Michigan summers man, I’m telling ya, nothing like ‘em. A few weeks ago I was able to slip out of GR and take a small road trip through the UP. It was nice to get away and visit somewhere that wasn’t home. There’s so much to see outside of the small day-to-day world we live in. The Upper Peninsula is a prime place to get away when it’s needed. (Limited cell service can do wonders).

Visiting the national forests and towns up north reminded me of how much I like to visit new places or be a visitor in general. Being a visitor is different from being a tourist. A tourist wants to consume, wants to get all the best pictures for Instagram. (Some studies show that most millennials choose vacation spots based on instagramability. What!?) A tourist is not concerned about learning but rather pointing at things and saying they were there. The visitor wants to learn, to experience, to join in. They want to understand the place they are and the people they’re around. 

Have you ever been somewhere with lots of people jostling for the perfect picture not paying any attention to anything else but themselves? It’s loud, it’s frustrating, and short tempers are plentiful. Sometimes it feels like trying to find peace in the midst of a storm. (Pro tip: I always like asking the server or bartender or barista where THEY like to go. It’s almost always worked out well for me, with a few exceptions. You often end up with better travel stories and life experiences when you join in and connect). 

A few years ago I was planning a trip to Europe with a few friends. One of my regular customers heard us planning and got excited. He’s from Amsterdam and that was one of our stops on the trip. He came back to Roots with a whole list written out of places we needed to go; spots that weren’t the most well known. One was a small bar off a main street. It was a fun adventure where we encountered great people. It’s not a place we would have found otherwise. We took the opportunity to engage and were rewarded.

The trip north was a healthy reminder of the joys of being a visitor. Getting the chance to explore a new city with a new resident and check out new places with them. The next challenge is bringing that same visitor spirit to my own city; explore and experience my own backyard with fresh eyes. Maybe here I should be asking my barista, bartender, server, barber, or neighbor where their favorite spot is and why. Maybe I’ll find new places to visit right here at home.