In all our travels around the world and our quest to discover new countries and all the amazing sights, sounds and experiences we are privileged with along the way, how much of our own country do we leave unseen and undiscovered?
When people think of travel or taking a gap year, they generally think of tropical beaches in south east Asia, dancing in carnivals in Rio De Janeiro or uncovering fascinating cultures and cuisines in India or China.
But travel is much more than that.
Travel is simply about exploring somewhere new, and you don’t always have to travel half way around the world to do that.
My own country of England and the United Kingdom for example has had a magnificent run of world class cultural and sporting events over the last 18 months, and I have been lucky to be able to see and experience some of it. With the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, the Royal wedding and the Diamond Jubilee just for starters, England has been a non stop celebration over 2012 and 2013, and the Visit Britain campaign has been in full swing, promoting our rich natural history and heritage.
But it isn’t just the national celebrations and spectacular events. The UK has some of the most spectacular scenery, a ton of award winning beaches and amazing coastlines in the world, but a lot of it is understated, hidden away. National parks like the Lake District and the South Downs are consistently named as some of the best in the world, the coastline and beaches of Wales and Cornwall are always on top 10 lists of world beaches. The UKs national heritage is second to none, and it is filled with everything from traditional seaside towns and museums to ancient castle ruins and spectacular cathedrals.
All of these reasons have led to a huge rise in people choosing to stay at home for their holidays instead. That is if the statistics from the travel companies are to be believed of course. I don’t just mean people taking that annoyingly persistent part of the new travel lexicon, – the staycation – that some braniac at an advertising firm thought of, I mean actually having a real holiday, a series of days out or a real weekend or week or so away in your own country.
Economically this makes sense. The recession has hit everyone hard and not everyone can afford to take the time or has the immediate funds to go on extended backpacking trips around the world at the moment. This isn’t helped by the constantly mind boggling flight prices pushed up by rising fuel costs and ridiculously punitive taxes.
When you have little money to spare, taking advantage of the local tourist attractions instead of taking a short holiday or snap year in another country seems increasingly attractive. This surge in people travelling in their own country has meant sharp falls in profits for high street travel agents and airlines, and this trend sees no sign of abating any time soon either.
Of course it isn’t as easy as that in Western society. Britain is still one of the most expensive countries in the world, with extremely high accommodation, transport and general costs. It has been a long held truth in the UK that it is actually often considerably cheaper to fly abroad than it is to have a day out! A recent day trip to a local zoo cost close to £100 GBP with transport, admission fees, food and everything else! I could have a week in Thailand for that! Minus the cost of getting there of course. The same is true for any Western developed country, Europe, the USA, Australia, wherever you are from it is hard to deny that we live in expensive countries. That is one of the reasons backpacking to places like South East Asia, Africa or South and Central America has been so attractive to many of us for a long time.
But by travelling for short weekends or weeks away in your own country – especially in an area relatively local to you – or by having a string of days out near our own home and taking advantage of free or cheap attractions such as museums or world heritage sites, you can save a lot of money too, especially when you consider you haven’t forked out for flights, insurance and everything else associated with backpacking. This is a really good option if you can’t afford the whole lump sum payout of getting to your backpacking destination or you want to satiate your travel desire slightly whilst you are saving up.
But it isn’t all about money either, it is about enjoying the country you live in as a backpacking destination as much as the places you visit on your wild and varied travels. How many times have we all arrived in a place, usually a stunning tropical beach or a nice, laid back town and though ‘it would be really nice to stay and live here’? If you’re anything like me it will be a lot, but guess what? People have probably thought that about your own country too, and guess what? You already live there!
The UK has some amazing places to see and visit that are often overlooked by people who live here, after all so many tourists come here every year to see the sights that are essentially just a short bus or train ride away for us. The same is true for whatever country you happen to live in. Australia, America, Europe, how many of your local or semi local attractions have you seen or taken advantage of as you dream of flying off to somewhere exotic? As someone who is very proud of the fact I have travelled to so many amazing countries, I am almost slightly embarrassed to admit there are still a few significant places in my own country I have yet to see.
There are so many wonderful and amazing attractions and experiences within easy reach, it is so easy to overlook them as you dream of those exotic far flung destinations. Of course backpacking the world will always have its obvious attractions and benefits, and of course I will never stop my quest to discover new locations and different cultures, but it is also nice to take a little time out once in a while to explore my own back yard too.
A recent long weekend off and some great weather has been the ideal opportunity for me to do just that. An unexpected chance to take in a few sights I have never seen before and even rediscover a few attractions I have not seen in a long time.
“It was THIS big! Honest!”
So if you have the urge to go travelling or backpacking, but don’t quite have the time or the money to do so at the moment, or maybe you are saving up for your big gap year adventure and just want to do a little travelling to sate your wanderlust, then exploring the sights and attractions of your local area may be just the answer you are looking for.
Grab a guide book for your own country and look at the top 10 or 20 things to see and do, how many of them have you actually seen and done? What’s stopping you?
Get a train or a cheap coach ticket to a town or city close to you that you have never visited before and book yourself into a cheap place to stay, see the glorious United Kingdom through a tourists eyes.
It is much easier for you to jump in a car or get a train than it is for a tourist to fly half the way around the world. So if they can see it, why can’t you?
Did you enjoy this article? Have you ever taken a staycation? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.