Edited by Lasya Adiraj
A designated vagabond, with wanderlust in my blood and a wayfarer attitude, I’ve been hopping around from one city to another all my life. As an avid traveller, I’ve had so many experiences that have helped me gain a fresh perspective on all that life has to offer. So to speak, there’s something unique about exploring a new city that fills us with so much happiness, curiosity and wonder. The same curiosity pushes us to traverse through multiple places, each one with its own identity and culture that makes us want to delve deeper.
But what happens when we find ourselves in a position where we can’t travel as often as we’d like? For instance, when our bank account sits back and laughs at our dreams or when our job status forces us to stay put in one place for too long. How might we contain our urge to tour the world? This is exactly what happened to me when my dear father got posted to Delhi for a period of 5 years. Permanency of that sort sounds like a nightmare for someone who’s used to shifting every 2 years. As the years passed, the redundancy and monotony started to creep into my life.
Several self-reflective conversations and breakdowns later, I came across a mind-blowing revelation. In all the years that I lived in Delhi, did I actually make an effort to explore the nooks and crannies of the capital (and the heart) of India? Although I was born there, I never got to stay there. And that’s when it hit me. This was my chance to connect to my roots. I could feed my travel bug by becoming a tourist in my own hometown, viewing it with a divergent mindset. A million ideas started to flood my head but I rounded it off to 5 ways to get the party started.
- Take a historic tour: Being a history freak, my first agenda was to visit all the monuments that I’d never been to. What better way to learn about your hometown’s history than by visiting heritage sites? Apart from the usual ones, Purana Qila (Old Fort) and Mehrauli Archaeological Park were my favourites. I also went to the National Museum and Indira Gandhi Memorial, which boasted of dazzling treasures and precious memorabilia.
- Do a staycation: I decided to do this in two ways. I booked a room in The Claridges (one of the best hotels in Delhi) for one day and I booked a homestay called Khohar Haveli (located at the base of the Aravalli Hills, close to Delhi) for another day. This is one of the best ways to unwind and set the mood for exploring while completely making you feel like you’re a tourist.
- Take an eco-friendly tour: I signed up for local tours through means of biking, walking or even Segway-ing. I also revisited some of the most common places, not by metro or cars, but through CNG rickshaws or simply by walking around. It makes you look at even the most ordinary places differently and there is the added bonus of keeping yourself fit. Lodhi Colony is breath-taking if you explore it this way.
- Visit new/touristy restaurants: I decided not to go to the extremely posh restaurants and instead, treat myself at local, family-owned eateries, quaint little cafes and market stalls or as we like to call them thelas. Trying local cuisines and special dishes is the best way to treat yourself to a good meal and satisfy the traveller in you. My go-to places were Champa Gali, Hauz Khas Village and Chandani Chowk. Paranthe wali gali is a gem.
- Attend local events: This is the best way to connect with new people and gain a deeper insight into what makes your hometown so exceptional. Art shows, film festivals, concerts, marathons, stand-up gigs and all special events alike are truly fascinating and never fail to keep you engaged. I attended the Ramlila event at the Red Fort, went to the Canvas Laugh Club for a stand-up show and even watched a couple of theatre plays at the Shriram Centre for Performing Arts.
On a side note, for the full touristy feel, don’t forget to take your camera. I clicked some beautiful pictures of some of the most average and modest places. It truly brings out the overlooked beauty of these places and also creates long-lasting memories. When I look back at these pictures now, I’m reminded of how spectacular my hometown is.
Making the decision to become a tourist in my hometown was not only fulfilling but also perspicacious in terms of how it taught me to appreciate my hometown a lot more than I previously did. It ascertained how there were plenty of opportunities for new encounters within my hometown for a travel enthusiast like myself. But mostly, it proved how we don’t always require life-changing journeys to faraway lands, by spending ungodly amounts of money, to experience the thrill and magic of traveling, when it can be found so close to home.