I love traveling and visiting new places. Fortunately, I've had the chance to travel for many years in the hospitality industry, and also as part of the Visit Santa Rosa team.
Some years ago something happened when I returned to my Northern California roots after moving out of the United States to the country of South Florida (that’s a joke); I felt a strong urge to explore and know more about my new, adopted hometown, Santa Rosa, California.
As I started exploring in my own backyard, I realized how much there was to learn about my own city. Further, I learned the importance of truly understanding the place where I live, the culture, and how it better prepared me to understand and appreciate other places around the United States I have been.
With that in mind, here are my top 5 reasons why you should explore your own city:
1. You’ll Get New Eyes
Whether you want to explore more of your own city or travel to another state, it will push you taking roads and corners you’ve never taken before. Getting lost in streets you’ve never been to and seeing new and beautiful things you never realized were there make you see your city in a new light.
While exploring more of Santa Rosa, I visited neighborhoods I was not used to traveling to and I took pictures as if I was a tourist in my own city. I would raise my head and open my eyes just to appreciate the magnificence of the beautiful flora and fauna that surrounded me.
So why don’t we feel the urge to explore and visit our own city or neighboring state?
Well, because we are so absorbed by our daily routine that we become blind and don’t pay attention to the little details that are right in front of our eyes.
2. You’ll Learn About Your City's History and Heritage
You’ve been driving, taking the bus and have passed by this building, church, or sculpture hundreds of times...
But do you know the name of it or the story behind it?
Take the time to learn about the history and secrets of your city! This can range from reading a book about the founders of your city, or going to museums, exhibits, and tours.
By exploring your own city's history, you will get a better understanding of its heritage and be able to bring this with you while traveling abroad and share it with the people you meet.
While scouting Sonoma County, I was surprised by all the things I learned about the history of the region, the wine, and farm to table cuisine here.
3. Meet New People
Have you ever played the game, “Talking to Strangers”?
The rule is simple: you have to engage a conversation with a complete stranger somewhere while exploring your own city. Okay, this might sound a little bit weird to just talk to someone randomly but believe me, you’ll be surprised by how interesting some conversations can be and how they can have a big impact on you!
One of the best places to play that game is in coffee shops because people tend to be more relaxed. That’s how I met an Indian student doing a semester at Sonoma State University by giving me her impressions about the Santa Rosa, and the tourists from Seattle visiting and asking me where they could find the best Wine Country pastries.
Some conversations can be short, others can be longer. What matters is to meet new and different people in your own city; whether they are tourists or locals.
4. Go to the Top
After walking and exploring the streets of your city, it is time to experience the top of it!
Go to the top of the highest building or to a viewpoint at the highest level to get a panoramic view of your city. Then, for a completely different experience, do it again at night!
My favorite spot in Santa Rosa is sunset at Paradise Ridge Winery, where you can see the whole city as well as the entire northern Russian River Valley and coastal mountain range.
Besides the on-site Sculpture Garden (think Burning Man), I also find this space to be one of the most peaceful in all of Santa Rosa. A perfect getaway after a busy or stressful day.
5. You’ll Feel Refreshed!
No more boredom.
Exploring your own city can be very refreshing since you will see new things and get a completely different perspective about the place you live. You just need to remind yourself that you can find beautiful things right where you are.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to travel to other cities or states...but exploring your city will change your entire perception of your home and everything will look new when you're done.
I wouldn’t have imagined traveling and exploring more of my own city was going to be such a great experience but it made me realize how beautiful it is and how much I want to share all this beauty and history with people coming to visit my home. Not to mention all the new information I have to share about my city when I travel across the United States for business or pleasure.
Keep exploring. Keep learning. Stay curious.
And whether you are exploring your own city or visiting other states, keep discovering.