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The One Brown Girl Challenge

Monday, September 05, 2011
Ross Alley in San Francisco's Chinatown / Home to Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory / Flickr
Become a Tourist in Your Own Town
On a recent trip to Toronto, a young lady struck up a conversation with me while we were both waiting in line to get through Customs.  (Note to self: Follow-up on your Global Entry application.)  After learning that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, she asked "Isn't that where the oldest fortune cookie company in the US is?"  Um.  Uh.  "I think so," I vaguely recollected.  Why don't I know this? I thought later.  I've lived in Northern California for over 12 years.  I don't even know my own town.  Hmpfh.
Venice Beach, CA / August 2011
Taken by OneBrownGirl
The truth is that as much as I don't think I do, sometimes I take California for granted.  California: The place where so many people dream to visit.  I have spent most of my life in Los Angeles and grew up a mile east of Beverly Hills and within 10 minutes of some of the most popular beaches in the US.  It was My Normal to work, eat & play in Beverly Hills and on Melrose; to hang out at Venice Beach, Santa Monica & Malibu; to run down/up to Palm Springs, Mexico, San Diego, Santa Barbara & Vegas for the weekend; to stroll with friends in Westwood Village (when it was cool); to eat lunch at Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles; to work with and hang out with celebrities in Hollywood (who are just people, BTW).  Just normal.

So in the past few years, I've made a commitment to start looking around.  To go beyond My Normal.  I noticed the Sutro Bath ruins and walked through them for the first time when I dined (for the umpteenth time) at the Cliff House in San Francisco recently.  I shop at the Asian markets for fruit and fish and try new things.  I'm even going to try to get to The Getty when I'm in LA next week.  I've committed to becoming a tourist in my own town. 
View of the Sutro Bath ruins from the Cliff House
San Francisco / August 2011 / Taken by One Brown Girl

So I propose the same challenge to you that I have taken on myself...and that is for you to become a tourist in your own town.  To actually tune in to your surroundings and find out what's interesting and what you might have been missing or what you've been saying you were going to do but never got around to doing it.  As much as I like to travel, I realize that there is so so much culture right here in our own back yards.  It's just up to us to find it.

So look:  If anyone ever asks you about fortune cookies in San Francisco, tell them "Oh yes. Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is in San Francisco's Chinatown and has produced thousands of Chinese Fortune Cookies every day since 1962. You can even take a tour of this tiny little factory."  Even if you don't live here, it's kinda cool to know.

Where do you live?  How can you become a tourist in your own town?


michele oliver on: September 6, 2011 at 11:00 AM said...

Tracey, I have not yet been to Cali & one of the poeple would've love to visit & see all the tourist sites. I'm in Atlanta & I do alot of them here repeatedly when friends come to visit, but still so much to learn.

Shautel Walker on: September 6, 2011 at 11:08 AM said...
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Shautel Walker on: September 6, 2011 at 11:22 AM said...

How can I be a tourist in my own town: I can make an effort to visit more cultural activities with the children. I can also make an effort to attend more fairs in different parts of the county, Nashville has about 6 major counties and they all have Fall Fairs, so I better get to planning.. I also hope to at least hang out downtown more, there are lot's of nice restaurants and we have not been to any.. I am on my journey to being a tourist in my own town, as I recently purchased a city saver book from my son's school and I plan to at least use 75% of the bargains..So let's get to touring..

Nicnale on: September 6, 2011 at 1:22 PM said...

I live in Oakland, CA, which has really come into its own in recent years. There are businesses, social networks, nonprofits, and citizens of every ilk working to improve the city. I am a hometown tourist in attending local events, trying out new and well-loved restaurants, supporting local businesses, and going for wlaks and hikes in the city and surrounding natural areas. I hella <3 Oakland!

Aqueelah on: September 6, 2011 at 2:15 PM said...

I'm a New York girl...born and raised. As a kid I always heard of far off lands because my dad was a cook on merchant ships during WW2; I recently looked on and found he had stamps from almost every country in the world. I like to call him one brown boy (smile). I've settled in Greensboro, NC and, like Tracey, there are facts I'm missing out on. The civil rights movement had one of its sparks right here in a downtown Woolworth...the site is a museum now. I haven't been there yet. That sounds like a good place to start my tour.

Deanna Lewis on: September 6, 2011 at 2:46 PM said...

Tracey, your are absolutely right about being a tourist in your own backyard. I travel all over the Caribbean enjoying black sand beaches then low and behold I found out there is one right here in the golden state of CA. Indeed I will have to visit it at some point.

Eva Smith on: September 6, 2011 at 3:18 PM said...

