How to be a tourist in your hometown

I never get tired of telling people how much I love my city, which is a refreshing concept for most of the people I talk to. For most, our hometown is what we come back to after or in between our life’s adventures. I definitely felt this way for the longest time and couldn’t wait to get out of Sacramento.

Then I made the decision to stay home for college. While I was happy with my school choice, part of me still believed I wouldn’t really grow or find adventure until I moved out. But this belief had nothing to do with still being in Sacramento and everything to do with my attitude. Just like photography, we see everything through our own unique lens. This year, I finally became inspired to try out seeing things differently. I must say, life became a lot more fun. There is so much to celebrate if you seek it and think creatively. I know this sounds cliché, but sometimes we need a little bit of that in our lives if we want to find the sweeter things. (Full disclosure, I’m a certified hopeless romantic, but trust me on this one.)

In a greater sense, I have become a tourist in my own city. Why? Because I’ve finally figured out that appreciating where you’re coming from can help you better appreciate where you’re going. It also opens up so many opportunities for networking and the coolest of friendships.  Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your hometown.

Follow your city on Instagram

This was a crucial step for me. Following @VisitSacramento opened my eyes to a whole new world (cue Aladdin song). The official Instagram for your city’s visitor bureau is an excellent source to be in the know about trendy local businesses and events (who would have thought we had an Aloha festival in the middle of September?!). The coolest thing about their account is that they’ll feature photos by people like you and me. This makes a city’s Instagram an incredible collaboration of viewpoints and creativity from different places in the city. Whether it’s a picture of the skyline, or someone’s latte at Temple Coffee Roasters, it has inspired me to see things from a new perspective (or lens, like I mentioned earlier).

Bonus: Some cities host Instameets every so often, which is a great way to meet other cool ‘grammers in real life. This is a photo I took from the last one I went to!

Say hello

I’ll admit, I’m not so good at this one. With my friends and family, I go cray, sing loud, and have no problem dancing to “Shake It Off” while doing the dishes. But when it comes to seeing a friendly-looking stranger in a coffee shop, my heart beats louder than Katy Perry’s roar and I think of all the things that could go wrong. I also assume that I’ll look like a creeper if I say “hi.”

BUT. In the few instances that I did say hello to strangers, I have never regretted it. Take the time that I went to an ice cream parlor with my friends. I was feeling bubbly that day, and joking around with the super nice guy scooping my ice cream. Now, I refer to him as my personality twin (but don’t tell him I said that). We even follow each other on Instagram. That’s what I call official friendship.

Take a chance and say “hi” as much as you can. So what if they don’t say it back? In the rare case that it happens, consider it practice for saying hello to the ones that will really matter in your life. Meeting new people in your city as opposed to at school or work is an awesome feeling. It gives you a broader sense of things, and it’s great knowing you have contacts and newfound support all around you.

Don’t be afraid to go out alone

This tip is short and sweet. There may be times when you won’t have anyone available to go somewhere with you—but don’t let that stop you from doing what you want to do. As long as it’s safe, bring your brightest smile and be the fun girl who loves exploring. Each time you go out of your comfort zone, that zone grows a little bit bigger.

Take pictures

My favorite part of being involved in Sacramento is photo-blogging on Instagram. While it’s great to be inspired by other’s work, I also believe it’s important to contribute to the creative community, both online and off. I have nothing against a selfie, but show people the life you’re living and the fun you’re having, and opportunities become endless. (Even if that means making a new photographer friend.)

Include your town’s popular hashtags (for example, mine are #VisitSacramento and #ExploreSac). This is a great way to participate in this whole concept of city exploring (also known as city scouting). It’s also how others will see your photos and invite conversation and connections. I know that something such as Instagram can seem a little silly as a hobby. But underneath all of the things that you are used to seeing, there are people who use it as a medium to share something much, much bigger: a love of people and places, a sharing of inspiration, and an invitation to collaborate and participate in something truly awesome. Life.

So, that’s my whole cheesy rant for the day. I hope this offers you some encouragement to get started, if you haven’t already. I was pretty awkward when I began trying these things, but just do it. You will not regret it. Oh. And always, always say hello. In the words of Augusten Burroughs, “I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I was very stunned by this for many years. And then I realized, you just say, ‘Hi.’ They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.”

Jayla Lee is a senior public relations student based in (you guessed it) Sacramento. When she’s not city scouting, you’ll find her in worship or watching Gilmore Girls with her dogs. Keep in touch on her Instagram @jaylove897.

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