I know, planning a trip is too exciting and you can barely wait until it’s time to finally pack and leave. You do checklists, you plan your days ahead (or you don’t, YOLO – does anybody still say that?), and all that routine before hitting the road. When you come back, you tell everyone all about the place, the people, the sights… No need to go any further here, right? We know the process.
If you are anything like me, you also like to talk to locals. I find it truly amazing getting to know other cultures, how is their lifestyle compared to what I’m used to, and what keeps them going. Inevitably, though, they will ask me a question that I should know how to answer: what is your city like?
As some of you might know already, I’m from Brazil and although I have seen people that dislike Brazilians, the direct opposite is much more often found. Most of the time, when I say I’m from Brazil, I witness big bright eyes and an opening smile followed by them saying that they love Brazil. But again, the opposite has happened before. Fortunately, I can count those bad situations in the fingers of a single hand. Brazil is quickly associated with charisma, beautiful nature, amazing food, soccer, and samba – I am proud to say that we do have all of that. Also, Brazilians love to travel, but many of them don’t know a lot about their own cities.
Regardless of where you are from, saving some time to get to know your own city is more valuable than you can think. When I was growing up in Brazil, due to one of my parent’s jobs, we had to move from state to state every now and then. I have lived in the south of Brazil, but also in the countryside of the state of São Paulo. By the time I was 19 years old, my family had moved more than 5 times (more than 25, if you add the houses to this count 🤷🏽♀️). Apart from the difficulties of leaving your friends behind almost every year when I was a teenager, the experience itself was very good. I learned to adapt fast, to be alone and not lonely, to understand the cities I moved into, and to lose my shyness and develop my extrovert personality if I wanted to make new friends. That was very valuable for me because it prepared my way of dealing with the life I have chosen for my grown-up self. Be that as it may, there is one thing I regret over all of this: I rarely took the time to be a tourist in my own city… Or cities.
How well do you know your city?
I like to think that getting to know your own city better is the first step of traveling with a purpose. I come from the biggest city in Latin America, which is São Paulo, but I now live overseas, in Lisbon. I love and consider both of them as my home, but I cannot deny that São Paulo has a bigger piece of my heart.
São Paulo is a metropolis that embraces culture as its heart. The city itself is an open museum with its art murals and iconic buildings signed by famous architects, like Oscar Niemeyer. You can also find many museums all over this huge town, with very interesting expos to see and interact with. The cultural activities are also very impressive, once you can find the most diverse forms of art from January 1st to December 31st. I have lost count of how many concerts, theatre plays, and movie exhibitions I have been to while living in São Paulo. Also, the culture goes further – São Paulo has the largest amount of Italians outside of Italy, Japanese outside of Japan, and Lebanese outside of Libanon. Here is a video that will get you an idea of it:
Living in Lisbon also has its advantages, with many cultural activities all over town too. I am a huge fan of the museums, specially Berardo, where I can check out some of my favorite works of art. Berardo is located in Belém, and having a walk there by the river is fantastic. Jerónimos Monastery brought me to tears the first time I step in there, in 2018 – what a place! And Augusta Street, in front of Praça do Comércio is too breathtaking. I remember when I was still in my first days here I went for a walk there and got a little emotional.
I am planning to write some more about Lisbon and São Paulo, separately, in the future. Make sure to subscribe to the blog, so you won’t miss it!
Your family and friend’s favorite tour guide
Do you know what’s best about being a tourist in your own city? Showing it around. It’s amazing to know all the hidden and not so hidden spots of the place you live into people you care about.
I remember when two great friends from Germany went to São Paulo and we gathered around with some friends to let them live the best of the city. They were amazed by the cuisine, especially when we took them to Mercado Municipal, where they have all sorts of fruits you can imagine, but also the best of the best street foods you can ever find. After moving to Lisbon, I had some family and friends over to proudly show around what’s the city is all about, with historical facts and beautiful sightseeing. Although I am not a tour guide, walking people around is something really delighting for me.
The meaning of home
Exploring home is like a treasure hunt. The first connection to your roots lay in where you come from. It defines a lot of how you function, how you behave, and what you adopt as a social rule. Sparing time to discover your city, as if you were a tourist, is mindblowing. I can guarantee you will find amazing things, even in the details, that resonates with you more than you expected. Of course, being from São Paulo makes a lot of things easier on that matter, once it is a never-ending source of everything (and this is chaotic sometimes). But exploring where you live right now will allow you to connect with your roots on a deeper level.
If history is not your thing, it’s also fine – you can explore the city beyond that. For an instance, why not try to choose that traditional restaurant over that famous foreign chain you always go to? I am positive you will find amazing opportunities to stay close to the core of the city, even if it means you have to spend a little extra money on the experience. If you like photography, this is also a great reason to take some pictures of old and new places as you walk around. You might even discover an incredible square or cafe to have your next date, maybe? You’ll never know until you do it.
You can’t find yourself if you are lost in who you are, I have heard once. Knowing yourself, listening to your behavior in society has a lot to do with how you were configured to function at home. So why not take the time to explore and understand the reasons why things work as they do? Before going wanderlust, you might want to take a deep breath in and knowing what your home has to offer to the world. That will help you find whatever you are seeking.