I live in Southern California. I can become a tourist in my own town by experiencing more of the local arts & culture in my town. I plan on checking out the local museums, beaches, arts and music festivals.

Shayurrie on: September 6, 2011 at 3:37 PM said...

I live in San Jose, CA but I've lived all over the bay area and the East Coast. I've ALWAYS taken the time to be a tourist in my own backyard. It started as day trips, places to take my children yet close enough that they could eat dinner at home and be tucked into their own bed at night. Now that they are all grown up, it continues. The Southbay is full of fun events (San Jose Jazz Festival, Music in the Park etc) and hikes (Alum Rock Park - did you know it used to be a resort for the hot springs?) It's good to now where you come from, and fun to explore your own backyard.

Bren @ Flanboyant Eats™ on: September 6, 2011 at 4:25 PM said...

i went to SF back in 2000 for a one month-long work assignment. i got to cross the bridge and see some pretty amazing sights.... I live in Atlanta and D.C. and prefer to D.C.! There's so much history there! I'm definitely a tourist of my own town, with so many museums and exhibits to see on display through out the year. It's truly fascinating... Especially during election season! :) My favorite remains to be the White House and the National Museum of Art... stunning. Though the new MLK monument will be intriguing to see next week!

Wendy on: September 6, 2011 at 6:05 PM said...

I live in the great city of St. Louis. I can be a tourist in my own city by leaving home without an agenda. Letting my instincts and natural curiosity lead me to what longs to be discovered.

Unknown on: September 6, 2011 at 6:37 PM said...

I live in Randallstown,MD. I was born and raised in Baltimore, MD yet I often feel like a tourist in my own town. Baltimore has experienced so much growth in recent years that there are many new places to discover. I am a festival junkie and Baltimore feeds my addiction. In one day or weekend, I can discover Italy's Bocce Ball, German sausage making, or Salsa my way around town.

Alysia on: September 6, 2011 at 6:52 PM said...

Where do you live? How can you become a tourist in your own town?

I moved to Tampa, FL from Miami, FL in June of 2000 to attend The University of South Florida. I graduated in 2004, and continue to live in Tampa. There are many things in Tampa and the Tampa Bay area to see, even for locals. I know that I can become a tourist in my own city/town, by doing something as simple as taking the trolley that goes downtown, through Historic Ybor City, and the Channelside District.

Each week one of the local news stations features places in the area to visit, and I've seen a few places that are along that route, including cigar factories, historic churches, parks, etc. I am a travel geek, but I suppose reading your post and constantly seeing the news publicize things here in Tampa, I be a tourist here to learn more about the city that I have come to call home.

Juanita Braxton on: September 6, 2011 at 6:55 PM said...

To be a tourist in my own town of Fairfield, California, I would visit again, (since it's been 10 years or more) the Jelly Belly Factory, home to the infamous President Ronald Reagan Jelly Bean craze. It's a really fun place, where kids eyes are as big as the moon, when they see all that candy and how it is made.

I have also wanted to visit Sausalito, since I have never been there and have lived in California, since 1994. I do plan to become more of a tourist in my own town. And, no, I have never been to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company either.

Miller on: September 6, 2011 at 7:13 PM said...

I live in Stockton,California and I would actually like to become more of a toursit in my own town. I love to visit the attractions that are known to me but need to better research the plces that are not readily present and mainstream. I love finding the hidden treasures in my own backyard.

tlc on: September 6, 2011 at 7:22 PM said...

Man, as much as I love this concept I think that's gonna be a hard one for me. You see, I think I live in the most culturally-starved town in America! Ok, slight exaggeration...but for a Guyanese-born Londoner like me, Harford County in Maryland is the epitome of 'middle America'. I make a real effort to seek out anything slightly cultural...the only Indian restaurant in town, a local Zumba class, the annual African-drumming session at the local library during Black History Month! But I suppose something I could do to become a tourist in my own town is research the African American legacy where I currently live...I know there are a couple of historic black schools that are still in tact I could visit as well as the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of MD African American History and Culture which is about 30 mins away! I know there's culture everywhere, if you're just prepared to dig a little!

Unknown on: September 6, 2011 at 9:22 PM said...

All of your comments are absolutely fantastic! It's amazing how we sometimes tend to gloss over what's right in front of us...until visitors come in from out of town and we want to impress them. =) Thank you for your comments and for taking on this challenge. I can't wait to hear about what new treasures you have found in your very own backyards!

Unknown on: September 6, 2011 at 9:24 PM said...

P.S. To tlc: Even if it isn't African or African-American history in your town, there is something interesting everywhere in the world. Bet you find it. Betcha. ;-)


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