09/04/2012 12:02 am ET

The Surprising Bliss Of Tour Guiding In Your Own City

Anyone who’s lived in a famous city gets used to a byproduct: visitors.

"We’d love it if you’d show us around," they say, as soon as they drop their backpacks and rolling bags and check their email. Polite people smile and say, "of course." Less tolerant people tell them they’re on their own. One person I know kept a supply of Washington, D.C., trolley tour passes and simply doled them out, unable to stand yet another visit to the Mall. But if we take the time to go along, and keep our eyes open instead of rolling them, it’s virtually guaranteed we will see new things in our cities. The things we consider to be the highlights might not impress visitors at all – and the things our friends and relatives find memorable might enlighten us and unexpectedly move us as well.

I found this out during a recent whirl through Detroit, a city I’ve been visiting since childhood, where I’ve lived and worked through the years, and where I’ve got my tour down pat. Or, at least I thought I did.

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