As a travel writer when I'm not on the road, I'm either planning my next big overseas adventure (as I am now) or writing up my last trip. But with so much of my time spent researching and writing about exotic foreign locales, I often tend to forget that you don't have to go traipsing off to the other side of the world to see some pretty interesting sights.
While hiking the Inca trail in Peru, island-hopping around the Mediterranean or sipping mai tais on a beach in Phuket are certainly great holiday aspirations – there are plenty of adventurous experiences to be had right in our own backyards. What's more, with loads of tourists as anxious to explore our backyard as we are to escape it, you can always write about it for them.
After all my years working as a travel writer, this only dawned on me when I moved back home to Australia a couple of years ago and began working as an editor on Ninemsn's domestic travel website for Tourism Australia. Having spent so many years living, working and travelling abroad, I quickly realised that I knew very little about my own country and that I had in fact explored many of the world's far-flung destinations more thoroughly than I had my own backyard – to this day, I still haven't seen Uluru! Like many Australians, I guess I thought that the world around me was far more intriguing and that I could always see Australia later. So this position provided me with the perfect excuse to rediscover my Australian roots.
Since I was living in Sydney I decided this was the best place to start. While I had been living there for more than a year, I'd barely scratched the city's surface. Sure I'd seen the Habour Bridge and the Opera House – they're hard to miss! – but, my everyday life involved working from my flat in Newtown, the odd trip to the grocery store, walking around the local park and catching up with my friends for dinner or a movie; not taking in the sights.
One of the best ways to experience your city or hometown in a new light is to join a tour and see it through the eyes of a tourist. So I signed up for a cruise of the Sydney Harbour aboard The Deerubbun, a former navy torpedo recovery vessel now owned by the Tribal Warrior Association. While numerous boat cruises ply Sydney's busy waterways every day, what was unusual about this cruise was that it offered an Aboriginal perspective of the city's famous harbour. Growing up in Australia during the 70s and 80s at school we were only taught about the colonial history of the country which only made passing reference to the country's indigenous people, so it was a real eye-opening experience.
Since relocating back to my old stomping ground of south-east Queensland at the beginning of the year, I've now had the opportunity to rediscover parts of the country I (mistakenly) thought I knew well such as the Noosa Everglades on the Sunshine Coast - I never knew there were everglades in Australia, let alone in my own backyard! - and, most recently, I joined Goanna Adventures for a safari-style day tour of Brisbane's best kept secret; Moreton Island. Even though I was born in Brisbane and spent more than a decade living in the city after finishing high school, I had shamefully never stepped foot on the island which is only an hour's ferry ride away - I suppose that is why it's advertised as the city's best kept secret! ... Perhaps I need to reconsider writing my article?!
So my challenge for you is to get out and experience your hometown, city, region or country as a tourist. You’ll not only gain a greater appreciation for the place where you live, but also have some fun along the way.
Have you played tourist in your hometown? If so, what did you discover? And what are your best tips for being a tourist at home?