This week I’m venturing beyond my front door. I’m getting on a plane and heading to New Orleans!  I’m beyond excited, because I’ve never been there and it makes me giddy to travel to a new place and see how they do things.

This last week I was talking with a friend who recently had the opportunity to visit a state she’d never been to before. She’s from Philly, and has lived there all her life. She found herself in North Carolina and was fascinated by how friendly the people were, how helpful and how they always smiled. She was entranced by the difference. She loved the vocabulary. “All ya’ll” in particular made her giggle. It made me giggle too, because it’s something I say without noticing and it reminds me of home.

The thing that struck me as she described her experience was how often we grow up and remain within the same, safe geography to which we were born. Entire families live within a couple of hours of each other and often, other than a vacation to Florida or the nearest tourist hot spot, they never venture out past the boundaries of Comfortable. While this creates a wonderful community bond, it doesn’t do a whole lot for your world view. It’s a breeding ground for hate and misunderstanding because if we’ve never been then we don’t know how things truly are, Over There. That not knowing leads to all sorts of assumptions and we all know what assume means, right?

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if everyone took the time to go find out what life is like Over There? To meet people from Over There. To really talk to them?

Did you know that people from Over There might talk with a funny accent, but they hope for much the same things as you?

Did you know that Over There has awesome biscuits and gravy? And amazing sunsets.

Did you know that Over There has hidden treasures that people from Over There probably never take the time to notice? How often do we play tourist in our own home town? I bet, like me, you wait until visitors from Over There come to town before you find out exactly what makes your place so special.

When we moved to Philly, I made a point of doing something touristy every weekend. It might be a visit to an arboretum, or the zoo, or just walking around downtown and soaking up the atmosphere. Fair warning, if you see someone walking up to Love Fountain with a bar of soap in one hand and a wash cloth in the other, look away. You don’t really want to watch. I’m probably scarred for life.

We branched out and tried to see as much of the East Coast as we could. I saw bits and pieces all up and down the coast from Cape Cod on down to Florida. I saw the Christmas tree at Rockefeller plaza—how awesome is that! I stood in Times Square and could imagine it on New Year’s Eve. I saw baseball games at every ballpark we could reach. I discovered Pittsburgh is actually a very pretty place, contrary to my previous opinion. And they have the best fireworks I’ve ever seen.

If it weren’t so snowy in the winter, I discovered Boston would be a great place to live (you might have noticed I’m not a huge fan of snow). I found the prettiest necklace in a tiny local shop on Cape Cod and bought it. I walked in the sand and let ocean waves wash it off. I discovered how cold it actually gets at night after Labor Day along the coast. I lost money in the world’s biggest casino in the middle of the mountains.

All of these experiences cemented themselves in my mind and became part of me and who I am. We are, as they say, the sum of all our experiences. Does it not make sense, then, to have as many as possible?

If you haven’t played tourist in your own home town, start with that. Look at it from a stranger’s point of view. Go check out the nooks and crannies you’ve never paid any attention to. There’s some cool stuff there. And when you are done with that, I urge you to go visit Over There. They’ll be happy you did. I bet you will be too.

Now I’m going to go pack for my trip to Over There New Orleans.