Hometown Tourism: Commuting can be exploring, too

I love hometown tourism. Given that days are kept at a very limiting 24-hours, and I'm physically unable to add a third job to the roster to help fund my travel addiction; exploring all the corners of Boston has become not only a hobby, but also a deeply necessary coping mechanism.

When I learned about this really great photo contest (prize was a trip that included a photography mentorship), I knew my 5-image photo story would highlight the little details of the well-tread route many of us travel daily: the commute.

I know, its difficult to imagine your commute as an exciting travel adventure. "Travel" is typically very narrowly defined as going somewhere far- and while that definition is valid, I choose to also consider it a state of mind. Finances seem to keep me grounded, so getting creative and redefining travel is how I get by.

Whether you're broke and stuck at home saving - or just home for a bit and itching to get back out - seek the details, it'll help - - I promise.

You might be pulling out your hair at this point, frustrated because it seems so obvious (but totally boring) to rethink something as mundane as a daily drag to the corporate center of your city. Let's walk through the things I noticed for the first time when I really looked, and hopefully that will inspire you to look a little deeper, or walk a little further out of your way, to find something new and interesting.

In the interest of full disclosure, I got up pretty early so I could account for the I'm-an-amateur-so-it-takes-me-forever-to-get-shots-lined-up slowness.

I was literally just messing around with the settings on my camera to see how I could get that blurry effect that I love so much in Instagram photos. After a few failed attempts, I realized that I was sitting like an asshole on the floor of a T station. But being the unabashed lass that I am, I stayed down- and noticed a guy with the whitest sneakers I had ever seen. With a few mediocre shots down, I slowed my shutter wayyy down, waited for the train to pass, and snapped. Love how someone walked through the shot with a bag that looks like a ghost behind his left leg. Luckily, it was so early that no one was caffeinated enough to care that I was taking pictures of their feet.

Commuting through a major hub means being able to witness the march of the penguin suits on the daily. It's pretty rare to catch empty tracks at this time (just about 7:30am)- and thought that the lines of people made all the other parallel lines in the shot that much more interesting. Also, it had never really occurred to me that so many people wear black!

More reading:  Bully Hill Vineyard: Grapes, greenery, and a very famous goat

I crossed the street to get a better picture of that great door. As I was waiting for people to clear the frame I realized that no one really noticed me so I snapped a few unintentional portraits. One thing I realized when reviewing all the pictures was that everyone seemed to look a whole lot more pulled-together than I did (jeans, dark jacket, black beanie.... being  perfectly honest, I probably looked more like I was about to rob them than take their picture. Clarification: I did not rob anyone).

Ride, ride, ride your bike, fastly down the street! Given the reputation of it's  drivers, you'd probably not be surprised to hear that it is not the safest city for cyclists. That being said, the folks on bikes can be pretty ruthless, too. I didn't realize just how many of them totally disregarded stoplights and street signs until this day.

I did something moderately unsafe. Though I had the cross light, I stopped in the middle of the intersection to look up. The lines on the Hancock Building really guide the eye up and I noticed how the other building tops peeked into my field of vision. Pissed off a few super-intense people in power-suits by standing under the light, but whatever- they can pipe down.

Time for work.... BRB

I had totally forgotten that this bridge existed until I came upon it since I'm almost never on that street. I love that you can see the buildings behind it.

Wouldn't ya know it... right before I was about to walk down into the train station, I come around a corner and see this cool scene. I love the design of this particular station, but was a little worried that I might not make it in enough time to get a good picture. Well, what I lacked in natural light, I made up for in pure dumb-luck timing with those two planes!

Those are my favorites from the day. I took a ton more because commuting while actually paying attention turned out to be way more interesting than I had anticipated. As much as I love my own photos, and can tell you all about how it was really eye-opening for me - I also want to offer a few recommendations for how to "explore the mundane" - or even become more observant in a new place:

1. Put away the reading/work materials. It can wait. If you're like me, you might find that "being in the moment" on your commute is actually a way more relaxing way to start the day than "getting work done" or reading enroute.

2. Skip breakfast at home. So counterintuitive to the whole "budget travel" model, I know - but being able to leave even a few minutes early means that you'll encounter a different crowd or have time to...

3. Get on/off the train at a slightly different stop. If you have one an extra 10 minutes from your home or office, skipping that brekky at home will give you enough time to manage the slightly further walk.

4. Set a breakfast (or dinner!) trajectory off your commute. You skipped eating at home and now you're starving - good thing there are like 8,000 cafes on your way to work. Hop off the train in the mid-ride or search for something one stop further so you can sip your coffee and stroll into work from a different direction (and recently fed).

5. Literally observe. I've been told that I'm "super observant" (hellllloooo crime witness twice) - and people say they wish they had that skill. Well, while maybe my "eagle eye" (someone else's words - not mine) may be innate, keeping your eyes open and looking around is something literally everyone can do. Unless you've over-mascaraed or super glued youereyes shut... in those cases, I can't help you (but you might want to call 9-1-1). Sometimes you just need to resolve to be not distracted. You can still listen to your morning podcasts, but look up, look around, make eye contact. Look up, look down, find an outfit you like - or a cool door.

Interesting things are all around you at basically all times - all you have to do is just friggn' look!

  • What is something cool/interesting that it took you a while to see in your hometown/where you live?
  • Have you ever had a visitor point something out about your city that you hadn't noticed?
  • How do you explore familiar areas?
  • If  you've made it this far, here is a link to that embarrassing photo essay submission.
Posted in Boston, Budget Travel, City Guides, How To, Personal - null, Story, Travel, Uncategorized, USA and tagged , , , , , , , .


  1. What a great post about one of my former homes! Great perspective. I’m on a small breather from travel (work and play), so I’m doing my own job emtoen touristy stuff! Totally enjoyed this read.

    • Thanks, Emily! I find that I need to remind myself to explore my immediate area more often- so easy to get caught up in faraway places, but cool things can happen in our backyards!

  2. Loved this piece. I set a challenge on my old blog for when you’re trying to rack up 10,000 steps. It was to spot five things….a face somewhere unexpected, a dog having the best day ever, something that made me happy, a fantastic plant and something orange…I’d forgotten about it until I read this but I think I’m going to use it more when coming up with things for instagram.

  3. I also always observe people on my commute and wonder about the challenges they will face on that day. And even on walking the same route, it’s true that we discover something new if we look closely or from a different perspective. I love your take on this photo essay and it is so relatable.

    • Thanks, Melai! I do the same thing – looking at people and thinking about their narratives (I’m sure I’m almost always wrong lol). It really helps with getting the brain going before work or after a long day!

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