My late grandmother used to run a B&B in the tiny town of Haut-Shippagan in north-eastern New Brunswick. Even though most B&Bs in the area would struggle, she would manage to keep people in the area for days and sometime weeks (when she had the space).
She would send them here and there showing them scenery, culture and history. Being fairly well travelled, my grandmother understood what tourists were looking for. She would tell me it’s all about knowing the area.
Discovering wonders in my own home town
Even though I knew this, I was still apprehensive when Gemma came to visit my home province for the first time. Would we get bored or run out of things to do? Showing my little place in the middle of nowhere to someone from Europe, what would she think?
Despite the area not being a prime destination for tourists to Canada, we had a blast. Becoming a bit of a tour guide again, I revisited many places I had not been to for years.
To be honest, I am sure there is still some part of my little corner of Canada that I don’t know and have yet to discover. To me, without even realising, it was a bit of an eye opener.
Overlooking 900 year old ruins
Gemma also got a glimpse of this idea when I first moved to the UK to live with her a few years ago. More recently, she experienced it again when visiting her family in Southampton recently.
Even though Gemma had grown up in this area, she had never taken me into the city of Southampton itself, believing there nothing really worth showing me there.
On the last day of our recent visit, we found some spare time to visit the city centre. It was quite surprising for the both of us. While Gemma was partly right (a lot of historic Southampton was destroyed in WWII), she was a bit wrong about a few things too.
We explored the old city walls, walked through the medieval gatehouse (the ‘Bargate’) and read about the Southampton Castle. Gemma didn’t even know there had been one. She also had walked through the Bargate many times as a child and teenager without even thinking much about it. As it turns out, it dates from the 12th century!
Southampton’s surprising history
In the same area of the city, we checked out the striking Tudor House museum. We also passed by a pub named after the doomed passenger liner that sailed from Southampton in 1912.
Unfortunately we weren’t in Southampton for very long, but our quick tour revealed some hidden treasures. We’d definitely go back to discover more in future.
Even Gemma’s parents commented that the experience made them see Southampton, a place they hardly visit despite living relatively close by, in a different way.
How to become a tourist in your own town
It is easy to become a bit blasé or even bored of our home town or area, especially if you travel often. But if you take the time and look at your home carefully, you can enjoy it another way. You can always be a tourist in your own town.
Here are some tips for finding inspiration:
- Look up travel blogs featuring destinations in your local area
- Think about local places you may have avoided in the past for being too ‘touristy’
- Visit a Tourist Information Centre and speak to the staff about places to go
- Ask family and friends about unusual places in the area they may have visited
- Look at the local tourism board’s website and social media
- Follow roadsigns to places you’ve never heard of
- Find a local map and pinpoint hiking and cycling trails you’ve never tried before
- Search for your home town on Pinterest
- Keep an eye out for special events and festivals
- Go on an overnight trip within an hour or so of your home town
- Don’t own a car? Rent one and go for a road trip around your local area
- Never used public transport? Take the train or bus somewhere new
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Canada. Jean Robert (JR) is up for anything, but you’re most likely to find him either snowboarding, fishing or building something. Gemma and JR are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada.