The value of traveling at home

//The value of traveling at home

The value of traveling at home

One of the most rewarding experiences for a traveler is to take a step back and rediscover their city by viewing it the way a tourist might.

Chicago skyline reflected in the Cloud Gate sculpture

I often find myself thinking of the time when I first visited the city that I now call home. My hosts showed me many of the superb buildings and places that Chicago is known for, including the (then) Sears Tower, Hancock Building, Michigan Avenue and Grant Park. I enjoyed walks along the pedestrian-friendly lakefront, took a Lake Michigan boat tour to delight in the view of the downtown skyline, spent hours exploring the museum campus, and got introduced to Chicago’s mouth-watering deep dish pizza. As a visitor enjoying my summer vacation, I was focused on sightseeing and had plenty of time for it. However, that was no longer the case when I later moved to Chicago and the “real life” began.

Preoccupied with work and settling in, I did not spend much time downtown beyond 9 to 5. I was also anxious to become more familiar with my new city by exploring its various neighborhoods. Before long, I had a list of favorite restaurants, cafés, stores and venues around the city, and those were the places I started frequenting alongside Chicagoans. I soon discovered that doing so made me feel less like a newcomer and more like a local. But as a result of my new-found Chicago identity, I began to associate the downtown area mostly with tourist attractions and conducting business, just like many of my friends did. Most of the time, I did not feel the need to venture out there on my days off, and only occasionally would I return to shop or attend outdoor events. It wasn’t until professional choices took me outside the city that I found myself longing to be downtown more often.

As I started altering weekend plans to include visits to the better-known parts of the city, I realized how much I had been missing by not paying closer attention to downtown events and attractions. By once again walking around the famous sights, attending high-profile performances and exhibits, and discovering new businesses and buildings that had sprung up throughout the area, I was able to recapture the excitement that had accompanied my initial visit to Chicago’s downtown. In the process, I developed an ever greater appreciation for all that the city has to offer. I also noticed that my local excursions made me feel much like I do on the road – enthusiastic, curious and ready for new experiences. For those reasons, and because the trips didn’t require a travel-sized budget, I decided to make them a more frequent entry in my calendar.

Even though traveling locally cannot equate faraway journeys,  it can nevertheless evoke some of the same sense of excitement and exploration associated with destination traveling, yet at an often much lower cost.
It can be as simple as a day trip to a museum or a tour of a famous building, or a weekend getaway that combines an overnight hotel stay with extended sightseeing, multiple dining selections and other attractions, e.g. performances or spa visits.  Such longer staycations may be enjoyable choices for celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, as well as provide travelers with a sample of adventure in between trips. And because local traveling requires less planning time and a shorter notice, it gives you the flexibility to easily customize your itinerary to include solo sightseeing and group outings.

When you consider exploring well-known sites in your city, you can start your preparation by doing one or more of the following:

  • Browsing your local official tourism website
    You will find a listing of current events, dining options, new attractions and tours, as well as hotel information and, sometimes, visitor coupons.
  • Exploring social media sites
    An increasing number of organizations and places of interest can be found on Facebook or Twitter. These sites may give you access to the most up-to-date information, special deals and recommendations from other users.
  • Subscribing to newsletters
    Many theaters, museums and cultural centers offer free e-newsletters that will alert you about upcoming performances, exhibitions and events.
  • Finding discounts
    • If you plan ahead, you could benefit from deal-of-the-day sites, such as Groupon (now available in several European countries, including the UK, Germany, and Italy), Living Social and StealtheDeal (Canada), or websites that track multiple deals, e.g. Daily Flock.  You may find coupons for restaurants, tours and beauty services throughout a selected area.
    • For discounts on hotels, try browsing listings on sites such as, Hotwire (which offers unsold rooms at lower prices) or Priceline, a popular travel reservation website that lets you bid on rooms.
  • Talking to others
    Friends, family and coworkers can be a valuable resource, providing recommendations or steering you away from places and experiences that may not be worthwhile.

