Tell Us How You See a Familiar Place in a New Way

It’s easy to be awestruck when you’re traveling. Closer to home, things can seem less exciting, just because we’re more used to seeing them. Recently, we asked our readers to tell us about how they see a familiar place from a new perspective. We collected some of our submissions into an article with lots of great tips:

But we want more! Tell us what keeps you wonderstruck, no matter how routine your route is.

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I like to look for anomalies in topographical maps or aerial photos—you can see what’s hiding in your neighborhood.

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Well, I’m biased, but I just click the “What’s Near Me” button on Atlas Obscura, especially when I emerge from a new NYC subway stop.

That said, I’d also recommend going at a new time of day or day of the week. Again, a NYC example, but my neighborhood is completely different on an early Saturday morning when it’s only locals than it is in the middle of the day when it swells with commuters.

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It’s always a cool idea to do some background reading on the history of familiar places because you literally never know what has happened historically in even the most cotidian of places. I think this is something that really helps to see a familiar place in a completely different and sometimes mindblowing way and for better or worse it at least gives you an idea of the historical context of an area.

For example, I was really curious about the hidden history of where I am currently living so one day out of curiosity I used an archival news report website called "Gale Primary sources " to read old news stories about the local area. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much to come up , just some reports about the first and second world war , Blitz bombings etc. but the search results that came up were completely unexpected and really quite dark aspects of the local Victorian and Edwardian history which were both terrifying and fascinating.

Apart from that , a good idea is to look deeper into the names of places as sometimes they can be clues that hint at interesting and hidden aspects of the local history. Nowadays there are online dictionaries that can help with translation even if the name of a place is in a linguistically extinct language such as old English or a displaced or seemingly inscrutable language like Nahuatl.

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I once wrote a tourist guide e-book / app about Cardiff, so I spend some time researching the city where I was living. There were some obvious things:

  1. Books about local history (including some small heritage society publications, like the cemetery preservation group’s books etc, but also books about ghosts, true crimes, local lore…)
  2. I started paying attention to the memorial plaques attached to buildings (and fountains, and pillars, and pavement slabs)
  3. I used an app to look up all the listed buildings and sites in the city (plenty of surprises, and lots of hard to find ones! It was almost a bit like geocaching only the hidden treasure wasn’t left there by some other hobbyist, but by the past)
  4. I visited local ramblers’ websites and looked up walking paths & walked them - so many routes I had never known of
  5. “Look Up” - which is in your article - is a great tip, even for buildings. At ground level, all the streets are dominated by shop branding and adverts, but looking at the buildings from the first floor up, there would be so many surprises
  6. I looked at the city in Google Maps and noticed some hidden courtyards and cemeteries and other things that seem enclosed by buildings
  7. I visited the website of the local council, which had a map of all public artworks (in some ways, every city is a veritable open air museum), so I started paying a bit more attention to those things. This was before Ingress and Pokemon Go - but I guess these days people might use those apps for a similar purpose
  8. I tried to follow the routes of some long-buried canals, using old photographs and google maps and guesswork to figure out where they were.
  9. I watched some old (and new) movies filmed in the city and tried to map their filming locations onto the city I knew.
  10. I looked at Google Maps and Flickr for geotagged photos, to see what other people had seen, and to follow in their footsteps
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These are some terrific tips, @Federhirn! I love the idea of using Google Maps to look for hidden courtyards and other inter-building spaces. Calling up the city council or local tourism people and actually seeing if you can connect with a knowledgable local (even in your own city!) is also a great potential resource!

Love these ideas! Local historical societies have such treasures, and there are so many plaques that you could miss if you’re not looking out for them. I recently learned that some places, like Michigan, map all of their markers online, so you can see which you might find as you travel around the state. I’m going to check it out next time I go.
Michigan History Center - Historical Markers

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