Tuesday, May 6, 2014

10 Ways to Find Something To Do in Your Small Town

Dundas Street by Liz
Our first duty station was in a small town in Central California. Not the part of California with the ocean and or Hollywood. This is the part of Cali everyone says smells like cow. During our first tour, we complained an awful lot about how the town we had to live in was so small and there was nothing to do and only two restaurants! All we ever did was go to garage parties. We couldn't wait until we got to go somewhere cool, somewhere with culture, with something to do!

We were surprised when it turned out we needed to chose an even smaller town for our next duty station. We started looking around our small town with new eyes and noticed there was actually a lot going on. They had the coolest antique stores, all kinds of mom and pop restaurants, a renaissance fair, beer tasting on St. Patty's Day, a Wine and Chocolate walking tour, a one-block China Town, Victorian houses up the wazzoo, a Japanese art center, a Fox Theater, and  a Greek inspired civic center that looked just like the one in Back to the Future. We realized it was kind of a super cool place with lot to do and we hadn't done a single thing!

Irregardless of how small the next town, we promised we wouldn't isolate ourselves. We'd get off of base and get out into town. We weren't expecting much in the next tow but when we took a look, we were flabbergasted with what we discovered.

"Crochet art exhibition" by Amanda Watson
This place was bumpin! They had more things "to do" than any place I have ever seen! They had event after event like car shows, boxing tournaments, a motor sports festival, a driving scavenger hunt/poker game (it was crazy), a Speakeasy costume event, various shows in the arts and music (they actually had an opera-house style amphitheater and art gallery), plus all types of regular entertainment through a wine bar, beer tasting room, sushi bar (still my favorite sushi ever), movie in the park, live bands, and a nearby lake.

Yet, Navy people tended to think of this place as dull and event-less. It wasn't though. People just didn't know.

Navy bases are like islands, complete with everything we need to survive. We don't actually have to leave if we don't want to and a lot of people don't. We are kind of cut off from the town we are stationed at, and cut off from hearing about what there is to do.

So how can you avoid missing out?

10 Way to Find Something To Do in Your Duty Station Town

"Adam And Eve On A Raft,
 And Wreck 'Em" by drp
1. Prepare to Explore! Tell yourself now that you will not be that person who refuses to step out of their comfort zone, that person who refuses to try new things, or that person who goes to a new place but never steps off base. If you are not willing to put yourself out there, you are not going to have anything to do in a new town.

2. Take a Saturday and drive around in parts of town you've never been to, look around, see what you can find. Make it an adventure. If you have kids, make it a game. I still see places I never knew were in my town just by looking around when I'm driving, but don't forget about the road. ;)

3. Check out the local newspaper, visit their website, subscribe to their Facebook/Twitter page, or subscribe to the newspaper. Often people only read the base paper or only watch world news stations like CNN. Just by reading the local newspaper, you will be so much more aware of what there is in your duty station town.

4. Try local mom and pop restaurants and shops. Just looking for new places and trying them out will help you discover what cool things exist in the area. Use apps and websites like Yelp to help you find local places with good reviews.  Plus, extra points for supporting local businesses!

5. See if there is a Main Street or Downtown Association that you can like on Facebook or Twitter. These groups often organize local farmer's markets, Christmas Tree lightings, Fourth of July events, parades, and other more.

6. Check out the local Chamber of Commerce, City Parks and Recreation, and County websites. Either like them on Facebook/Twitter, or sign up for their newsletters. These departments put on events, festivals, fundraisers, classes, and more all the time and they put out important info on a variety of area must-knows.

7. Google "Guide to (your city)." "Hidden treasures of (your city.)" "(Your city) annual event." Stuff like that. You'll be amazed at what you find.

"Art Class V" by Richard Tanton
8. Also look for community classes and clubs. Every town has classes in things like art and cooking, clubs for things like books, writing, gardening, and adult sports and swim teams. This goes for adults and children and is one of the best ways to meet new people and make new friends.

9. Nothing to do in your small town? Start your own club or teach your own class! No book club? Put out an ad in the paper that you are looking for people interested in starting one or start a page on Facebook.

Do you know how to cook, sculpt, make jewelry, knit? Do you have a fun hobby you'd like to share? Teach it! Local community colleges, Parks and Recreation departments, art centers, and community centers have programs for community members to teach their own classes.  No degrees or certifications required. Just look up the website, find the number and call.They just want to provide something fun for people to do. ;) Plus maybe you'll make some money doing it.

10. Don't just stay in town. Try to find things in driving distance. I can't tell you how many people who come to Cali and say that the only place they've seen is Hollywood. What about Napa, Morrow Bay, Monterrey, Yosemite, Sequoia National Park? Every state has places and attractions that should be visited and things that should be experienced even if it's something as fun and silly as a garlic festival or rib cook off. You are there and so don't miss out or waste the opportunity to experience something new. 

There is no such thing as a place with nothing to do, no matter how small that place is, because everyone in every place wants something "to do." So get out there, get involved, be adventurous, experience where you are no matter where it is, and make it an adventure!

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About Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author
Buy Her Book A White Room!
Photo by Randy Enriquez
I dated and married my husband in 2004 when I was 19. I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy, and I didn't know what to ask.

After ten years of learning in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered. I wanted to spread the knowledge that I needed when I was new, to reveal what took years for me to learn.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction.

My first novel A White Room debuted in 2013 and is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions of becoming a nurse to marry a man who can save her destitute family. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness until she stumbles on an opportunity to nurse to the poor despite the fact that her husband prosecutes unlicensed practitioners.

Learn more at www.stephaniecarroll.net and connect with me @CarrollBooks on Twitter, Facebook, or on Pinterest!

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