Know Thy City

My heart does not yearn for deep dish pizza, polish sausages or the Bean, but rather it is the quiet simplicity of the city itself that I miss. Chicago is a grid pattern of roads, bridges and, the recently developed, galaxy sized pot-holes. They were laid out in a way that makes getting lost by accident very difficult. The allure of unsuspecting neighborhood bars, tree covered one-way roads and a magical silence that settles onto a snow covered Waveland and Sheffield are only the beginning of a long list of reason to find yourself lost in Chicago.

I have been on the receiving end of enough hostel kitchen conversations to know that you cannot find yourself while travelling. Travelling is actually an act of taking the person that you truly are on an adventure to more intimately hone an understand of what has already been found within your personality. I never thought that the same theology would apply to being a competent participant in the touring of a city.  The basic preface: a traveler would be more capable of fully experiencing a foreign city, a city not their own, by investing time in more fully understanding and appreciating the beauty of their own cities idiosyncrasies.

By having a fully developed understanding of the roots that bind a citizen to their city a traveler can seek out the familiar aspects of a new city and use those experiences as a yard stick by which to measure a new city against their own. In turn this would allow a traveler to truthfully search for the polarities in new cities through ventures into the unfamiliar within a foreign city thus allowing the traveler to more aptly compare their new experience against the experiences from their home city.

I find that I have been using a hypothetical five day vacation to Cancun for years to explain an idea that, until now, I had not really understood. If I go to Cancun for five days and spend my time at a buffet and a bar I can send home pictures of a beach and my friends will congratulate me on my time, “recharging my batteries,” and “getting away from the grind,” when I had actually done nothing out of the ordinary. The only difference is that if I spent five days in Chicago not working, going to a buffet, and binge drinking my friends would probably plan an intervention. Cancun would have offered me a great deal of new experiences, adventures and cultures but I wold have traded those for a glorified all-you-can-drink brunch and a passport stamp.

This concept has only recently been pulled from my mind and is being introduced with only the most basic honing as it is through the voice of the traveling community that I hope to more finely tune this concept of true foreign city appreciation through an elevated knowledge and appreciation of our hometowns. I will be expanding on this idea and any input would be greatly appreciated.

M. James Thompson

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One response to “Know Thy City

  1. Pingback: North & Chunshen | A Walk Through Wuxi | Four Stars Two Bars Abroad·

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