Destinations: Backyard tourist

[Heather Mitchell] A design colleague once told me he was going to be a “pretend” tourist for the summer. He planned to set out each weekend and explore the city with new eyes, doing all the things Los Angeles is known for … the activities locals take for granted or dismiss as clichés. I always thought this was a great philosophy, and I recently decided to put the idea into practice.

I grew up in Los Angeles, in a region known as the South Bay Peninsula. It’s a popular vacation destination, and I too am at fault for taking its beauty for granted. Each morning as I wake, my mind is whirling with a pressing to-do list. I forgo the urge to head immediately into the studio and check e-mails. Instead I push myself out the door and drive to the beach. (It’s one mile from my home — silly, but in Los Angeles we drive everywhere.)


At the top of the hill, the vast Pacific Ocean is always breathtaking and never disappoints. With my playlist in hand, I set out for a morning run. By the time I return to the studio, my mind has a sense of clarity. I no longer take for granted the fresh air and gift of nature in my backyard.

This weekend, look at your backyard as a tourist. Whether on a mountain trail or paddleboat ride on the lake, explore your city through the eyes of a stranger. What’s in your backyard may surprise and inspire you.

Heather Mitchell is principal and creative director of Just Vandy, a “little press” located in Torrance, Calif. She holds a BFA in Communication Arts from Otis College of Art & Design and was a designer for Baker|Brand Communications and Ph.D. She is on the faculty at The Art Institute of California – Los Angeles and is a member of AIGA.

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