When traveling to away destinations, looking beyond the obvious attractions can provide travelers with a more complete experience. However, doing the opposite at home may prove just as beneficial. By occasionally approaching your city from a tourist’s standpoint, you might discover things about it that could otherwise escape your attention, and at the same time enjoy a taste of travel.


Whatever your reasons for not frequenting “touristy” places, routine, fear of crowds, busy life, a diff. outlook may be worth it, even if you’re there every day, you will see the place w/ diff. eyes

staycations great when budget low but you still want a taste of travel, or in between trips

a fun way to spend a weekend, great to celebrate b-days, anniversaries, new year’s eve

a fuller exp of place, refresh your outlook

What’s happening where you live?

Tips: groupon/yelp/special offers pages, driving/taking train to new places, walking in various neighborhoods, checking city’s official tourist site, subscribing to newsletters (e.g. league of chicago theaters, cultural centers)

groupon, livingsocial,,,

surrounding area, e.g. like OP

By | 2014-02-06T00:45:18+00:00 November 7th, 2010|CITIES|13 Comments

About the Author:

Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.


  1. avatar
    Emiel June 19, 2012 at 4:20 am

    Dear Pola,

    I am happy to have found your blog (through the interview with Jürgen by the way). We love to visit cities (even more than the country side). In cities you can watch how people act in groups and I always try to find the city’s identity. There are always great discoveries just around the next corner!

    Next to that I fully agree with your suggestion to travel at home more. I recently wrote a piece on my blog about my hometown Deventer (see link below)! I learned so much strolling around the city and the post got great feedback from all over the world. Be a tourist in your own city (and don’t be afraid to walk around with a camera on your neck LOL).

    Emiel recently posted..Berlin: 10 Great Things to Do (with your kids) – Part 2My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

      Hi Emiel – Thank you for stopping by and commenting! I’m always happy to hear from other city lovers. :) I like what you said about discovering a city’s identity – so much of it is found in its people and it’s great how cities lets you be an anonymous observer.

      Thank you for sharing your post – I’ll be happy to check it out.

  2. avatar
    @mrsoaroundworld November 19, 2013 at 4:39 am

    I totally agree with this and we are all guilty of the same.. I have a lot of visitors over and now really enjoy doing a bit of sightseeing or seeing a city through a foreigner’s eyes. I have been finding some fab places and seeing things I have never noticed!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..Mrs. O turns 2, let’s celebrate together #MrsOBdayGiveawayMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      That’s great! I like showing Chicago to visitors – I take them to my favorite spots, but sometimes discover a place based on their interests.

  3. avatar
    Traveling Ted November 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Some great tips for traveling local. Another great tip is reading local travel blogs :)
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Five Big South Fork day hikesMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      That’s an AWESOME tip, Ted! :)

  4. avatar
    the lazy travelers November 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    it’s a total park of living in a place that other people travel far to see, right?? great tips, miss pola!
    the lazy travelers recently posted..rtw rookies: the recap, the revelation & the full itineraryMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 21, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks, gals! It really is a perk. And getting back home from trips is much easier knowing that there’s so much to do in Chicago!

  5. avatar
    lola dimarco November 22, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    So agree! Its nice every once in a while to do some typical “Boston” activities that others travel for!
    lola dimarco recently posted..It’s #Movember – That Means Mustaches & #ManlyMomentsMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 23, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      Yup, I sometimes remind myself that lots people travel to Chicago for what I have within reach and shouldn’t take it for granted.

  6. avatar
    Erin at The World Wanderer November 23, 2013 at 11:26 am

    I could not agree more with you, Pola. I used to be miserable when I wasn’t traveling, until I discovered how many amazing things were happening here at home. Great tips too!

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 23, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Yes, staycations definitely help post-trip blues!

  7. avatar

    […] you, Windy City Tweetup crew, for this special staycation […]

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