Imagine you’ve lived in the same place for 20-years. It’s a familiar place; easy to take for granted. With time, your appreciation of its uniqueness fades a bit. Habits and familiarity lead you to stick with places you know, and places you don’t know remain unknown.
But your town starts to bore you; you want to spice things up. “I’ll go someplace else. Someplace new!” you decide. Someplace different from home. You know that by doing that you’ll get new perspectives; see new things; meet new people.
This typically requires physically going someplace to achieve that feeling of newness. It involves changing your external world; it’s effective and wonderful and expands your universe. But it often consumes a chunk of financial and time resources.
Yet it’s possible to achieve that feeling of newness without going anywhere; by simply staying within the borders of your hometown.
Achieving this requires changing your internal world; changing your mind about things. The external world doesn’t change, but your experience of it does. Oh yes, the experience most definitely changes.
It turns out it’s possible to shift one’s perspective without doing much more than deciding to, well, shift your perspective.
That’s exactly what Bubba and I did one day. It was my birthday, and I wanted to spend the day in my hometown. But I wanted to be there “as if” we were tourists. Same place; completely different mindset.
I started by taking my work-day birthday off; that definitely helped create a touristy feeling. Weekday playdate! We chose a breakfast place I’d been wanting to check out but just “hadn’t gotten around to” yet.
One of the hazards of settling in someplace is putting off doing things because you figure you always have “tomorrow” to do it.
After breakfast we strolled to the skateboard park, tucked on the edge of town. It was a place I’d driven past multiple times but stopping had always been for “another day.” All manner and ages of skateboarders did their tricks, but our attention was caught by a dad on a monster-looking bike, with his young son in tow. We struck up a conversation and had a wonderful chat about the bike, his son, and his appreciation of our town.
If I was out as a local, I’m not sure if or how I would’ve struck up a conversation. But operating with a tourist mindset stripped away a lot of behavioral protocols that operate quietly in me; it felt much easier to initiate a conversation. In that frame of mind, I approached things with more curiosity, the curiosity one has when they’re in a new place. The unabashed willingness to ask strangers on the street for help finding your way.
Rather than being someone who “knew” my town, I got to ask folks on the street about their favorite restaurant, ice cream place, park. I was more inclined to talk to strangers. We went to restaurants and cafes I’d talked about wanting to visit but, until that day, I hadn’t taken the time.
Most of the time when I’m out, I’m doing mundane tasks of life: shopping, errands, mail, banking. I do it as a local. I’m task-oriented; productivity-inclined. Get out, get it done, get home.
But being out as a tourist? There was a different rhythm; it felt more fluid and organic. The mental attitude shift really did change our experience. We still talk about it, it was that notable.
I’ve lived in this town for 20-years; it’s familiar and I take a lot of it for granted.
And yet on that day, I felt as if I was touring a town a travel magazine might recommend as a cool place to visit.
Which, it turns out, a travel magazine has done. Because, well, it is a cool place.