5 Reasons You Should be Exploring Your Own Backyard

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 ridiculously affordable and gorgeous hotel room in Borrego Springs
Our ridiculously affordable and gorgeous hotel room in Borrego Springs

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

Catching a few games at Angels Stadium in Anaheim has become our summertime tradition
Catching a few games at Angels Stadium in Anaheim has become our summertime tradition

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?

Jave discovering a new golf course at Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes - his idea of a perfect day
Jave discovering a new golf course at Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes – his idea of a perfect day

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.

Jave's first time on the ice at the Toyota Sports Center near home - this center is where the L.A. Kings and the L.A. Lakers practice
Jave’s first time on the ice at the Toyota Sports Center near home – this center is where the L.A. Kings and the L.A. Lakers practice

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

Earlier this summer, we went to the Pow Wow Festival at Pechanga Resort & Casino out in Temecula - our first time there
Earlier this summer, we went to the Pow Wow Festival at Pechanga Resort & Casino out in Temecula – our first time there

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

Antiques at the Barn - a cool antiques shop in Lancaster
Antiques at the Barn – a cool antiques shop in Lancaster

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

Middle of Nowhere, CA - scenery en route to Borrego Springs
Middle of Nowhere, CA – scenery en route to Borrego Springs

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.



Do you prioritize backyard travel?

  • I love this post for so many reasons Dana and I couldn’t agree more with you about how important it is to know your own backyard. When I came to live permanently in Australia, I made a point of walking the streets of the city and discovering the city. Also, I went for many day trips. It’s so important to understand and know where you live. This year, hubby and I haven’t had the opportunity to travel overseas but we decided to go instead for many week- ends away. It was great and so refreshing.

    • Dana Carmel

      It’s true that local trips are very refreshing because they not only hold you over until your next trip, but they help you to see your own backyard with fresh eyes.

  • Shame on me, but I have not explored my own hometown properly this summer. I totally agree with you though that it’s very affordable and can be a great learning experience.

    • Dana Carmel

      Well now that Amsterdam/The Netherlands is your back yard, I’m sure that you’ll find lots to explore. 🙂

  • So true, I love finding out about the beautiful places in the English countryside that surrounds where I live. Great post!

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Becky. You’re so lucky to have the English countryside as your backyard! 😉

  • I can relate to this. After my adventures last year, I will need to sit out for a while. I hope to continue my explorations next year. In the meantime, I will have to spend more time out in nature and maybe learn to relax. Ha! Not a chance…

    • Dana Carmel

      Hahaha – I definitely have a hard time “sitting still” too, Eduardo. But reconnecting with nature is a great way to do just that. Hopefully you’ll be sharing more of what you discover in your backyard on your blog.

  • I love discovering new places that are close to home – definitely the only thing that keeps me sane between trips abroad! Great post!

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Catherine. It’s good to know that you also believe in exploring your backyard. It’s something that’s really easy to take for granted.

  • You’re very right when you say that backyard travel can hold you over. I’ve had a great summer of travel but I don’t have much unrelated to family type trips in a while – so I can see looking for deals and making plans to get me through November and December.
    I stayed at the Terranea Resort last December and wish it could have been for longer. What a lovely place. Also enjoyed exploring Venice and some of the hikes nearby.

    • Dana Carmel

      Leigh, you’re the queen of backyard travel. It seems that you’ve explored every nook and cranny in Canada! 😉

  • I was guilty of not exploring the backyard as much as l should have in Houston. I did a little bit more in L.A. My backyard was literarily Universal Studios for years. I loved watching them film while we had breakfast etc..I had the season pass, and for disturbing the neighbors, we always got packs of free parking vouchers etc. to the studio. Temecula, P.S, etc..nice little trips..great post!

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Kemkem. It would definitely be cool to watch a film being made from the comfort of your breakfast table. Gotta love L.A. for that! I think it’s easy to take our backyards for granted. I’ve always taken little getaways here and there around L.A. and to nearby cities, but I only really started digging deeper last year.

  • Great post, Dana! I’m guilty of not exploring my backyard first. That’s why for the rest of the year I’ve no scheduled international trips. I’ll focus first on the Philippines for a change. 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Aleah! From your posts, I’m always amazed at just how much there is to see and do in the Philippines, so I’m sure that exploring your backyard will definitely keep you busy for awhile.

  • You make some very valid points there. I feel the same way about wanting to know my “backyard” better than an ‘outsider’! I’ve felt more inclined to do so since I’ve lived abroad. It’s like I’ve finally realised, it’s a destination too. Just like you said, sometimes an area can be so new to me, it almost feel like a foreign place. You’re right: I still have a lot of local exploring to do!

    • Dana Carmel

      Glad that you’ve realized that your backyard is a destination. I would love to live in a place like Belgium! I’m sure that there are so many interesting and offbeat places right at your fingertips. I’d love to read posts from you about your backyard. 🙂


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