October 19, 2016

Don’t Get on the Plane: what we can Learn from Traveling within Your Own City.

Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash

One of my favorite hobbies is traveling.

I love the thrill of getting on a plane or a train and venturing off to faraway places, both foreign and familiar. Of meeting new people, seeing new sites and tasting new cuisines.

For many people, myself included, traveling can serve as a form of “escape”—a means of getting away from either the stress and chaos or the routine of our everyday lives.

In my third year of high school, my family relocated to New York City from the San Francisco Bay Area. A number of factors contributed to these last two years of high school being one of the most difficult phases of my life.

In the first few months of this transition, I found myself traveling at least one weekend a month to cope with the loneliness and trauma I was experiencing. I would fly to California to see my friends, take the train to Boston to see my love interest or accompany my dad on whatever business trip he happened to be going on.

During this time, my mom frequently encouraged me to just stay home and try to explore New York. When I came home miserable after school on many occasions, getting on a plane to California and coming back in time for school the next morning wasn’t exactly a feasible option. So in order to cope and collect myself, I didn’t really have a choice but to get out and explore New York City.

After finishing my homework, I spent hours after school several times a week just walking around the city. One day I would walk over to Central Park and find a spot to sit and read or write for a few hours. Another day I’d walk up and down Fifth Avenue window-shopping. Other days would be spent walking up to Columbia or down to NYU. I’d go to different bookstores and cafes and always discover something new along the way.

I never did stop traveling to other places, but it was during this time I discovered the beauty of traveling within one’s own city.

Even after having lived in New York for six years and going back several times a year, there are still so many parts of the city I have yet to discover. But even if you don’t live in a big city like New York, there are still often hidden gems you can find no matter where you live—perhaps a park or a garden or a new restaurant or store. You could also try venturing out to a nearby city. I’m currently back in the San Francisco Bay Area and last summer there was a period of time when I went into San Francisco every weekend and explored different parts of the city—and even different parts of Golden Gate Park.

Discovering something new or traveling within your own city doesn’t have to refer to a physical place, but could also be an experience. For example, if you were to go to a café or a bar and see someone who looks interesting, you could try chatting with them if the situation seems appropriate. This approach has allowed me to make new friends in my current city.

Furthermore, as someone who never learned to drive, I frequently take Uber to get to places that are not within walking distance (and because of my experience in New York, my definition of “within walking distance” is a lot farther than what many would consider “within walking distance”). Many cities, including mine, offer UberPOOL, which allows you to share a ride with other passengers going in the same direction. Not only has UberPOOL helped me discover new roads and routes in my city and surrounding cities, but I’ve also had the chance to chat with a variety of people—many of whom are locals—and learn new perspectives.

Traveling is an incredible experience—one that allows you to experience different cultures, broaden your perspective of the world, and yes, even escape from your everyday reality. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever stop traveling to faraway places, and travel will always be an important part of my life. But I’ve also learned that cramming my passport with stamps and using my frequent flier miles to reap the many benefits of traveling.

Expanding one’s worldview can happen within one’s own city.


Author: Pavita Singh

Image: Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

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