It isn’t often we actually look at our city through the eyes of a tourist. It’s even less common for us to step back and examine exactly what it is we love, or loathe, about the city in which we live or have grown up in.
Last weekend I finished up a coffee in the city (Melbourne, for what it’s worth; the theory is the same) about 9pm. Instead of jumping on a train and heading home, I decided to take a stroll. I wandered through the streets, taking no particular way and having no particular desire to do anything but stroll, and perhaps clear my head.
What I discovered was astounding. After walking for about 15 minutes I noticed my head was clear and I was no longer looking at the streets as the necessary buildings and roads that need to be there in order for this to be deemed a city, but looking at each building and every person as something new, each making a small, but necessary contribution to the heaving metropolis on a Friday night. I was looking at it through the eyes of tourists and suburban kids who come to the city so infrequently that there’s still novelty in the idea of the whole busy mess.
It’s odd when you dissociate yourself from your goal of going here and doing that and see the things that make up your city. Walking through the streets as people started to clamour into bars and clubs, dressed to the nines and laughing at some in-joke I’ll never know, was amazing. I (thankfully) didn’t see the ugliness of 3am, which the media likes to portray so frequently. I saw thousands of people, each with individual stories who were going into the places they frequent, the places they don’t know and the places they’ll come back to in 30 years with their kids and see (as I had started to) what these places were to them individually, at least more than they do now.
So here’s my suggestion: one day, before you go out or before you go home, take a walk on your own, free from the distraction of conversation, and lose yourself. Most cities have the unique ability to swallow you and make you anonymous among the crowds — make the most of it. Wander and look at your city as an entity or a personality instead of a necessary assortment of buildings that only impede your walk to wherever you’re going.