Written by: Kristyn Pankiw
All my life I was a small town girl. I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania, surrounded by dairy farms and family owned diners. I always dreamt of moving to a city—somewhere exciting like New York, San Francisco, even Berlin. I never imagined I’d eventually find myself in Tampa. To be honest, I wasn’t fond of Tampa when I first arrived. I didn’t know much about the city and I barely gave it a chance. But what I’ve learned over the past year is that any city is worth exploring—every place has its own beauty and culture to offer; the important part is taking the time to embrace it. Here are some things I’ve learned over the past year about playing tourist in your own town.
Explore your neighborhood first. Get acquainted with your surroundings—the street names, crumbling sidewalks, overgrown bushes at the house on the corner. Familiarize yourself with the new sights and sounds on foot before hopping in your car. You’ll remember more this way; learn the ins and outs of your streets, local parks and other attractions.
Once you’ve become friendly with your neighborhood, branch out to the areas around you. Try that restaurant you’ve heard good things about, support your local shops, take a road trip, browse the museums downtown. Scope out the variety of your city and don’t be afraid to try something new.
Join a club, take a class, or participate in a local tradition (like Gasparilla). When I first arrived in Tampa, I signed myself up for a jewelry class and am so glad I did. Stepping outside my comfort zone was fun and helped me meet new people. I recently joined a monthly book club at the Oxford Exchange and am so enjoying the newfound company and intellectual spirit I’ve discovered there.
Travel can happen anywhere, even in your own backyard. Without crossing boarders or oceans, you can find adventure, culture, and new experiences. Have you recently moved cities, or plan to soon? Share your thoughts on being a tourist in your own city!