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The Local Tourist

USA | Monday, 21 April 2014 | Views [112] | Scholarship Entry

I grew up on an island in the Pacific Northwest, and I didn’t find that to be interesting or unique until I looked back from 1,250 miles away.

As I met new friends from a variety of different places during orientation week at my California university, common questions included: “Was it a private island?”, “Did you have electricity?”, and “Did you have to take a boat to get to the mainland?” (The answers are no, yes, and sometimes, in case you wondered, too). Until my peers reacted with such intrigue at the prospect of meeting someone whose backyard was a harbor, I had never really contemplated how different my childhood was from the common experience. To me, Whidbey Island had always just been an oversized rock; we had to drive off of the island in order to find the "important things” like the newest movies, Five Guys burgers, and a decent prom dress. I had never thought that it could be something unique, foreign, and interesting.

As I returned home for break, I continually wondered why I had always taken my island for granted. “Why do locals belittle tourists so much?” I wondered one day, “they’re just appreciating what we have always had." From then on, I resolved to become a local tourist. I wouldn’t let what’s in plain sight slip away; I would intentionally wander and explore that which I had always seen, but never experienced.

So I stargazed. You can see about six stars in Los Angeles; looking at Orion through the swaying evergreen treetops made me feel like I was taking part in something much greater than myself. I rode the ferry to a port town and ate some fresh-baked blackberry cobbler. I let beads of rain roll down the sleeves of my windbreaker and dribble down my fingers in icy-cold streams. I felt the heat of Whidbey-roasted coffee warm my stomach from the inside out. I breathed in the salty smell of the ocean, and breathed out my previous apathy. With my new perspective, I fell in love for the first time with the place I have always called Home.

I thirst for adventure, and curiously seeking new experiences abroad has led me to some of my best memories. But it takes something extra to find beauty in the mundane. Immersing myself in my own city’s culture has been just as revelatory as exploring someone else’s, and learning to enjoy the quirks of this quiet island life has taught me how to appreciate other environments with a similar passion. My name is Christina, I’m in love with my ordinary, and I’m a tourist – even in my own town.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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