgary’s elevation and trying to figure out these colourful Canadian dollar bills. I imagine you can apply some similar exploratory methods to your home region, too.
Try somewhere new while doing something old
Instead of walking past a new coffee shop to get to my regular one, I walked in. I’m writing this blog post at The Coffee Market, which opened last December and is full of coffee beans and coffee-making devices and where you can get a cinnamon bun latte to drink while crafting a blog.
— Zoey Duncan! (@zoeywrites) June 2, 2015
Tell everyone about what you found
Yeah, sure, it can become obnoxious when a friend comes back from a vacation and won’t stop talking about how amazing it all was. But if in your new role as Explorer of All Things Nearby you uncover some gold (or pastries), why not brag about it?
— Zoey Duncan! (@zoeywrites) May 28, 2015
Make dinner decisions like a famished tourist
Perhaps pie shouldn’t be my dinner every night. I get that. But Fanny Pack Zoey loves trying pie. When in Rome!
— Zoey Duncan! (@zoeywrites) May 28, 2015
NB: This suggestion also applies to pre-meal cocktails and post-meal lackadaisical strolls. And dessert pie. Tourist dining is the very best.
Change your route, see things differently
Headed home after a bike ride Sunday, we decided to stop for frozen yogurt. It took walking to the end of the block to find free space to lock up two bikes and I realized there’s something of a shortage of bike infrastructure on Kensington Road, where there’s lots of reasons to lock a bike and patronize places. I tweeted about it with the Kensington BRZ and learned there’s (likely) improvements coming. Bonus!
Bring a camera for a new perspective
As my photo teacher used to say, the best camera is the one you have with you, so your smartphone camera is a-okay. Just remember to think about it as a camera; hold it ready to shoot as you roam the neighbourhood. Sometimes shooting with a black and white filter on can help you to see things differently. Frame scenes that are beautiful or intriguing or out of the ordinary or completely ordinary. Maybe even print the results and hang ’em in your home.
Find the perfect souvenir
Even with the photos you’ve taken, you’ll want to make sure to bring home a souvenir that reminds you of your travel destination. Set a budget—savvy tourists have a budget—and find something you love that fits it. You could even wrap it up and gift it to yourself, if you want. And you don’t need extra luggage to bring it back home! Now, if your neighbourhood doesn’t have anywhere you can buy a souvenir, I have two alternatives for you. 1) Check your community association for upcoming local events like flea and farmers markets, 2) go natural and find a flower to press between the pages of your vacation paperback.
Do you have any tips for me as I summit the proverbial peaks of my own neighbourhood? Please bend my ear in the comments!
This blog post is part of my bid to become the East Village Resident Ambassador! In that role, I would live in the East Village, an exciting new neighbourhood rising on the banks of the Bow River in the heart of Calgary and tell stories about that life. It would be a whole new chance for local tourism. If you think I’d be good at this gig, you can help by watching my 30-second promo video, sharing it and keeping an eye on my tweets tagged with #EVliving. When you fave, RT and reply to those tweets, you’ll help my chances of becoming the Resident Ambassador.