What makes a place “worth” visiting? There are obvious reasons, of course: beautiful scenery, cultural treasures, historic heritage. But I’m a strong believer that anywhere can be interesting, if you just take a little time to explore. There’s always something to learn, something to discover, anywhere you go.
I’ve thought about this a lot over time, largely because I travel so much for work. Some work trips have taken me to bustling cities like New York or Toronto, but often I end up in smaller towns and far-flung suburbs. Many of my favorite “on the road” memories come from these places: the pecan farm I stumbled upon in Alabama, the gas station/gourmet deli combo my colleagues and I used to love in Arkansas, the small town in Michigan where I spent my first month on my first job out of college. The benefit of going to places like these is you expand your sense of what’s “worth” exploring. You realize that just sitting in the local coffee shop people-watching helps you understand something profound about the way other people live. You start to wonder what it’d be like to live and grow in this other environment. You learn a lot about yourself by pushing beyond the tourist to-dos, and looking to learn from everything you see, even if it isn’t listed on anyone’s “best of” anything itinerary. It doesn’t curb my interest in exotic locales or tourist meccas like Paris. But I think it’s important to get a good balance of the tourist sights, and the rest the world. I think it’s critical to approach every new place with a sense of wonder and the expectation that this place is absolutely, 100% worth your time and effort.
The next time you’re on a road trip, I challenge you to stop somewhere “random.” Spend a couple hours just exploring this place, visiting its businesses, talking to its people. You’re guaranteed to find something that interests you, as long as you open your mind to it. I’m always excited when I go somewhere new no matter where it is – because I know I’ll leave with a broadened perspective, and a slightly better understanding of the great big world out there. “Non touristy” places matter just as much as their more famous counterparts, maybe even more. They’re what holds our world together.