It is a useful exercise and a good mindset to develop because it sharpens awareness and helps us visualize images that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. I happen to live in the Princeton area, and can recall one of my earliest visits as a child. My grandparents liked to walk the town, which my grandfather at the time called “quaint.” He had lived in Brooklyn his entire life and worked in Manhattan, so despite geographic proximity, he nonetheless noticed significant differences.
One of the more colorful features of life in foreign cities is the café. In Europe, we visit the grand coffeehouses of Vienna, the artist-frequented cafés of Paris, and the more exotic coffeehouses of Amsterdam. In other cities on other continents are variations on the theme, but one universality is the café or local tavern or pub as a place of congregation and talk, of food, drink and relaxation—an integral part of urban life.
Below is an image made in Princeton, New Jersey. From across the street, the two individuals stood out against the shaded interior, and the facade of the building had interesting texture. This is one of several coffeehouses in Princeton. This is a scene I would have found instantly appealing in Paris or Buenos Aires or Tokyo. The fact that it was familiar makes it no less foreign, or vice versa. It is a moment, a slice of life featuring a unique place in a unique town. If you make yourself a tourist, and think about the things you look for in foreign (to you) places, you will find a far richer texture of life on your home turf.