I spend a large amount of time pawing over travel sites and blogs, studying articles about various overseas destinations that spike my interest. And while I hope to watch the Northern Lights from an igloo hotel in Finland one day, I am also realistic about the financial implications of undertaking such a trip. There is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing a destination on an internet video montage (usually always Bora Bora), doing the sums and realising that if you start saving straight away and sell the rights to your future children, you can probably reach your goal by the year 2082.
All is not lost though, and the answer is closer to home than you think.
Local travel is the perfect solution. Too often, people are more interested in finding international destinations to visit than a local gem within driving distance of their home. Some know more about the markets of Thailand, the bars of New York and have visited more national parks in foreign countries than in their own.
Use Australia as an example.
From where I live in south eastern Australia there are 9 easily accessible national or state parks and nature reserves. Of these 9 I have visited under half and none of my own free will- definitely not for leisure. Generally I was being paid as an outdoor leader or it was part of my university studies. In the state of Victoria alone there are 70 national or state parks that people can visit, of which I can only recognise 50 per cent by name and far less from memory.
I’ll go on.
Australians have 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites at their disposal, including the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu National Park. Granted, the great outdoors aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (two sites are located offshore on remote islands), so the beauty of the above list is that of the 19 listed sites, at least three are cultural and two, the Sydney Opera House and Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, can be found within the ‘safe’ confines of major cities.
I’ll go on.
Every travel guide has a section dedicated to the culinary delights each area is famous for and suggests the best drinking holes where someone can wet their whistle. It’s no secret that I enjoy a drink or two. If it has an alcohol percentage, chances are I’ve had a sip or at the very least considered it. That being said, there are at least 32 wineries that have open cellar doors within 40 minutes (roughly) of my house. I have been to 2. There are also a few of craft breweries within easy driving distance but I can only tell you what one of them is like. This doesn’t make me a bad alcoholic; it makes me a bad local. Some of the best wine regions in Australia are located only a couple of hours from major cities. You do not have to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy a wine tour.
I’ll expand on my theory.
How many times have you been overseas and were willing to sit on an old, shitty bus with no suspension and leather seats that you stick to, for four hours or more just to get to a new destination for a few days? You tell yourself that it’s ‘uncomfortable and long’ but worth it because ‘you get to experience something new’; the travellers mantra. Now think about every time you have complained about a car trip at home. The beach might only be two hours away but the common attitude is that it’s too far to bother. People are happy to travel halfway around the world to look at a mountain but can’t be bothered to travel two hours at home to swim at a beach, river or lake.
Think about where you live and do some quick research. I’ll bet my left foot there are plenty of things to see and do that you have dismissed based solely on the “I can do it anytime” principle of local travel or, even worse, you never knew they existed.
I don’t want to offend the locals that do take pride and regularly visit their own backyard before going into someone else’s. Plenty do and hats off to them. With a little bit of effort, local travel can reveal parts of your own country that are affordable and at times more beautiful than any other place in the world. It just feels like we take a lot for granted at times and place higher value on visiting other countries whilst at the same time dismissing our own. For example, as an Australian I’ve never seen the Great Barrier Reef, yet I have snorkelled the islands of Thailand. I have visited Vietnam twice but never been to Tasmania, a state in my own country (half of which seems to be a World Heritage site) or far North Queensland. I’ve gone on a skiing holiday to the slopes of New Zealand but have never skied the resorts in New South Wales, a darn sight closer than flying over the Tasman. It’s a common oversight that can be made.
I have written about this topic before and I don’t mean for this to sound like a paid endorsement for Tourism Australia (though I wouldn’t knock them back if they felt the need to flick me a few dollars) but sometimes when details are highlighted so obviously they can be more compelling.
The notion of local travel is transferable to wherever a person comes from; be that Australia or not. Don’t be afraid to take a local trip once in a while- it’ll be worth it.
I asked a friend of mine recently if he would like to come to Borneo with me. He thought about it long and hard but came to the following conclusion, “I would normally love to but a mate has offered me the opportunity to spend three weeks travelling far north Australia with him. I can’t pass up an opportunity like that to see a part of my own country that I have always wanted to see.”
That is the type of attitude people need to have towards local travel.
Wayward Tip: If you can’t afford that big trip overseas, tick off some places in your own country instead. The world won’t come to an end, planes won’t drop from the sky and a zombie apocalypse won’t take over the Earth.