When you explore a city on the other side of the world, you expect to learn something new not only about the place and its people but about yourself. How you handle navigating your way around unknown streets and meeting others who think and talk differently from you reveals things about your personality that otherwise you would not have realized.
What about when you’re in your hometown? There still might be the unfamiliar lurking in your city even when you think you know everything about it like the back of your hand. Last week, my former housemate from London, a native Australian and a.k.a. “Old Mate”, came to visit me in my hometown of San Francisco. I saw the city through his eyes and learned a few things that will help me enjoy it more and not just neglect all that it has to offer:
1. Be open and put yourself out there. I was completely embarrassed but Old Mate had me wear these glasses for a few blocks in Little Italy. I did like the fact that it made people smile and I got some nods hello. You don’t have to put yourself out there in this particular way but just talking to a stranger, whether it be a local or visitor, is exciting or trying something completely new works as well. For example, Old Mate went to a salsa dance lesson one night hoping to look a little bit like a dancer by the time his friend’s wedding rolled around and he ended up having a blast with people he had just met at his hostel.
2. Just wing it and see what happens. Sometimes when you don’t plan your day the most pleasant and unexpected things can happen. Old Mate and I just wandered through the streets and happened to do things I never had the chance to do before. I tasted fresh oysters at the Ferry Building and crisp fortune cookies in Chinatown and came upon a secluded park that had treetop views of the bay – little things like this that I usually took for granted made me appreciate how unique my city is.
3. Pictures are great but don’t forget to learn something. The hills and Victorian houses that rest on them are gorgeous but did you know that there are 42 hills in San Francisco? The TransAmerica Pyramid is a famous icon now but did you know people were opposed to it being built? It is easy to get enveloped in the lens trying to take the perfect picture but remember to look at the view in front of you with your own two eyes and give it some context, then you’ll always have a good story to tell to go with your photo.
Photos courtesy of Old Mate.