Playing Tourist For A Day

The leaves will be changing colour soon, people are heading back to school, but there is still some time for fun, travel, and enjoying whatever is left of our season of warmer weather. Well, maybe not everyone. The people who have no roofs over their heads may be a bit better off during the non-winter months, but are still out of luck when it rains.

Those who are fortunate enough to have some disposable cash laying around often take off for exotic destinations and popular tourist attractions during vacation times. It’s almost considered deprival for the children of a wealthy family not to visit Disneyland at least once during their formative years.

I admit to such deprival, and am glad. Whisking the kids away to expensive, large-scale vacation resorts and theme parks does little but foster an early introduction to consumerism and materialistic intentions. What little kid doesn’t want to spend wads of green at the souvenir shop? How much fun is it when most of your time is spent waiting on long lines to get on gut-twisting rides? Certainly, this is not my idea of a good time.

The perfect vacation doesn’t have to cost much. It sometimes doesn’t have to cost anything. A person can be a tourist right here at home. I’m always amazed by how some are fascinated by other parts of the world, and rush to get there the first chance they can (or as soon as they can afford it), yet ignore the wonderful events and attractions our very own city has to offer. By taking the time to explore where you are from, you can gain an appreciation for your local culture, issues, and history.

I wonder how many of our local people living with poverty have a greater appreciation for a walk in the beautiful river valley than those who can jet-set to Europe or the Caribbean? So many things to do and experience are right in front of us, yet are overlooked. From our yearly cycle of festivals to an abundance of nature trails upon which to hike and bike, a day trip is limited only by our imaginations – not our wallets.

A fun idea might be to play “tourist” for a day – pick a local event or attraction that you have never been to before, and just go. Some of our attractions, like Fort Edmonton, the Valley Zoo, and the Muttart Conservatory, cost a bit of a change to get in, but are affordable for most people with some sort of a regular income – just don’t go too wild at the souvenir stands or food concessions.

Explore, discover; get outside and get moving. Fresh air and exercise is healthy – rent a bike if you don’t own one, or just put on your walking or jogging shoes and get out of the house. Bring a camera — most people would not dream of going to an exotic locale without one, so why shouldn’t you record your local adventures?

Another really radical suggestion is to spend some vacation time taking a walk on the other side of life. Volunteer with one of the many service organizations in the city, such as the Food Bank or Bissell Centre, and get some hands-on experience fighting poverty while at the same time learning the faces and names of those who were once referred only to as “street people” or “marginalized.” Indeed, the world of the poor is like a whole other way of life and immersing oneself in it is an educational way to be a tourist at home.

Paula E. Kirman is a freelance writer and photographer, and the Editor of Boyle McCauley News. She is often found riding her mountain bike through the River Valley. You can reach Paula at: starvingwriter@hotmail.com.