Seattle, Washington was the first city I traveled to on my own. A group of three friends and I took a road trip after we graduated high school and the final destination of the trip was the lovely, clean, environmentally conscious, business-friendly, and welcoming city by the sea.
Looking back, we did everything wrong. We were typical tourists, even in our own country, where we were not too far from our home in Southern California. Yet we did all of the cliche sights. We went up in the space needle (which provided an underwhelming view of the city), we went to the EMP music museum to see the Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix exhibits, and we went to Pike’s Place market without spending much money at all on the artisan cheeses and jams.
Luckily, I’ve been back to Seattle a handful of times and got to experience the city like a local, including the terrible downtown traffic at rush hour. On my second trip to the city, my girlfriend and I went hiking in the woods with her aunt and cousins. Green moss covered the trees as we hiked towards a lush water fall on the outskirts of Seattle.
On our way to the cafe in Twin Peaks for black coffee and cherry pie, we stopped by another waterfall. Snoqualmie Falls, which is famous for being filmed for every show under the sun including Twin Peaks, gushes beautifully down to a river where kids and parents swim for fun. But then we we’re hungry. At the diner, we also ate some burgers and fries before our coffee and pie, and we’re charmed by the friendly waitress.
Then we had a blast speed boating and rafting on Washington Lake, the wind blowing through our hair as we endeavored to hang on to the small accelerating boat. On the shore we ate gourmet macaroni n’ cheese and pulled pork.
The next day we went to the Chihuly Glass exhibit in downtown, and were amazed by the myriad shapes and colors that provoked psychedelic wonder. After some delicious pho in a restaurant in a basement, we stopped by a tea shop where we drank many samples from a kind woman and bought a new tea pot. Topping the night off right, we ate at a midnight diner populated by locals for delicious breakfast foods. My second trip to Seattle was full of things locals would do, and it was much more fun and rewarding. than the first time I came
But the third time I went to Seattle, I was greeted with the good life of tourism. I went back to Pike’s Place Market, with Thyme’s aunt again, but this time we enjoyed many treats including the artisan cheese I missed out on, French pastries such as eclairs, freshly brewed espresso, empanadas, donuts, and tons of other tasty little things. That night we would stay in a beautiful hotel, high up above the city where we would enjoy a jacuzzi and a substantial breakfast on the penthouse floor.
The point is, always travel, but do so with your situation in mind. When you go to a place without tons of money, the touristy stuff you can do is not very rewarding. If you can blow it out in a swank hotel and buy everything at Pike’s, your vacation will be fruitful. But if you can’t, if you don’t have the means on a budget of someone who travels constantly, live like a local, meet the people, and enjoy yourself the way you would at home.
Since I went to Seattle the first time and got it all wrong, I have been back a few times to redeem myself. I can tell you I enjoyed myself, and the city, much more when I was just existing in it, doing whatever it was that I wanted to do rather than trying to stay on some relentless itinerary. I’m thankful to Seattle for giving me my first unabashed tourist experience, I carry it with me now as I travel the world avoiding tourist traps and cheesy gimmicks.
Find the place you feel comfortable just living, find your Seattle.