When we travel, life is a grand adventure. We find tiny dive restaurants that are fantastic (or awful) and go to museums and markets that pique our interest. We discover that around every corner is a new adventure and each city has a million hidden wonders.
Then we return home to our comfortable lives where we head to the place around the corner every Friday and order the same bottle of wine and appetizer. We don’t wonder at the amazing vibrancy of the city around us on our daily commute to work or while we wait in line at the grocery store. We don’t seek out new restaurants or check into motels for a night, just to see how they are. There is no reason not to, we just forget in our day-to-day haze to look at our own homes with traveller’s eyes and a healthy sense of wonder.
Here is where a travel website is great. A site like TripAdvisor.com has reviews from people who are viewing our homes with fresh eyes and, by using them we can re-experience the excitement and novelty of travel and still have our own comfortable pillow at the end of the day. Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway or just a night out, sites like these may lead you to discover new spots where you can become a local.
This article will focus on TripAdvisor, because it is one of the largest and most well-established, but most travel sites work the same way. If you look around online or talk to people travelling through your area, there may be a website that specializes in your town or region and will have even more pointed recommendations. The algorithms that control the ratings on these website give more weight to more recent reviews, which means that if a restaurant that changes cooks or a museum rotates a display, the overall rating of the establishment leans towards the most recent experiences, not on old or outdated information.
TripAdvisor breaks their reviews up into categories like: “Restaurants,” “Lodging,” “Attractions” and “Travel.” For most people living in the area, Lodging and Travel are not that interesting. If you do want lodging, you can use their subheadings like “Romantic” and “Family” to get a quick overview of the best places that suit your interests.
Under Restaurants, you can browse by price range, cuisine, dining option and region/location. Or if you prefer, you can put in a key word and see what pops up. The location option is perfect if you are looking to meet a friend halfway between your house and hers or you need a new location for the annual work party. Using the price range filter gives you the top reviewed restaurants, cafes and eateries in each price range, from “Cheap Eats” to “Fine-Dining.” Because of the algorithms, the current hot spots will pop up at the top, so check back each week to find out about new restaurants opening or restaurants that recently made a change and are getting extra notice.
The “Attractions” label is broad and often requires a bit more personal sifting to find the perfect event for you. Luckily, there are subheadings (and sub-subheadings) here as well. For instance, if you pick “Theatre and Concerts”, you can go into subcategories like: “Dinner Theatre,” “Symphonies,” or “Jazz Bars.” What subcategories are listed are based on what’s available in the area you are looking. Once you find your perfect subheading, read the reviews to see if the jazz bar you are considering meets your expectations.
For people with families, or with families coming in for a visit, this is a great way to find family-friendly activities. The reviews often mention if children are welcome or if you have questions, head over to the forum and ask. Just leave a few days to get an answer because travellers are busy folk and may not be able to respond immediately.
If you are looking for an adventure and just want to get out and see something new, stay on the top-rated listed (the first one when you look at the attractions site) and choose from among the best rated events and attractions in your area. These are smattering of attractions that have consistently received 4-5 star reviews and vary from museums to concerts to interactive puzzle games. You never know what you’ll be signing up for, but it probably won’t be your usual fare and just might give you a new appreciation for your home.
TripAdvisor is far from the only site available. If nothing catches your attention there, try running a google search for “Top 10 Things to Do in (your city).” You might find out that you are hitting some of the best spots in town, but likely you’ll discover one or two new places that can become your new favourites.
Though you might not decide that rush hour traffic is your favourite sign of a vibrant city, seeing your home through the eyes of a traveller can be refreshing, invigorating and a reminder of why you chose to live there in the first place. Or maybe you’ll just find a nice glass of wine.
Either way, you’ll have a pleasant evening and a new story.
Guest post from G. Gadea.
Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, April 24th 2015
©Casslar Consulting SL