We are all fascinated by the bright lights, tourist attractions, must-see shows, and nightlife of popular city destinations like Orlando, New York, Chicago, Memphis, Paris just to name a few. But what are we missing when we focus only on the big-name places?
A lot when you really think about it. Every small town I have ever visited just drips with history and local roots that are not only fascinating but invigorating. People are so genuine, caring and go out of their way to make sure your needs are met. Towns like Havana, Quincy, Chattahoochee, Greensboro, Gretna and Midway, where greetings abound, and southern hospitality is the recipe of the day. It’s just an experience you cannot find in the hustle and bustle of big city attractions.
I was recently asked if we could list some reasons why people would want to choose a trip to “small town” America versus a big city. Here are a few thoughts.
I know when I hit the big city, the family always has a list of things we must see and do which means long days of running from place to place and sometimes even rushing through just to say “we did it. we saw it”. Time spent with the family ends up being a vacation blur where everything is one marathon after another; and when I return home, I’m more in need of a vacation than before I left.
When you decide to vacation in small-town America, your pace immediately slows down. The sun just seems to shine brighter. The food tastes better. The air smells fresher. You don’t have that long list of to-do’s and instead, can take your time and truly experience places while still maintaining an almost Zen-like feeling. Why run when you can stroll, right?
Great for meeting people and making new friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually do love big cities – they have a lot to offer. But when it comes to connecting with people, the big city slickers just don’t have time. If you want an actual connection – that feeling that you get when you meet someone new and immediately feel as if you have known them for years – then you really do need to experience small town America. A “slower” vacation experience that allows you to visit the same coffee shop, cafe, museum or store a few days in a row so that the natural flow of conversation can take place.
Of course, a few nights in a charming bed and breakfast will seal the deal! The locals will get to know you, and you will get to know them in an effortless manner which can easily give you that feeling of connection. Strike up a conversation with the store/shop owner in Chattahoochee by asking them about the town you are visiting, and they will happily tell you what you should see and experience. The same goes for Quincy or Havana or the local eatery. This type of interaction is an organic connection with our fellow human beings, not a transaction based on needs.
Beautiful scenery and outdoor activities.
Small town destinations tend to be places where you can find the most pristine lakes, clear bubbling brooks, and forests/trees for miles – which is the case in Gadsden County, Florida, just west of Tallahassee. People always seem to gain both energy and focus when they are in nature, and as much as cities try to accommodate with their amazing parks, it’s just not the same.
I love being able to gaze up at the stars without the lights getting in the way and taking deep breaths of crisp fresh air. Go for a hike, paddle out in a kayak, do a little fishing, or if you are adventurous, power bike those hilly trails. These are just a few of the ways that you can get exercise, explore nature, revel in the scenery, and still be completely relaxed. Don’t forget to bring your camera because you can capture some amazing shots while you are venturing out.
You get the chance to stay at some amazing Bed & Breakfasts.
I am a huge fan of B&B’s because they offer you so much for the price you pay. Hotels, to me, are a perfect way to put up a wall between you and the locals but mainly in the bigger cities. Some of the reasons that Bed & Breakfasts are the best way to travel are they tend to be a good value, the advice you get truly is local, and well, there’s that feeling of home.
As to advice, you receive actual tips on what you should do based on their experiences not based on what they get a kickback on. You can ask them about the area you are staying in (and the surrounding areas), and they will usually have a ton of info to give to you. They likely have tried it all and are very honest about their experiences. I don’t know about you, but I love honesty.
And who doesn’t like that “feeling of home” when they are on the road? At a B&B you get to stay in a place that feels like a home and not a business. I like when I deal with the same person for my entire stay and not a new one every day because that was how the schedule happened to be written that week. I like to feel like a guest and not a dollar bill sign. I want to feel like I’m part of a community and not someone that is ruining someone’s day by just existing and being in their line at that time. This segues nicely into my last point.
Local small businesses genuinely care.
Not to say that “chain” business are bad people, they’re not. But the local business run by people who live in the community is simply a different experience. Sure, they need your support to exist just like the corporations, but they are the ones looking you in the eyes and answering your questions and helping you in any way that they can. When was the last time you had a President of a company look you in the eye (as a customer) and attempt to be of assistance? Probably never. There is a massive wall between corporate America and you the consumer and that is how they want it. But, with small businesses you are connecting with the owners, helping them achieve their dreams, while still gaining your wants and needs. This relationship is a real win-win situation. These small business owners are working extremely hard to keep their businesses afloat in a time that doesn’t appreciate them as we should. We should revere them because they are the backbone of this country.
We all need what small-town America can give to us; relaxation, connections, beauty, and the knowledge that we too still matter. Let go of the bright lights in exchange for the starlight, avoid the tourist attractions for real-life connections, give up the must-see show for the local theatre’s current performance, and forget the nightlife and go out and experience the wildlife. We owe it to ourselves to decompress and unplug from our hectic lives, and I believe there is no better place to do this, then small town America.
Some anonymous thoughts after visiting Gadsden County, Florida
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