How to Travel in Your Own Backyard

How to Travel in Your Own Backyard

Free music and fun at a local beer festival.

It’s so easy to get caught up making plans for our grandiose bucket lists that we often forget about a very accessible, extremely affordable destination: Our own backyards.

I know what you’re thinking: Traveling in your own backyard is the same thing as a “staycation,” right?

Well, whether you consider traveling in your own town, city, region or state to be a staycation is a matter of how you define it, but I like to think that travel inherently involves a certain amount of wide-eyed wonder and curiosity as well as the willingness to do something other than what your normal routine entails.

Think of all those things people travel to your hometown to do and see … now ask yourself whether you’ve done them yourself. For a lot of people, the answer is no, probably because you can do and see those things anytime you want. But what if you move tomorrow? What if you don’t have the chance to do so next week?

I encourage you to take advantage of the travel opportunities in your backyard. Here’s how:

Browse the free weeklies and local newspapers for event listings. Guest speakers at the library, free workshops at the community center, movie nights at the park and craft fairs at the schools. Concerts, plays, performances, parades, fairs and fundraisers are going on all the time in every town across the world. Certainly the bigger the city, the more opportunities there are to participate in local happenings, but even the smallest of towns have farmers markets, holiday celebrations and community dinners.

Drive a different way to your destination … or don’t drive at all! If you’ve got to drive across town, drive a different route. Go the long way. Or take back roads. Or turn down a random street then find your way from there. As you drive, really look and observe this new area around you. You could be anywhere in the world. What questions would be going through your mind if you were actually on a vacation? Ask those same questions here. Alternatively, don’t drive if you have to, and, instead, walk to your destination, taking in your neighborhood from a new perspective.

How to Travel in Your Own Backyard

Hiking in Red Rock Canyon, right outside of Las Vegas.

Support the local hospitality businesses. Stay at a local B&B or inn. Play a round of golf. Visit the museums. Rent a boat and spend the day on a nearby lake. Hit the slopes at your neighborhood ski resort.

Volunteer. Just as you might be interested in volunteering when you travel abroad, you can do so in your own neighborhood as well. Find out about opportunities working with under-served populations, in parks or on farms. It may not seem as exotic as it might if you were volunteering in someone else’s backyard, but the big difference is that you make a lasting contribution to your own community when you volunteer at home.

Take a long weekend. Beyond the things that might be available in your own community are those things within a few hours of where you live. We often overlook these things too. Confession time: Do you live in Arizona but have never been to the Grand Canyon? Do you live in the Caribbean but have never been snorkeling? Do you live in France but have never spent a day at the Louvre? Do you live within a few hours of some other landmark that other people intentionally visit but you’ve never actually been there yourself? Take a weekend trip and hit some of the other nearby highlights that can’t be visited in a single day.

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How to Travel in Your Own Backyard
JoAnna is a globe-trotting, idea-inventing, culture-collecting creativity connoisseur with big dreams and a desire to touch all seven continents. You can also find JoAnna at joannahaugen.com and at The 52 Letters Project.

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11 Responses

  1. Laura says:

    I have been trying to be more of a tourist in my hometown for the past year or so and it’s been great! You list some really helpful ideas in this post and I would encourage others to try them out. I’ve discovered so many new things in Pittsburgh and met so many interesting people.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Great ideas guys!

  3. JoAnna says:

    I love discovering things in my hometown. Granted, I live in a popular tourist destination, so there’s a lot to do, but taking advantage of all of those things makes the city a different place.

  4. Trisha says:

    This is good advice for everyone.…..we occasionally have family or friends come to visit, and by staying up on what’s going on around town it makes it so much easier to entertain them and help them plan what they want to do and see during their stay. :-)

  5. JoAnna says:

    I love knowing what to do and where to take people at a moment’s notice. Always a good thing!

  6. Pola says:

    Great piece! It’s interesting to see another travel blogger take on a similar subject (I wrote my ‘version’ not too long ago http://bit.ly/fQKloW). I love that you mentioned volunteering, it’s not something that came to my mind right away. And yes — local businesses, that’s so important!!

  7. Pola says:

    I agree, Laura! One of my fav things to do is pick a neighborhood and just go and explore. Since I live in Chicago, which has such a variety of neighborhoods, it’s not difficult to do.

  8. JoAnna says:

    I think local travel is often overlooked by a lot of people. I’m glad to see you’re writing about the subject as well! :)

  9. Ethan Gelber says:

    Great topic. Glad to see that you’ve given it attention and that others have surfaced who have done the same. However, while still not quite a mainstream consideration, it is certainly far less overlooked than you might imagine. In face, there is a whole growing ‘movement’ committed to the idea of Local Travel — see http://www.localtravelmovement.com — that seems to be catching on… slowly but surely.

  10. Pete says:

    Excellent! About a half a year ago a friend of ours made a comment that we know all these other countries more than we know our own. We took it to heart and when we briefly returned home (for my brother’s wedding) we made it a priority to explore ‘our own backyard’. It was awesome! Cheers!

  11. JoAnna says:

    Pretty awesome what you can find just steps for the front door, isn’t it?

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