Some cities invite you back, before you’ve even checked your luggage at the airport on your way home from your inaugural visit. Or you end up visiting again, and again, due to ongoing projects, evolving work needs, or unexpected situations that demand the attention of someone with a title, someone at the Regional or Corporate level.
So, after you’ve visited a city for the first time, and done all the things that you thought would expose you to the essence of the city, what do you do then? You’ve eaten at the most famous (or at least the regionally representative) restaurants; you’ve consulted Trip Advisor and Yelp! for the “must see” attractions; you’ve explored the history, the art, and the music of downtown Memphis. It’s an iconic city we’re talking about! What more is there to do, when you know there has to be so much more for you to do?
I often think about the diversity of travel that I do, compared to the familiar and comfortable lives that most of the people I know live, exploring other cities occasionally, but having a “home base” where they spend most of their time. (Please note, there are times that I envy their familiarity with their home towns; I long for the comfort that they so effortlessly experience.) Here I am visiting their city with a fresh set of eyes the first time I’m there.
So, what determines the experience I have when my plane sets down in a new city? Will I have the same experience when I’m lucky enough to make my way there again, for a return visit? What about a city that becomes a regular part of my territory, and turns out to be one that I’ll revisit again and again? Perhaps the breadth of my experiences depends on the quality of the tour book I consult, what websites I seek out, or whose advice I take.
When it’s my 3rd or 4th visit to a city, like my recent travel to Memphis, I feel it’s time to settle in a little bit, and try to experience the city the way a local might.
Where the city’s locals live: Downtown living, with easy access to the blues clubs and southern restaurants on Beale St., would bring along some excitement. The exchange Apartments and Suites wants to being this lifestyle to visitors, splashing “Get Ready to Live Local: Eat / Sleep / Play” on the home page of their website. Units are true apartments, with kitchens and relaxed living space, and the rentable apartments are intermixed with guest suites. Visitors are invited to stay for the night or camp out for several weeks. The beautifully renovated building, initially built in 1910 as the cotton and merchant exchanges, takes a unique approach to downtown living.
“Today the Exchange Building houses over 200 units over 19 floors above the Mighty Mississippi. Part hotel and part apartment units, the building embraces ‘Smart Living’. What does that mean exactly? We utilize technology and smart phones to make sure that every guest has a great stay in our building. Each unit is equipped with fiber optic internet and satellite TV’s. The idea is to make sure you enjoy your time away from home… at a place that feels like home.” (Exchange website)
What locals eat: On my first, second and third visit to Memphis I ate at the likes of Rum Boogie Café, and Flight Restaurant. On a 4-night trip, eating out every night can wear me out, so I sought out the local organic grocery that is part of the small community on the river, called Harbor Town. I thought I’d bring food back to the hotel, and have a bit of a picnic in my room, while watching the sun set on the river. Even on the road it’s nice to kick back, perhaps reading a book I’ve been carrying with me all week, and considering for book club.
The after-work routine of the locals: There is a walking path that follows the river, with bridges crossing the waterway on one side, and well maintained landscaping on the other. Residents take advantage on the open space, walking dogs, riding cycles, eating a picnic, and getting in their evening workout. A “Boot Camp” class is going on, running relays up and down a grassy hill, doing reverse push-ups on the edge of park benches, and crossing the street to take turns climbing the long staircase that leads them away from the river and up into the neighborhood.
Those lucky enough to live up there, facing the river, build large houses with walls of glass windows, so they can enjoy sunsets that they could charge admission to their front lawns for, if the city hadn’t been thoughtful enough to build the park across the street. Moving deeper into those older parts of town, past the gated communities, the area transitions into old industrial area, reimagined as trendy spots for restaurants and clothing shops.
Local leisure time: Here in Memphis, the locals take their leisure time seriously, and have built a massive retail space devoted to experiencing and buying the gear required to engage in some of their favorite activities. Shaped like a gigantic pyramid, and enclosed in mirrored glass, the Bass Pro Shop is prominent on the skyline.
Inside there are activities, demos, educational shows, restaurants with a bowling alley attached, and opportunity after opportunity to shop. There’s a showroom for boats, tents on display, guns and hunting decoys at the ready for close examination, and opportunity after opportunity to buy the trappings of a fishing lifestyle. Fishing poles, fishing bait, fishing boats, fishing line, fishing boots, fishing nets, and instructional fishing videos abound. Not sure what fishing-themed gifts to give for Christmas? A gift card will have you covered!
It turns out I can really spread out and make myself at home when I’m on a trip that last more than 2 nights. Finding a living space that allows me to do that can make the trip a little less disorienting. Finding walking paths and grocery stores that locals inhabit gives me a feel for the daily lives of the residents. If I were considering moving to the area, a few weeks spent living this way would definitely inform my choice. But I have a lot of New England coming up in the next several months, and no plans to uproot from Columbus, OH. Still, it’s nice to live a “normal” life from time-to-time, even if it’s done away from home.
Join me on my next adventure,
Miss Cordelia’s Grocery Store: http://www.misscordelias.com/our-story/
Bass Pro Shop Pyramid: http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CFPageC?storeId=10151&catalogId=10051&langId=1&appID=94&storeID=61&tab=3&cm_sp=Store061Feb2015_RD&cm_ven=redirect&cm_cat=mktg&cm_pla=bps&cm_ite=memphispyramid