Saturday, October 3

love where you live: play tourist for a day!

One of my favorite ways to reignite my love for where I live is also one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend with friends and family: by playing tourist in my hometown! It always amazes me how much I can discover (and rediscover) about places I've been around for years.

I grew up in the Roanoke area, yet I hadn't actually been to our star attraction (pun intended) in years until my friend Philly came to spend the weekend with Mr. Q and I. Your city probably isn't home to the largest freestanding illuminated man-made star, but there's something quirky and unique that deserves the up-close look you haven't given it in years - visiting the star wasn't really about seeing a huge metal novelty object; it was about showing my friend the best view of the city I think of as mine - and the skyline had changed quite a bit since I'd been there last!

I try to play tourist at least once in every season - my mom and I love to visit Roanoke's museums and indie movie house. We let museum docents tell us about pieces even if we've seen them before, and we learn new things from new perspectives. We go to movies from foreign countries and feel transported. Breeze and I like to browse the farmer's market and window-shop in stores we can't actually afford. We try on dresses that are way out of our price range and feel glamorous. Mr. Q and I enjoy riding on the Roanoke River Greenway. We usually stop for a visit at Black Dog Salvage, which is famous from being in an honest-to-goodness TV show! 

The "touristy" things visitors enjoy are gems we forget are right in our backyard - priceless works of art, beautiful things from all over the world, and beautiful mountain surroundings. Next time you feel a sense of malaise about your hometown, try adopting a tour guide's perspective - where would you take a friend who had never visited your neck of the woods? What restaurants would you take them to for brunch, lunch, and dinner? What sights would you want to make sure they saw? What outdoor adventures would you be sure they experienced? What kind of local culture or performances would you take in? You might even want to see how actual tourists have experienced your town - what places have received high ratings on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp?

Rediscovering your love for where you live may mean discovering places you've overlooked - you may have been to the closest art museum, but have you visited any smaller galleries? Many cities and towns, even those with smaller art scenes, have gallery crawls or open studio days. No art galleries or museums? Antique malls are a great place to find weird, beautiful artifacts. You may have gone hiking or running on your local trails, but have you been rock climbing, kayaking, or camping? If you live in a place with limited outdoor options, I dare you to sign up for the weirdest class your local parks department or YMCA offers. Have you supported your local theater troupe, ballet, opera, or symphony lately? What about the middle school jazz band or your little sister's dance studio? There's talent and wonder everywhere - if only we look for it with renewed vision.

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