Be a Tourist in Your Own City.

2011 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2011 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2011 a happier year — and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge — welcome! This month’s theme is Creativity, and last week’s resolution was to Make something by hand. Did you try that resolution? Did it boost your happiness?

This week’s resolution is to Be a tourist in your own city.

Be a tourist in your own city.MP3 for Audio Podcasting(1)

If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
8 tips for sparking your creativity.
Taking tourist photos of my own romance.
Take a field trip. In my case, to cultivate good smells.

How about you? Have you ever tried to have a tourist’s frame of mind as you walk around the place where you live?

If you’re new, here’s information on the 2011 Happiness Challenge. It’s never too late to start! You’re not behind, jump in right now, sign up here. For the Challenge, each week I’ll post a video suggesting a resolution for you to consider. For more ideas for resolutions to try, check out the archives of videos here.

* I love visiting Brain Pickings — “curating eclectic interestingness from culture’s collective brain.” I never know what I’ll find, but there’s always a lot to see.

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  • I can’t be a tourist in my own city this week because I’m “touristing” elsewhere. But if I were home, here’s what I would do – take a Gray Line Tour of my own town. I did it once, a long time ago and it was fascinating. (The  driver took a lot of liberties with history and landmarks but even that part was fun.)

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s a great idea — I want to take a bus tour.


  • I love this idea and try to practice it regularly.  It really struck me when I visited Australia last year – I wasn’t in the outback or Great Barrier Reef but because I was in mindset of everything being a new adventure even the everyday was memorable and exotic.  This year, belts are being worn a little tighter and big travel is not on the horizon so I’m trying to put myself in a tourist state of mind here in my own little city. It really does work!  Noticing all the things we miss in our daily grind = happiness!

  • This is a great idea. We recently moved to the Washington DC area (great tourist spot!) and are excited to do the “touristy” things while we live here. It’s great because we’ll have way more time than we would if we were only visiting for a few short days. 

    Before we moved, someone who had lived in DC previously said we should make it a goal to see a site every weekend, otherwise it’ll slip away from you and suddenly you’ll be moving again without ever touring!

  • Rita

    I was looking for ideas to celebrate my blog anniversary when I stumbled here. What  a great title for a blog. I ma trying to figure out how to join you…

  • Corrin

    After doing it on vacation, I’ve been wanting to get the travel guide book and do one of the 2 or 3 day suggested tours of my own (current) city. Pack everything (ok, a lot of things) the city has to offer into a long weekend!

  • Kate

    What perfect timing! 

    I’m happily planning what has become known as a “staycation” for the end of the month, and playing tourist in my town is a big part of that. 

    I’m doing several things I’ve wanted to do for years: kayaking on the small urban lake five blocks from my apartment; going ice-skating at the local rink; taking a walking tour of an old Victorian neighborhood; going to two museums; touring the inside of the gorgeous modern cathedral that I walk by every day; and eating at several places at which I have been “meaning to” eat.

    Of course, I’m also reserving time to read under a tree, take long naps, and watch movies, but that’s a topic for another day!

  • Shawndra Russell

    I try to have this mindset because I am blessed to live in beautiful Savannah, Georgia and there is always so much to see and do that I haven’t yet! In addition to this philosophy,when I am in less familiar cities, I try to have the mindset of “traveling like a local” a la Rick Steves–I want to get off the beaten path and not act like a tourist! Even in our own cities, we sometimes get stuck in ruts and go back to the same places over and over. It’s important to branch out, go try the new restaurant opening in town, walk down an unfamiliar street, check out a new store, etc. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Hi Gretchen! Thanks for this beautiful idea and will work on it….

  • Rachel@RewardsofSimpleLife

    I’ve never thought of this idea before.  Gretchen, thanks for this great idea!  Sounds so fun, and is a fun challenge to “re-see” the place we already live!!

  • Theresa

    My husband and I have done this in our current city and took a staycation last year in the city we went to college.  (The two are 30 minutes apart.)  It was so fun to go back to campus and wander around.  A lot had changed so that helped with the tourist part!  A friend who has lived in our current city for practically her whole life once said to me “You guys have seen more of our city than I have.”  I was shocked!  She’s lived here her whole life and hasn’t even seen or visited the basics.  Very fun suggestion, Gretchen!  

  • Riley Harrison

    We do look for new and fun things to do in our small hometown and it does change our perspective in a positive way and happier way. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

  • I think a lot of people would be surprised about just how much there is to explore in our own backyards.

  • Armychic73

    My husband and I recently moved to San Antonio a couple of years ago, (though I was born and raised here) and anytime his family or our friends come to visit we show them all the tourist places they have come to see: The Alamo, The Riverwalk, The Hemisphere Tower, Sea World, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and we enjoy these places and the scenery all over again as though we were tourists.  The first year we moved here I took my husband to ALL the Fiesta events (a week-long celebration of different events; think Mardi Gras in San Antonio with parades, live music, different themed exhibits and events, throughout the city 24/7 for a week!) and it was as though I were seeing it for the first time by trying to see it from his perspective.  I finally realized how much my city had to offer and how much I had missed it all the years we lived overseas.

  • Jeff

    Are you familiar with CouchSurfing? One of the best ways to be tourist in your own city, is to spend time with a tourist in your city.
    You can host travelers, or just meet them for coffee/drink.

    And there are communities all around the world. Here’s a link to NYC for example:

  • Lisa

    I have lived in Toronto since 1984, but spend most of my free time away from the city. In the last two years we have been walking and riding our bikes all over the city and really taking in the parks, architecture and the many neighbourhoods, including Toronto Island. For me it is a part of being more present in the city that I live.

  • Liz

    I have been living in Thousand Oaks, California for more than 12 years now. It doesn’t feel like there’s a lot to do or see around here, especially since so many businesses have closed up over the past few years. However, inspired by this resolution, I went for a Chinese foot massage (which I had never done before) after reading an article about it in our local paper and then found a wonderful new bakery almost right next store. These new experiences made me feel so much more alive.

    • Diane

      Liz, I became nearly addicted to Chinese foot massages when I lived in Singapore and now I seek them out everywhere.  They are just an amazing treat to self and if you can afford to get them frequently enough, a few times a month, you will begin to notice a dramatic shift in your body awareness.  I sometimes really feel twangs and pulsations and all sorts of odd – good odd – twinges in places other than my feet when I’m having a foot massage. So glad you discovered this, be careful, they’re habit-forming!  

  • Last year between Christmas and New Year my husband and I took all the non holiday days in vacation time from work. Instead of going somewhere we stayed home. We went out to lunch at new restaurants. Worked on creative projects. Went on meandering drives through our big city. Went downtown. Went to the museums. Rode bikes at the beach. It was one of the most fun and relaxing vacations I have ever had.