Wow, 2020 was an interesting year. And 2021 hasn’t been that different for me so far! In a normal year I usually can’t wait to head off abroad, but with the pandemic raging on I don’t feel comfortable even trying to travel to another country until things get more under control. When I could, in 2020 I embraced local travel and was amazed at the trips I enjoyed in my own country. From staycations to road trips, campervanning and just staying home, these are some of the reasons why you should travel locally (when it is safe).
How Do I Define Local Travel
There are, of course, lots of different ideas as to what local travel is. In the UK we are currently under a strict lockdown, which bans any unnecessary travel, and means that we can’t go anywhere outside of 5 miles from our homes. That is certainly keeping it local!
Each country has its own regulations during this crazy pandemic; some countries have a strict lockdown, other places don’t recommend travel and many countries have closed their borders. Whether you are confined to your home or if you can explore your own city or country, keeping it local is certainly a good idea to hopefully get the pandemic under control.
To me, local travel can extend to anywhere within your own country – at least for the purposes of this article. So that’s the local part, but what about the travel part?
Many of the things I love about travel might seem like they need to be in a foreign country – meeting new people, learning about new cultures, trying new food, but in most cases you can have a real travel experience right on your doorstep – if you know how.
11 Ways to Enjoy Local Travel Experiences
For me, travel is all about doing something new. And while you may have lived in your hometown for years, I guarantee there is still lots to discover! Simply walking down a different street, trying a new restaurant or visiting a museum can give you a taste of travel in your home town. These are my favourite ways to travel locally:
Try Something New Every Week
If lockdown has taught me anything it is how bored I get with routine. Every day doing the same thing over and over certainly gets on my nerves! So, try something new. It might be something small like taking a new route on your daily walk, or getting takeout from a new restaurant.
Look up an artist from a local area and check out their work, or find a local musician and listen to their music. Depending on how strict the rules are in your area, choose a new museum or art gallery to visit. What local attractions does your town have that tourists love, but that you haven’t been to yet? You might be surprised at what you find!
Buy a Local Map
One of the things I love doing is studying maps. I usually use Google maps to explore cities and towns when I’m travelling, zooming into streets to see what cafes, restaurants and attractions are listed and choosing somewhere new to go. Even in my hometown there are plenty of new places to explore. Paper maps are useful so you can see the whole town at the same time, although the trees will thank you for saving paper and using an app!
I also love to take walks around the countryside to get some exercise and to see nature and natural attractions away from the city. In the UK, Ordnance Survey maps are the best as they show every footpath and public right of way down to the minute details. You can even create your own map which centres on your postcode, so you can see everything that is around your home.
Ordnance Survey also have an app, which you can customise to focus on your own postcode. There is a monthly subscription fee if you only want access for a short time, or a yearly fee which gives you 12 months of access.
Use Your Camera Skills
Tourists are known for snapping photographs of everything, and it is amazing what you when you have a camera in hand. I love taking my camera (or phone) out on a walk with me, as I pay much more attention to my surroundings. Are there beautiful buildings you can take a picture of? Cute animals? Colourful flowers? Seeing familiar surroundings through a camera lens gives you a unique perspective, so you can feel like a tourist in your own town.
Check Out Your Local Tourist Information
To experience thinks like a visitor, check out what your tourist board suggests to visitors. Take a look at their website, Instagram and social media pages for inspiration. They will have information on local attractions, museums, walks, restaurants and basically anything you can think of.
Some of the attractions might be closed due to COVID restrictions, but there should be plenty on there to give you some ideas.
Join Local Groups
A fabulous source of inspiration are local groups either on Facebook or in real life. Specific hobby groups which have an interest in hiking, bird watching or various other activities can be a great way to do new things and meet new people.
Meeting new people is one of the best things about travel, so meeting people in your home town gives you the best of both worlds – a new experience and the chance to make new friends.
When I moved to a new city in the UK I joined City Socializer and Meet Up to meet people to go for dinner, to the cinema or join a pub quiz for example, although you may not be able to do those things now, a lot of activities are now done online so it is still worth checking out!
READ MORE: How to Make Friends in a New City
Volunteer in Your City
Some people love to give back when they travel, perhaps volunteering abroad or doing a work exchange. However, we often overlook who might need support in our own backyard. It may not be the glamourous beach trip you had in mind, but doing something to help your local community is much more rewarding. Working in food banks, delivering food, medecines and supplies to vulnerable people or teaching online classes are just some examples of how you can get involved.
For me, food and travel go hand in hand, and I love eating local food and drink wherever I am, so why not at home? There may be food tours of your local town to help you uncover new places or dishes, or if you are on lockdown there are lots of online cooking classes available on Airbnb Experiences, although they are from all over the world. For local recipes from your own country, have a look online for traditional recipes, local producers and farms which make speciality products for inspiration.
We get a vegetable box delivered every week from a local restaurant which had to close its doors to their usual customers, and decided to deliver boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables instead. We’ve found lots of new recipes this way, there are some imaginiative ways to use up cabbage I can tell you!
