Small Town Tourist

When I originally pitched my idea for this blog post I planned on going out, exploring my town like a tourist (seeing things like museums and parks) and then going back home and writing about them. In the process of writing this article I would look back on my day and think something like: “Huh, my town really isn’t that bad, I’ve been acting like a brat these last 12 years.”

A few weeks have gone by since I pitched that idea. In the mean time, I have worked on articles for Atlas and other blogs that discuss my life in Stuart, FL. I’ve thought a lot about my position here and planned to give this article more of a positive spin.  I even went out to a museum, saw a show and was prepared to write about that.

I realized in this process though that going out to new places I wouldn’t normally go to (though an interesting experience) was not going to change the tense relationship I have with my hometown. This happy conclusion was the point I was assuming I would make at the end of my original article. When it came time to actually write that though it felt extremely sugary and fake.

The truth about Stuart is that no one here is a tourist. I guess there must be people whose cars break down on their way to Key West and instead of being tortured by serial killers or sacrificed to fields of hay, they are greeted by a town full of charming citizens. Those are the only people I can think of who might reside in the rooms of our local Marriott Hotel.

This is mostly because Stuart is strictly a family town. My hometown, like so many others, is extremely safe and quaint. It’s ideal for bike rides, Christmas parades, and cub scouts, perfect for raising children. (I had a job when I was 16 where my only responsibility was to go around to festivals and shops and blog about how cute my town was. Seriously. That was my job. It was for a real estate company and they said Stuart’s charm was its number one selling point for new families.) Everyone here is part of a family and they probably have a sister whose best friend is dating your brother and works at the local barber’s shop. Most of the “festivals” are exhibits of old locals paintings and the shops cater to dog lovers and new parents.

Because there is no reason to stop here on your road trip, there is no reason tourism would exist. Because of this, I found it extremely hard to look through the eyes of the nonexistent tourist.

But then I thought- and this is where this post gets super meta- what if there was a tourist in Stuart, what if I had been a tourist all along? It makes sense. Sure I lived in Stuart, but it never really felt like I belonged there, so it wasn’t a home. I’d always planned on leaving and going to school in a big city, so was I not just biding my time until I moved on (like Stuart was some kind of cheerful, hotel-like purgatory)? So, I originally planned to impersonate the tourist identity for a day, only to discover I had been residing in it all along.

Of course, I’m not the only teenager who feels this disconnect from where they grew up. (Isn’t that feeling the characterization of every young adult novel available in Barnes and Noble?) But because of this realization I now find that I can write about how to act like a tourist in your hometown. You don’t have to go to museums and live theatre (though they’re totally cool) you just gotta act like the rebel babe you already are. For me, personally, this means at least these three things, all day, every day.

1.) Drive around your town with the windows down playing loud, mildly offensive music. A personal favorite of mine is Kanye West (but the clean versions; your act of rebellion should not hurt the children). Bonus points if you have a cute, unassuming car.

2.) Wear the weird ass clothes you normally wear at Emerson and let people call you a hipster but whateves because you look great. You’re expressing yourself and they just don’t understand.

3.) Get mad at your parents even though they didn’t do anything wrong. Feel bad for them and yourself, apologize and continue to glare at the world outside your window.

It’s a tough life feeling like a stranger in your own town. Of course as a tourist it is implied that you’re traveling and wandering, so rest assured that your days of wandering will one day end and you can go and discover a place that feels more like home.

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