Our relationships with our hometowns are often turbulent. Yes, you have a lot of history together, but it’s easy to grow complacent, denounce it as dull and even fantasise about exotic alternatives overseas. But there are a multitude of rewarding experiences right on your doorstep; finding them just requires a slight shift in perspective.
To celebrate the release of Lonely Planet’s Everyday Adventures, we’ve selected nine ways to explore your city – from following your nose to adopting a friend’s lifestyle – that will help you discover a new side to your hometown and inject a dose of whimsy into your routine.
Rated in difficulty to match your level of daring, these quirky quests will prove that you don’t need to venture far to experience the joys of travel.
The focus of millions of motivational posters, there are few things more life-affirming than standing atop a lofty summit. But who has the time to conquer Everest on a Sunday afternoon? Instead, channel your inner Edmund Hillary and plan an ascent of your highest local peak – whether hill or office block – to gain a new perspective on familiar surroundings.
- Study a local map to suss out the steepest, hilliest areas near you (select ‘Terrain’ or ‘Satellite’ on online maps).
- Once you’ve found the highest walkable point near you, plan a day-hike to the top, armed with maps, snacks and sturdy shoes.
- If the land's flatter than a pancake, walk anywhere that offers vertiginous views; a lighthouse, spire or skyscraper.
- To take radiant photos, aim to reach the summit in late afternoon. Make sure you have a safe path down if you’re descending in darkness.
Follow your nose
A familiar smell can instantly transport us back to some forgotten faraway place, but why, given the capability of this sense, do we never rely on our schnozz to shape our travel experiences in the first place? Give your eyes a rest and let the eclectic scents – rather than sights – of your city be your guide – all you have to do is follow your nose.
- Pick a suitably smelly starting point: it could be a market, bakery or a flower-filled park.
- Breathe in, and let the strongest smell in your vicinity envelop you. Is it appetising, intriguing or (better yet) eye-wateringly rancid? Walk or cycle to its source.
- Your newly energised nostrils should be picking up on all sorts of odours by now, so sniff a second smell and walk in its direction.
- Don’t smell anything? Walk or cycle away from the orbit of your starter stink until something new tickles your nose.
The average work commute in the US straddles the 30-minute mark, rising to roughly one hour in the UK. Turn this drab daily chore into a miniature adventure by taking an unorthodox mode of transport to the office or walking along an unusual route. While you might have to wake up earlier and exert more energy, it’ll certainly be more stimulating than a silent ride on the 132.
- Commute tourism involves adventure before your working day, so set your alarm an hour or two early (we promise it’s worth it).
- Find an inventive way to get to work, whether it’s a boat ride or roller skating, allowing time to soak up sights along the way.
- No unusual mode of transport? Turn your commute into a mini holiday instead: sightsee in a church or garden you never stop at, treat yourself to breakfast at the midway point, and snap a selfie at a landmark near your office – #wishyouwerehere?
For the more adventurous…
Always dreamt of being a film star but unnerved by the thought of hard graft and intense public scrutiny? Head out in search of small-scale stardom by recreating famous scenes from films or television series set in your hometown. Not only will this lead to the discovery of new sights in your local area, but you may also stumble on some new provincial film favourites. Ready for your close up?
Think of a movie or TV series filmed or set close by, and seek out its location. Better yet, bring a camera and an accomplice so you can recreate the most famous scenes.
If, despite serious searching, screenwriters are yet to immortalise your town, use a little artistic licence. Can you replicate Casablanca at a train station, bellow The Sound of Music in a deserted field or recreate The Lion King using the star power of your neighbour’s cats?
Ever wondered how the other half live? Abandon your habits, hobbies and probably your dignity by stepping into someone else’s shoes for one day. Not only will this adventure give you a chance to try out new activities and experiences in your city, but it means you’ll never take for granted your morning lie-in again.
- Choose a person to swap lives with for a day. They could be a friend, family member, or a casual acquaintance who’s eager to evangelise their superior routine. Your ideal life swap partner lives in a different neighbourhood and has contrasting hobbies to your own.
- Crash at their house the night before the experiment begins, so you can experience their routine from morning until night.
- Embrace their habits as fully as you can, whether they involve 6am yoga, sleeping until noon, or a paleo sugar-free diet. No whinging.
- Now ‘reward’ your buddy with the chance to try your routine...
Does the thought of another Friday night in your local boozer leave a taste worse than a cheap mojito? Venture onto a pub crawl that’s beyond your control by plotting your route via the recommendation of bartenders. This adventure promises a memorable – or not so memorable – night out, as well as the chance to discover some expert-approved alternative drinking dens in your local town.
- Begin in a local pub, where you and your fellow players will order your favourite drinks.
- Strike up a conversation with a bartender to find out their signature drink and their preferred local place to drink it.
- Proceed to their suggested boozer and order the recommended drink (or non-alcoholic equivalent), repeating the exercise with bar staff there.
- Repeat until your thirst is sated, and certainly stop while you still have the capacity to communicate your home address to a cabbie.
For a real challenge...
Surrender to social media
While the online world may have conspired to name an important polar research vessel RRS Boaty McBoatface and voted to send Justin Bieber to North Korea, you can trust your online social media followers to make sensible decisions, right? Take the hassle out of travelling by having your itinerary dictated to you in real time by your online associates. What could go wrong?
- Announce on your most frequently used social network that you’re planning to spend a day obeying instructions sent by your followers.
- Be specific on the time and date of your social media experiment, giving your followers a few days’ notice.
- Mention your approximate (not exact) location, so they can send suitable suggestions. Urge them to keep it clean (failing that, remember you have a ‘block’ button).
- When the day comes, prompt your followers for directions (‘Shall I go left or right?’), activities (‘shall I sign up to this trapeze class?’) and challenges (‘Shall I attempt to blag my way into this fancy club?’), and see where the hive mind leads you.
Do you ever wish there were a way of creating the laid-back lifestyle, serendipitous sociability and cosy sleeping quarters of the travel experience without the inconvenience and cost of going to another country? This is the everyday adventure for you. Grab your ear plugs and best fake accent, and prepare to see your surrounds through the wide eyes of a first-time tourist, as you bring the backpacking experience to your hometown.
- Pack a rucksack with everything a backpacker could need: camera, sunblock, spork, flip-flops and – crucially – a guidebook (ideally, Lonely Planet authored).
- Get a ride to the closest airport. Once you arrive, cast off the shackles of your life as a local. Now is the moment to assume your new guise, a backpacker new in town.
- Catch the cheapest transport from the airport back to town and haul your rucksack to the nearest hostel recommended in your book.
- Enjoy a day of shoestring sightseeing before retiring to party hard with fellow hostel guests (or be lulled by their chorus of snores).
Zero budget day out
Money is typically seen as a necessity of travel, but dispense with your cash and you’ll be forced to get creative with your daily choices. A stop on the train becomes a trek through a new neighbourhood, a standard evening at the pub transforms into a night of free improv theatre, and food... well, you’ll have to work that one out. Today you’re spending your time, not money.
- Head out for a day in your nearest town, leaving cash and credit cards at home. For one day, you’re opting out of capitalism and not spending a single coin.
- Seek out natural attractions, community-run events and small-scale comedy, theatre and music venues in your area, which are unlikely to charge for entry. Taxis, trains or buses? Forget it, you’re walking, cycling or cadging a lift with friends.
- Food and drink require the most creativity. Do you dare chat up strangers to eat their chips, charm your way to a free coffee, or gatecrash someone’s picnic?
- Return home with a newfound knowledge of local haunts and a healthy bank balance.
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