New York City natives and transplants share many things, among them a disdain for disruptive tourists. It’s fair to say that sightseers can be a nuisance, especially when walking at a glacial pace and attracting herds of Elmo’s whilst ogling Times Square. But they can also be a blessing (and for more than just for economic reasons.)
Though I can understand the knee-jerk aversion, there’s a lot we can learn from tourists — and plenty to appreciate about their eye for the spectacular. There’s something special about taking the time to really soak in and explore a place with fresh eyes. Whether you’re a Midwesterner visiting NYC, a New Yorker in Paris, or a person exploring their own stomping ground in a new way, a perspective of awe goes a long way and feed the soul all the while.
As one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, New York City is full of incredible sights that those of us on the ground can forget to admire. Between our homes and work, the fast pace of life and the slow pace of traffic, what many consider to be architectural and historic wonders quickly fade into the background.
Here are a few ways I think New Yorkers — and really, anyone — can see and experience a new side of their hometown through a tourist’s eye.
Even newer cities have some history to them worth learning. When was yours established? By whom? What are some of the most historic buildings, who are its most famous inhabitants, and what events took place there? While it’s likely that you know the basics, history like this rich and plentiful enough to fill several textbooks, meaning there’s always more to discover.
Tourists visit new places to learn and admire different parts of the world. Taking a leaf out of their book to learn new things about old places will add depth and vibrancy to your sense of context.
It’s impossible to purge yourself of the experiences you’ve had with and in the place that you live. But that’s what makes pretending so fun. When we see a movie, we suspend our disbelief to enjoy a new reality, if only for an hour or two. There’s no reason we can’t do the same thing by playing the part of the tourist, and enjoying it.
Make some time to visit museums and attractions you’ve never seen before. Go out to dinner, or to the top of the biggest building in town. You can even stay in a hotel in a different neighborhood and make a mini-trip out of it! Doing so will revitalize your relationship to your city by allowing you to get away without actually going anywhere at all.
Lastly, there’s a lot we can learn from tourists in the day-to-day. Would it be so bad to walk a little slower and take in the beauty of our surroundings every once in awhile? It can be easy to “edit” out the wonder accidentally when the goings get tough, but learning to find beauty in your surroundings — even when it’s Monday morning and you haven’t had coffee — is a valuable skill. There’s a lot to see if you remind yourself to keep looking.