Being a tourist in your own community
It’s funny having a blog like Life Disconnected sometimes, and being able to look back on what you’ve written — and to see how much your perspective on things has changed.
Somehow, I ended up scrolling through some old posts from when we first moved to Bellefonte, Pa., in 2017. I was so in awe over this little community then — it’s historic architecture, the cute businesses, the friendliness of everyone I met. I wrote two blog posts of my “explorations” of Bellefonte, where I stopped at some of my now-favorite restaurants and explored the downtown’s gorgeous park.
Yet, as time goes on and as I’ve become totally immersed in this community (really, truly, totally — I’m president of our local economic development organization’s board), I find that I’m still in awe. And that’s partially because I continue to be a tourist in the place that I hope to call home for a very long time.
But what does it mean to be a tourist in your own home?
To me, it’s these little things that equal a big impact on your sense of community belonging:
Shopping locally. Almost every week I like to get out and try new things within our community, whether it’s as simple as a new flavor of coffee or a visiting a corner of a store I didn’t realize existed.
Exploring new streets. Sean and I love to take our dogs on long walks through our neighborhood — and every once and a while we’ll venture off of our usual path, and typically find something unique about our town that we didn’t know existed.
Looking up. Especially in a town like Bellefonte, where unique architecture is easy to come by, it’s important to look up and enjoy the details that are on buildings, in nature and more.
Disconnecting. While I’m known to stop for a few photos (OK, usually 20), I make sure that I’m not posting them on social media until I’m back at home later in the day. My time spent walking and connecting with my community — and really noticing what is has to offer — are precious.
Eating local. Just this week, we found out that we’d not yet been to a Wing Night at our favorite tavern in Bellefonte. And while we love trying new foods and experiencing restaurants while we’re on the road, nothing compares to our favorite restaurants here in Bellefonte. We try to eat local as much as possible.
Seeking out events. A lot of small communities struggle with getting the word out about events. Chicken barbecues at the firehouse, concerts in your local park or pop-up shops in your downtown are a great way to learn about spaces or activities — you just have to search for them. Don’t forget about checking your local newspaper’s Community Calendar, or your local tourism bureau’s website. Here in Centre County, we have great resources like the Central PA Visitors’ Bureau, and Bellefonte.com.
Recently, I had the opportunity to do this in my hometown of Susquehanna, Pa., too. There’s something extra special about exploring the place you grew up with fresh eyes.
During a 12-day trip back home, I was able to take my dogs down to a swimming hole I used to visit almost weekly as a kid; and go inside and have a meal in a restaurant my Grandpa used to own (that’s been vacant for years).
Early last year, I was able to see Susquehanna during the peak of spring blooms. I posted some of the photos on a Facebook Page, where residents of the community were stunned to see the town looking beautiful. It was like they didn’t even know what their own town looked like.
As residents of our communities, we often overlook the beauty of them — because we see it every single day. By taking the time to be a tourist in our own towns, we can begin again to appreciate the buildings and spaces that create them, the businesses that fill them, and remember why we decided to call a place home.