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5 Things I Learned from Being a Tourist in my Hometown.

I have to admit that I haven’t always had the best relationship with tourists. Our dynamic takes the darkest turn when I’m driving down wall st. I like to joke that the floating man that sets up on the corner there is my nemesis, watching people congregate around him standing in the middle of the road, making it impossible for me to exit the street feels like a personal attack on the well-being of my day.  It wouldn’t be shocking to see me honk my horn gently to alert them of the giant inconvenience that it is to try and navigate the roads around them.

That being said, I like to pride myself on being someone who can see things from every perspective. After all, aren’t I the glowing eyed tourist taking my sweet time crossing the street because everything feels too whimsical to move quickly when I’m traveling? Spoiler alert: I totally am.
I think most people remember the way it felt to fall in love with this city for the first time. Having grown up here, I think I took it for granted. I never had the feeling of enchantment, not in the same way at least. I wanted to try and see and recreate that first time feeling. To look at this city with fresh eyes.
So, I decided to live a few days in asheville as though I were here on vacation. I spent two nights in the absolutely dreamy Sweet Peas Hostel and this is what I learned…

1. Asheville is beautiful. 
I know what you’re probably saying, “duh. We all already knew that.” Well folks, I’d forgotten. Give me a break.
Living in a visitor’s state of mind opened me up to paying attention. I noticed the colors on our buildings and the window boxes with bright flowers and plants trailing down from them. I noticed how all of our streets are different and every building is unique. I noticed how many details existed on the old buildings and how much history there really is here. I fell in love with my early morning walks where the streets are quiet and I can see the city in its raw beauty.
2. There’ s a reason people feel a deep connection when they visit. 
Something that’s always fascinated me about people who come to Asheville is the way they take a sort of ownership over the city. They speak of their time here like they belong or like they share an inside joke with the city as a whole. It’s as though they’ve had an experience here that they believe is unique and special to them and while you may have lived here your entire life, you’ll never know the city like they do.
I realized that they’re right. It’s less to do with how much they know about the city and more to do with the part of themselves that opened up while they were visiting. I’ll never know the connection they personally felt while they were here, but, I know my own. As I walked the city I tried to make note of every small interaction, every bit of shared kindness and every chance encounter. When I travel I place more meaning on the little things and they hold more weight in my self-development. At one point, I walked to work and I stopped at a coffee truck that I’d never visited before, I chit-chatted with the man running the cart and enjoyed a conversation about flavor profile and espresso choice. He ended up giving me my espresso for free and I walked away almost unaware of that experience. But, I took note of the way that would have made me feel if I were visiting. It would have felt like magic and honestly, that’s because it is. People are kind here and generous and I’ve taken that for granted, tourists know it to be special because for them, it is. (P.S. You should definitely check out Motorcycle Coffee Club)
3. This could revolutionize my life. 
I’m a planner. I’m structured. I’m organized.
I tend to have my week planned out before it even starts and it’s a rare thing that will sway me and when it does, I’m usually a little bit anxious about all of the things I could/should be doing instead. It definitely serves me well and keeps me on track. However, in some ways, it’s unfortunate. I miss out on whimsy and magic more than I’d like.
However, when I travel…
I’m spontaneous. I’m open. I’m free.
I take every opportunity to do something new. Anything that pushes my boundaries or seems intriguing will be worth it. I don’t worry about getting 8 hours of sleep or making sure I’m up early enough to get a good start on my day. I do what feels right to me at any given moment. I change plans without notice. I live each moment as it’s given to me. (for the most part)
At one point I walked past the Dirty South Lounge and saw that there was free comedy and realized that if I were visiting, there would be no chance at all that I wouldn’t stop in there. But, I walked by anyway. It was getting late and I wanted to get to bed in time to start my day early. I stopped into the LAB for dinner (P.S. have you had their sliders? They’re real good.) and a beer at the window and thought on that. As I sat there I thought about that girl, the one that takes risks and doesn’t just do what she’s supposed to do to be the most productive. I thought about who I am when I’m traveling and I decided to take the next opportunity for fun that came my way. I ended up running into a great friend and his friend who I shared a beer with and then more beers with until we all stumbled sillily to my hostel where they dropped me off. I laid down in bed and thought, if I could remember this feeling, how much fun I’m having right now, if I could just channel that once or twice a week I could infuse my life with more and more magic all the time.
4. Our food & beverage culture is on point. 
As a traveler, one of the fears I have is accidentally eating in all of the worsts restaurants in town OR spending so much time in a place and missing out on the best coffee shop that they have. I put a lot of energy into getting recommendations and using the mighty google to make sure that I don’t make these mistakes. However, there’s always the factor of convenience and there’s some beauty in stumbling upon something cool. Traditionally as I travel I do tend to eat a meal at whatever place is closest to the place that I’m staying, I also tend to walk around and just go into places that look pretty or cool. I tried to approach meals in that way as well while I was doing this experiment. It was funny to think about what that meant here. The closest coffee shop was High Five (which, is quite sincerely the best), the closest restaurant/bar is The Vault which has the best burger in town and amazingly large pints of beer. I strolled past the beautiful patio of The Southern and thought about how charming that would be for me as a visitor and I realized that visitors here couldn’t go wrong. I ended one night with an amazing cocktail from Sovereign Remedies and soaked in the beautiful atmosphere and my delicious drink and realized that Asheville,  we aren’t just lucky, we’re spoiled.
5. Sweet Peas Hostel is legit! 
Sweet Peas gets its own number because my experience there was that good. From the first few e-mails with their manager Jade to my arrival to my departure, I had an awesome experience. I loved my pod and the cozy atmosphere. It was a key piece to this experience feeling so great for me. I probably could write an entire post just about Sweet Peas alone, but, I’ll just follow this section up with a few photos and share this piece of information with you instead…
In one of the pods, there’s a loose brick where people leave stories, letters, and memories from their visit here. I read through them and sincerely teared up at the way this town has impacted the lives of so many people already.
 This little mountain city has something special. We house the most beautiful souls, buildings and experiences. Can I urge you to take a day or two and see it like your first time all over again? I think you’ll notice the traffic a little less and the magic a little more.
with love,
Sarajane.
(more photos from sweet peas)
 
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