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Can’t Travel? Being a Tourist in Your Hometown Is Good for Your Mental Health

There's no place like home.

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Traveling is a great way to refresh your perspective and take a break from your daily routine. But sometimes, an adventure to faraway lands just isn’t feasible. If you’re feeling blue about rising travel costs, or just can’t fit a trip into your schedule, worry not — treating your hometown like an exotic destination can be just as fun, and it has health benefits to boot. Read on for the health benefits of playing tourist in your hometown and ideas to get your staycation started.

What’s the point of hometown tourism?

You might be wondering — what’s so exciting about spending more time in the place I live, work, and exist every single day? Aside from not having to deal with delayed flights, lost luggage, or expensive airline and hotel tickets, the benefits of hometown tourism are plenty. For starters, seeing your hometown in a new light sparks curiosity, and staying curious protects cognitive health against age-related memory loss. By looking at your hometown from a fresh perspective and seeking out unfamiliar attractions, you’re stoking your inquisitiveness and engagement, both of which boost brain fitness. 

The mental benefits don’t stop there. An Australian study in 2020 showed that women who’d spent long periods indoors due to the pandemic experienced substantially improved mental health after participating in localized outdoor activities. In this study, simply taking a walk outside made participants feel like their lives were more complete. The only gate you need to pass through is your own front door, and you can reap the benefits of outdoor hometown tourism in a matter of minutes — no boarding passes required. 

How can I engage in hometown tourism?

Now you know the why, but what about the how? There are several ways to have hometown tourism adventures and glean their mental health benefits. Here are three of our favorites.

Research like a tourist. You may know some great local spots already — you are a local, after all. But have you ever taken the time to read about what draws other people to your city? It’s easy to take the things that bring tourists to your town for granted. Travel blog Wander-Lush recommends checking out a travel guidebook from your local library or searching online for recommendations: “See how many sights you’ve never seen or activities you’ve never experienced, then start a local bucket list. If you think you’re an expert on your hometown now, just wait until you’ve hit up all the tourist spots.”

Walk like a tourist. Is your hometown full of history? Chances are, the answer is yes. Even if your town is known for something seemingly small or trivial (like the world’s biggest peanut), it’s a unique place with a colorful and distinct historical tapestry. Consider joining an organized walking tour of your hometown if it’s available, or organizing your own with the research you’ve gathered. Lifestyle blog Sixty and Me notes that walking tours can help you discover new parts of your hometown you that you wouldn’t have visited otherwise (and get great exercise while you’re at it). Walking at a moderate pace, especially when it’s chilly outside, benefits your health in multiple ways, like strengthening your lungs, keeping blood sugar and blood pressure at healthy levels, and burning fat. Plus, walking forces you to stay at a certain speed, allowing you to really engage, take in, and observe your surroundings. Lace up your comfiest sneakers and learn. 

Eat like a tourist. We all have a list of restaurants that — if you’re a creature of habit, like me — are on permanent ‘restaurant rotation.’ (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?) As such, there are probably several restaurants and cuisines in your hometown that you haven’t tried yet. All it takes is one bite to turn an unfamiliar food into a familiar one. By tasting new cuisines, you’ll expand your culinary horizons, learn about other cultures, and introduce a broader spectrum of nutrients and flavors to your body — plus, variety is good for your health. Supporting local businesses by trying new restaurants is also a good way to contribute to your community. Allow your tastebuds to travel while you’re still within city limits. 

There’s nothing wrong with getting out of dodge every once in a while, but you don’t need to go far to get the mental and physical benefits of travel. Get creative, stay curious, and most importantly, have fun as a hometown tourist.

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