5 Reasons You Should be Exploring Your Own Backyard
Do you want to spend more time discovering and getting lost in new places? Do you often wish that you could afford to take more than one or two big trips each year? Or maybe you feel a bit envious when looking through the Facebook feeds of friends who always seem to be off gallivanting in new and exotic locales.
As someone who’s absolutely obsessed with travel, I think I speak for my fellow addicts when I say that we can all relate to the feeling of wanting more travel and more new experiences in our lives. The fact of the matter is that I can’t get enough of travel; my desire for travel is simply insatiable. When I’m not traveling, I’m usually thinking about traveling, planning upcoming trips, and trying to figure out ways I can travel more and for longer periods of time. For me, travel isn’t purely a leisure hobby. Instead, travel is an innate part of who I am and what I need as part of my ongoing education and personal growth. In short, travel makes me tick.
So when I’m in-between bigger trips abroad, I still find ways to get my wanderlust fix closer to home. Especially over the past year or so, I’ve become a HUGE believer in the power of day trips and staycations as a way of exploring my backyard, and I use just about any and every occasion – birthdays, long weekends, anniversaries, etc. – as an excuse to take them. Apart from the fact that these local trips give me something to look forward to on just about a monthly basis, in this post, I’m highlighting some other benefits of quick, local getaways and why you should be prioritizing them!
1. Backyard Travel is Affordable
Our 3-week trip to Europe this past March was the most recent big trip that Jave and I took abroad, and despite our relatively cheap roundtrip airfare to/from Copenhagen on Norwegian Air (approx. $650/person from LAX), the rest of our trip was anything but cheap!
I know that some travelers are content to travel to a destination and limit themselves to a miniscule budget, stay in subpar hotels, and eat at McDonald’s without really taking part in activities and tours that give them real insight into the local culture. To each his own. Don’t get me wrong – Jave and I definitely travel on a budget, but when we travel, we enjoy stays in nice accommodations, eating fairly well, and exploring the local culture by visiting museums and galleries, taking specialized tours, and the like. While I’m well aware that most destinations have a plethora of free tours and activities to take advantage of – and trust me, we do! – I don’t mind paying for certain experiences if they’ll enhance my understanding of the local culture, especially when we’re pushed for time in a particular destination. But the cost of airfare, transportation, nice hotels, great dining, and cultural activities can quickly add up and deplete our travel budget if we don’t plan carefully – especially when traveling to a place like Europe where the currency is so strong.
One of the greatest things about backyard travel is that it’s so much more affordable than traveling abroad. While I never have any regrets about the money we invest in our travels, it goes without saying that local getaways are a perfect way to get our travel fix without the high expense. For example, our recent weekend getaway to Borrego Springs and the Salton Sea cost a bit over $200 for our hotel, food, and gas. In exchange for about $200, we got to explore a part of California that we’d never been to, and in many ways, the experience was just as foreign as exploring a new country.
2. No One Should Know Your Backyard Better than You
When out-of-towners come to visit us in L.A., they usually want to see a few key sites and neighborhoods: Beverly Hills including Rodeo Drive, Hollywood, Venice Beach, and of course, Disneyland. I totally get it – I certainly wouldn’t go to Paris for the first time without visiting the Eiffel Tower or Champs-Élysées. As tourists, we often want to see for ourselves the sites and places of interest that make a destination famous. But as locals, shouldn’t we be digging deeper into our backyards? In addition to the popular sites, shouldn’t we also be able to point out the more offbeat places of interest to those visiting our turf?
Absolutely! But to do so requires you to become intimately familiar with your own backyard. Since I was born in L.A. and have lived here for the majority of my life, I often say that I know my city like the back of my hand. But then I venture into unfamiliar neighborhoods, and I quickly realize that I still have a lot to learn. Living in a city as big and diverse as L.A. means that my process of discovering and rediscovering restaurants, galleries, local events, and the like is never ending.
But what if you live in a small town? Well, perhaps you’ll need to redefine the boundaries of your backyard and include other nearby cities and towns in your quest. My guess is that no matter where you live, there’s probably a path you have yet to hike, a bar you have yet to try, or a festival that you still haven’t attended. Chances are that you still have a lot of local exploring to do!
3. You’ll be Amazed at What You Find
Once you start digging into your backyard, you’ll probably be amazed by what you find. I recently discovered that Union Station in downtown L.A. has all sorts of cool works of art, and not too long ago, I got to see what all of the hype is about at a certain boutique hotel on the beach in Santa Monica. Who knew?! And I had no idea that horse racing could be so fun or that L.A. has a funicular in the heart of downtown until I made it a priority to experience the Santa Anita Race Track and Angels Flight, respectively – two of my city’s oft overlooked gems – for myself. During a day trip outside of L.A., I discovered that Carpinteria, a small beach town that most Southern Californians drive right past on the US-101 en route to Santa Barbara, is actually a visit worthy destination in and of itself. Indeed, the places that you’ll discover during your local explorations will more than likely amaze you and you’ll find yourself wondering why you didn’t make an effort to visit sooner.
4. The Sustainability Factor
When Jave and I travel abroad, we make a conscious effort to stay at accommodations, eat at restaurants, and take tours owned and operated by locals. Apart from volunteering for local organizations, supporting local businesses is a key way to promote sustainable tourism. Likewise, being backyard tourists contributes to the sustainability and health of our economies at home.
5. Backyard Travel Holds You Over ‘Til Your Next Big Trip
As I mentioned earlier, without exploring my backyard in between bigger trips, I’m pretty certain that I’d lose my mind. For the time being, we’re only able to take up to a few big trips abroad each year, and until that changes, our local journeys reassure me that travel is still alive and well in our lives.