Like many people, I find it much easier to be in a constant state of curiosity while on the road, in new surroundings, than at home, where I get caught up in the familiarity of my daily routine.
So, as I crossed the Coronado Bridge towards the small town (relatively speaking) of 25,000, and thought about the impending end of my off-beat road trip, I asked myself: How can I continue to be a curious traveler at home?
While I don’t live in the “Crown City,” I spend time here often with a number of friends who do. It’s a familiar place to me. We have our favorite go-to spots to hit up for food, drinks, and entertainment.
So, on the Fourth of July I decided to do everything I could to keep my “outsider” glasses on. Here’s what I learned:
Try something when it’s still in development.
I arrived on the eve of the 4th for the island city of Coronado’s third annual circumnavigation bike ride.
This was not a well-oiled machine, by any means.
People didn’t stay bunched together very well, there were no live bands playing as we rode by, and no beer garden waiting for us at the end.
Instead there was lots of excited chatter about how to improve the ride for next year. Make it bigger, make it better. I loved being part of the event in its infancy, brainstorming possibilities for its future with friends.
Besides that, the mayor led the entire procession on a Segway. That’s quality entertainment.
Forget what your mom told you: talk to strangers!
Coronado has held a morning parade on Independence Day for more than 60 years. Instead of staying with my friends the whole time, I left our post and went wandering around with camera in hand.
Most of the times I stopped to snap photos, I ended up striking up a conversation with a stranger. One woman told me how the parade had changed over the years, a little boy offered to share his stars ‘n stripes lollipop with me, and a friendly group poured a Bud Light in a red cup and invited me to join them for some post-parade party hopping.
When I have a built-in community in town, it’s easy to forget that potential
new friends are all around. This was a good reminder.
Take people up on their offers, even if you hardly know them.
After the parade, while I was hanging out at Island Surf (the best surf shop in town and local hangout for misfits of all ages) with one of the managers, Eric Van Burren, a girl came into the shop. I’d met her a few times before, but this time she was holding wristbands.
“Wanna see the best view of the fireworks?” she asked. I wasn’t sure if l was included in this inquiry. “I have extras here for whoever wants them. They get you into the yacht club.”
And that’s how we all ended up at the Coronado Yacht Club later that night enjoying the band playing on the lawn by the docks and watching the fireworks up close and personal.
Don’t get stuck in a rut…try somewhere new.
The next morning I woke up famished. My friends had all gone back to work, so I was on my own to find some good eats.
I bypassed my tried-and-true favorites in search of somewhere I’d never been. I walked until I was past the main strip and noticed a little restaurant that was buzzing.
Maria greeted me as I took my seat on the patio of Crown Bistro. She explained the specials, but I had already zeroed in on the Bananas Foster french toast. The dish came out with a stack of thick fluffy bread smothered in sautéed bananas, rum flambé sauce, whipped cream and a dollop of vanilla ice cream, all for 10 bucks.
“Happy birthday!” Maria joked as she dropped it off.
I’d found a new favorite.
While this isn’t always the outcome of trying a new place, it’s worth the risk for the gems you do discover!
Lastly: Look at things upside down.
That evening I got a chance to go for a sunset sail with Manny, the owner of Island Surf, something he’d mentioned at the shop the day before. I’d never been sailing in the Coronado Bay and jumped at the offer.
What resulted was seeing the iconic Coronado Bridge I’d driven over hundreds of times from a new perspective. I got to look up at its belly from below, watch sailboats pass between the massive pylons, and see the skyscrapers of downtown San Diego lined up below it.
Doing anything like this — climbing to the top of a tall building, laying on your back in the park, hanging by your legs from the jungle gym bars in your neighborhood park — adds a new dimension to the way you experience a place, which is at the very heart of exploration and discovery.
Now it’s your turn. Get out and get curious in your own city!
Follow Shannon’s adventures on Twitter @CuriousTraveler and on Instagram @ShannonSwitzer
Shannon is photographing with an Olympus PEN E-PM1 and an Olympus Tough TG-820.