If cooking isn’t your style, then get a takeaway from a local restaurant or order some fresh produce online from a local cheesemonger, delicatessan or bakery. As for drinks, check out local breweries, wineries and distilleries in your area and order some of your favourite tipple to wash down the tasty food!
Take Day Trips
Once you’re happy you have explored your own town to its full potential, if restrictions allow then you can start to look further afield. Day trips are a wonderful way to explore places that are close to home, but far enough away to be a complete change of scene.
I hadn’t realised that I live quite so close to the Cotswolds but having looked at a map I now know that within an hour I can be exploring the cute little villages and beautiful scenery and return home that same day.
Book a Staycation
Staying in a hotel in your home town might seem odd, but a change of scene can work wonders if travel restrictions allow you to do that. Check out Airbnb for self-catering accommodation from cosy cottages to sleek apartments and luxury flats or find an independent hotel. Small, independent accommodation providers will be very glad to see you!
Stay for one night or two, perhaps for a special occasion or celebration. Then, behave as you would in any new city. Go for a stroll in the neighbourhood, check out the restaurants and local attractions and enjoy your mini-break!
Plan a Road Trip
Road trips are my new favourite way to travel. In 2020 I bought a campervan, Mabel the Motorhome, and loved exploring new places from the safety of my own van, complete with bed, toilet, shower and cooking facilities.
Being self-contained while still exploring new places was a great way to see more of England, although quite different to how I used to travel! Whether you have a car, campervan, caravan or RV, a road trip gives you the independence to travel without relying on planes or public transport timetables. Check out these essential tips for campervan beginners to help you get started!
Explore Your Own Country
Once our lockdown is over, I will be heading out in the campervan to explore more of England. While usually I’d be planning trips abroad, this year I am all about home-grown adventures. All of the suggestions above can be used to explore your home town, region or country (as long as it is safe to do so).
I am planning an epic road trip all around the coast of England, so even if you can’t head out yet you can start to plan for when you can. I’ll be doing some of my favourite activities like wandering the streets of towns, trying local dishes and going for walks in the countryside. While it isn’t my usual style of travel, I certainly have a new-found appreciation for travel in my own country. I hope you do too!
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Why You Should Visit the North of England
Still not convinced that local travel is for you? Before you book that plane ticket abroad, check out these reasons why you should travel locally – even in a normal year!
7 Reasons Why You Should Travel Locally
Of course, this year the pandemic is why most of us have been restricted to local travel, if anything at all. Reducing any travel and not going anywhere that could put you or other people at risk is vital, but that isn’t the only reason why I recommend local travel. After exploring more of my own country in 2020 than ever before, I now see why it is so amazing!
To Appreciate Your Own Country
In the past 17 years since I’ve been taking solo trips, most of the time I couldn’t wait to go abroad. The desire to travel the world, see new places and go on incredible adventures meant I was always looking to countries that were hundreds or thousands of miles away. However, last year I realised just how wonderful my own country is.
I think it is human nature, certainly for travel lovers, that we want to explore new places. The saying “The grass is always greener on the other side” shows that as humans, we are always looking to go elsewhere as things seem better anywhere but in our own back yard.
But there are still so many places I haven’t been to in my own country that this year I am going to stay in England to explore some of them, once lockdown is lifted. When you think about how many tourists visit your own country, there must be something there worth visiting!
To Find Hidden Gems
Oh that old travel cliché, the hidden gem. Most hidden gems you read about are no longer hidden (as someone is writing about them!), and with a short trip somewhere you are unlikely to really find anywhere that is truly undiscovered. However, the more time you spend exploring your own neighbourhood, city, or country, the more chance you have of uncovering somewhere really special.
To Support Local Businesses
Every single destination all over the world has suffered from a decrease in tourist spending during the pandemic, and our local, independent shops, restaurants and tour guides need every penny we can spend with them.
To Save Money
This does depend on where you live, as some cities are crazy expensive. However, when you factor in the cost of flights or hotels that you don’t need if you are sticking to within an hour or two of home, it really is a no-brainer.
To Protect the Environment
The closer you stay to home, the less carbon emissions you use getting where you’re going. You might be able to walk or cycle to your destination, take public transport or a short drive to get there. All of which are much better for the environment than a gas-guzzling aeroplane.
When you travel locally, you don’t have to worry about bringing your passport, about getting visas, changing currency or trying to speak another language. You know the culture, norms and laws of your own country, so the whole travel experience is much easier.
To Travel More
When you spend all of your hard-earned cash and holiday allowance on a two-week trip to some exotic destination, I certainly miss travel during the rest of the year, no matter how fabulous those 2 weeks are! When you travel locally, you can take day trips and weekends away to maximise your travel throughout the year.
Have I convinced you to travel locally this year? Have you had any amazing local travel experiences to share? Do let me know, I’d love to hear about your local travel adventures!
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Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you! I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: February 15, 2021