How to be a Tourist in Your Own City


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Some weeks ago, an old friend of mine came to visit me, I asked him if there was anything in particular he wanted to see in The Hague, the place I currently call home. I was already dreading a visit to the local world-famous painting that is a must see for first time visitors. But no, my friend had a challenge for me, he simply said: “why don’t we together explore a place in The Hague that you always wanted to visit, but never got around to.”  Challenge accepted!

We had a blast that day.  I was majorly surprised how much there was to see and how little I knew about the place I have been calling home for more than 10 years. We got lost in streets I have never walked down, learned about the complex culture of a mosque, which used to be a synagogue in the middle of Chinatown and found a hidden park, behind a door I had walked past millions of times, but never saw the little plaque that invited me to enter. I really saw my city in a completely new light.

I guarantee you can experience new cultures, learn about your cities secret history and come back home at the end of the day and feel like you have been on a real journey.

Go on and try it, no long queue at airport security or passports required! Are you ready to go on a trip around the world in your own city? Here are some helpful pointers on how to:

  • Check local blogs

Things always change and maybe you did not know about that new museum or the great festival. Look up any upcoming events, local celebrations and festivals in your city. Maybe you always wanted to travel to China – check if there are any Chinese artists in town, exhibitions or maybe the local Chinese community is hosting a local celebration.

  • Take pictures like you would abroad

Abroad the fruits at the quaint local market are picture worthy, the statues lining up in the beautiful park also and architectural details on local houses and monuments too. When we travel far afield we take pictures of the mundane everyday life that we soak around us. When we are going about our daily routine at home, we become blind to the little things that are hidden right in front of our eyes. Slow down, be mindful, look up, look around and click away!

  • Take the time to be curious

I bet you have been driving passed a statue a thousand times, ever stopped to find out the story? Or the church you have walked by on the way to your friends’ house so often, have you ever gone inside? Or what about that building at the corner that looks like it is different than the rest, do you know the name of it or its story?

  • Take a guided tour

We took a world religion tour, which lead us to a Sikh temple, a mosque, a synagogue and a Buddhist temple. All these religious sites are open to local visitors and were within 20 minutes of my home! I had no idea the local religious sites of worship just allow you to walk in and have a look around. The Buddhist and Sikh temples were in houses that looked plain from the outside and I would have walked straight past them, yet they welcome several hundred worshippers a week and are beautifully decorated. You might have admired the Buddhist temples in Thailand, but maybe the one close to home is also quiet impressive. Go and find out.

  • Ask strangers for their favorite places

When I became a mom, I realized that some of my favorite cafes and bars would now be off limit for a while. They had no play areas, no high chairs, late opening times and I needed to map out the baby friendly hang outs in my city. I mainly found out about the places to be via my network. How about doing the same when exploring your city? I asked a random person who walked by for her favorite café- we ended up at a little café, I had never been to as it always looked very old fashioned to me. Little did I know they had an amazing backyard! I asked an old man about his favorite place – which led to a private tour of a hidden church in an attic, which turned out to be one of the biggest churches in The Hague but only accessible by private tour.

  • Eat your way around the world

Tbilisi in Georgia (the country not the state) is high up on my list of places to visit, so why not stake out the local Georgian restaurant to sample the food? Planning a trip to South Korea, visit your local Korean to try Kimchi and get some travel advise from the owners.  I managed to eat my way around the world in one day – breakfast at a local French boulangerie (Europe), a quick snack at a tiny Lebanese place (Middle East), amazing dim sum at the local Chinatown (Asia), picked up some deserts at a local Kenyan restaurant (Africa) and ended the day at an Argentinian steak restaurant (Americas).

Experimental Travel 

I also want to share with you a playful way of traveling, which the kids will love. It is a concept called experimental traveling.  The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel  talks about 40 playful way of traveling, where the journey’s methodology is clear, but the destination is unknown. Some fun ways to explore the world the experimental way with kids are:

  • Travel to the end of the line

I am sure you have taken the train/bus/metro a million times, but did you ever take it to the final stop and went off to explore that unknown neighborhood.

  • Go on a K2 expedition

K2 is not just the second highest mountain in the world, after Mount Everest, it is also a map grid square on a good old-fashioned city map. Why not go to explore what awaits you in K2?

  • 12 Travel

Travel following the number 12 (or whatever your child’s favourite number is). Catch bus number 12, get off at the 12th stop, walk across 12 junctions before examining building number 12.
I hope I could convince you that traveling in your home city can be just as exciting as going abroad! Please share your local tourist tips and tricks in the comments. 

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