Book Friday: The Art of Being a Tourist at Home by Jenny Herbert

Did you make it to a proper holiday this year? We didn’t. We’ve had a couple of nights as a couple in Leamington Spa, a long weekend as a family in Northumbria and Peter and I have a weekend booked in London during October. Weekends away suit us as small business owners, because to an extent the work required to get ready for even a week away and then to catch up afterwards can really remove the benefit of a break.

Add to that an awareness that flying abroad isn’t *exactly* eco-friendly, and that the world is still reeling in panic over Coronavirus, and staying at home definitely had a massive appeal to me this year!

Even when the pandemic becomes endemic and we learn just to live with Covid, I don’t think we, as a family, will be taking Big Family Holidays any more anyway. The sons are 21 and 23, and getting too old to take along as spare participants on activities that they may/may not like. And, of course, all five of us enjoy slightly different things and would spend our free time slightly differently, if we have any. That’s both a bittersweet and an exciting feeling. I’ll miss our family times, but truthfully they relied on having children happy to be organised, not adults loathe to be dragged out of bed.

But being able to look at Mr Hygge Jem and think… this time next year we could go away for a proper week alone…. together!!! That’s quite exciting. We’ve already started thinking of the places that have been on our lists but been set aside because there wasn’t enough to keep teenagers occupied….if the only people we have to please are ourselves, we can finally see the places in the UK and Europe that we’ve missed before.

And we always have the benefit of living in Liverpool. It is always in the top ten (usually top five) of UK cities for visitors, has food, drink, a maritime history, a musical legacy and a sporting legacy that really makes it ideal for a long weekend or overnighter. Really, I should make more of it.

Today’s book, The Art of Being a Tourist at Home, might just help me with that. I picked it up, ironically enough, on a weekend away because browsing bookshops is one of my relaxed weekend away activities. It’s written by an Australian, Jenny Herbert, who has worked in the travel industry for long enough to know how hard it can be. She started it to counteract climate change and finished it to counteract Covid. As she puts it “Books, once printed, become sealed in their moment in time while life moves on, so there’s every chance that some of what I have written is already out-of-date or has not yet returned to our lives.”

I don’t know, but I do know that a lot of Jenny’s advice is good whether there’s an epidemic or an eco-disaster or not. We are all capable of walking down the same street every day and not seeing the magic and the character of the place that a visitor would. I love having friends come to visit who want the guided tour of Liverpool: it’s so refreshing to see their eyes light up at the signs, gates or roads I go past often. Penny Lane is a case in point.

The book is split into an introduction, an afterword and three middle sections: Go Your Own Way, Worlds Within Worlds and The Pleasures of Being Grounded. It’s a good quality hardback book, 8 by 6 inches, and the paper is beautiful and thick. It’s full colour throughout, with quotations and ideas boxes liberally sprinkled. It has no pictures or photographs, though, and is quite text-intense.

I like that: there’s plenty to read, and mull over slowly. Jenny asks questions like Why do we travel? Can we get the benefit of a holiday just by staying home? How do we widen our minds on the streets of our home town? She has plenty of advice that is non-specific, by which I mean you can take the ideas and use them anywhere, whether at home or on an actual holiday.

The first section, Go Your Own Way (and I hope the Fleetwood Mac is on purpose there) is about really discovering your immediate locality. Walk the streets, the parks, the paths around where you live. Look out for the history of the place. Many towns have a history society, most with websites, or visit the local library to borrow any books and pamphlets written by locals.

Part of exploring your locale is about finding the cosmopolitan and multicultural in your area. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled living in Liverpool, because there has always been a large Chinese, Jewish and Caribbean community in the city. Jenny recommends talking, making bonds, building bridges as a way to create and enhance community. Within 500 yards of this office, I know I can buy Polish sausage from Poland, spices from the Middle East and naan bread made by an Indian baker. I can talk to a Syrian refugee, ask about a Pakistani asylum seeker’s family and say hi to a missionary from Africa (the local church curate, here to learn before taking his own church in Lesotho. The world isn’t beyond our reach: it’s just beyond the door.

Worlds Within Worlds, the second section is about exploring the local culture of your area. “Learning about the culture to which we belong helps us find ourselves and our place in the world.” Jenny writes, and she is quite right. The person who respects every culture but their own is foolish: every person and their environs has a history, and a responsibility to record and teach that history. If, like me, you’ve never lived more than 10 miles from the town where you were born, then your history is nice and compact. If you’ve travelled all your life, then your culture may be very broad and far ranging. There’s advantages and disadvantages to both.

Jenny’s advice for culture vultures is to seek out the places: small cultural venues, local shows, art club displays. Look for the local quirks (Southport has… or had… a lawnmower museum. That’s quirky) and visit the local venues: Theatres, galleries, cinemas and concerts. She says to visit the local Tourist Information office; it’s easy to think that they are just for Tourists from Away, but they often have info on local events and exhibitions that you may have missed otherwise.

And sport plays a big part in local culture. Different sports dominate different areas. Where Football is King in Liverpool, Rugby League dominates discussion in St Helens and Wigan while parts of Manchester (usually the posher end) are fanatical Rugby Unionists. Finding and supporting a local club or sports venue is a good way to build community.

The final part is The Pleasures of Being Grounded. This section is about embracing and reconnecting with our home… another way of finding meaning in life. Our homes are a resource and a refuge, as so many of us found out during Lockdowns. Jenny advocates clearing and cleaning the house, taking time to do nothing, playing with our life and using books, food and research into another culture to enjoy learning about a country or culture even if we can’t go there. It’s a lovely idea, and one I think we benefit from. The more we know about both ourselves and the rest of the world, the better.

If I had to sum the book up in just four steps, it would be:

  • Rethink your local area
  • Open your mind to what else is around
  • Find the hidden places near to you
  • Be happy at home

Although the book doesn’t have many pictures, it does have a lot of content designed to make you think. It’s certainly got me reappraising how I view my city, and how I want to explore it. On the basis of this, I’ve invested in some local guidebooks and I’ll be drawing up lists of places I want to visit, either for the first time or on repeat. And I want to walk more through the city.

I’ll leave you as usual with my flipthrough of the book.

Today’s header is the book, in situ with my little tea monkey who keeps me company at work. He doesn’t say much, but he does make me smile.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. August is like a pause before real life begins again in September, so it’s a second chance to set up rituals and rhythms that boost happiness and work for you.

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.

On the principle that it’s never too early to start thinking ahead, really, and that Christmas is always on us before we know, how about Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas? Christmas is about the small things in life, much as hygge is, and establishing what you want from Christmas and then being able to say no to the excess is important. The book has hints and tips that hopefully will help you enjoy what is, too often, a frantic season.

Available as just an ebook, and a short, sharp read, is Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas: Easy Ways to keep the Joy of Christmas, and your Sanity, intact. It’s an easy read, with ideas and hints to keep you sane through the season. The self-care advent calendar is one I’ve followed for a few years now, and it really is a small daily dose of calm in a manic month.

And on the basis that we may well find ourselves in Lockdowns or unable to enjoy an absolutely normal Christmas under Covid regulations if numbers spike, why not read and plan alternatives? Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was written in response to the pandemic last year, and will need updating soon, but it is about celebrating whatever the situation, and does have good advice on stocking up an emergency cupboard, celebrating when travelling to relatives is impossible and putting the heart of Christmas back into the heart of the celebrations.

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well.

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