For many, the only way to get on an adventure these days is to travel locally. And there are so many benefits of traveling locally both for the communities, for yourself, and for the small local tourism businesses.
As the travel addict I am, I have always traveled locally during weekends, no matter where I have lived. My biggest freedom has always been my car.
Not because I don’t enjoy public transport, but with limited of time in the weekends, it gives the freedom to travel off the beaten path, as well as when and where I want. It also makes it easy to get to campgrounds to save money on accommodation.
While I’ve been living in Spain, another important factor for me to have a car, is that I can’t bring my dog Ayla on buses and trains without having her in a cage. And trust me, I can’t carry an 18 kilos dog in a cage plus my own stash.
Growing up with most of my family abroad, also made me explore a lot of the “touristy” things whenever we had family visits. This is something I’ve definitely taken with me in life and that I enjoy a lot.
So while I can’t travel far, I like to travel near. There is so much to explore no matter where you live so I made this guide to make it easier for you too to travel locally wherever you live. With or without a car.
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Benefits of traveling locally
Before we look at how to travel locally, I want to highlight some of the amazing benefits of local travel. It’s always exotic to travel far away, but believe me, you can find quite so exotic experiences close to home too. Most countries are very different from place to place.
Like where I live, in Spain, I can go to the desert, to the beach, to pine forests, or to treeless mountain tops. I can explore rivers, canyons, islands, and caves. The villages in Andalusia are completely different from the villages north in the country. Architecture change and so does customs, fiestas, and traditions.
You might not have the same in your country, but I’m sure you have a lot of variety to explore if you look for it. Let’s look at the benefits of local travel.
While it might be fun to travel to another continent and different culture, there is no denying that plane tickets are expensive and the cost of travel is high.
You can save quite a lot of money by traveling locally as the travel distance is shorter. Whether you pay for petrol or the bus, it is definitely cheaper than getting to and from the airport, flights, etc.
But you can also bring food from home if you’re staying in an apartment with kitchen or a campground.
Since you know the language and the norms of your country, you are highly unlikely to be scammed too. Not a bad thing!
While you travel by land (or boat if you go to an island), you are way more eco friendly than if you travel by air. With public transport being the most eco friendly transport, you shouldn’t feel guilty about driving a car either.
There are also shared drive opportunities like BlaBlaCar in Europe, which gives you the opportunity to take passengers. That way you share the costs and the carbon emissions per person.
In need of an eco friendly backpack? Find the best ones here.
Learn about your local area
I’m sure you can still learn a lot about your local area’s history and traditions. I know I always learn new things when I’m out traveling locally.
Either because I talk to locals where I go or because I visit a museum or a landmark. Often, I visit natural areas where there are signs with information about the history, geography, flora, or fauna in the area.
You can also go on guided city tours and learn a lot from them! You might even be surprised by what you learn.
Support small local businesses
By traveling locally, you will also support small local businesses like restaurants, cafes, and museums. Especially post Covid19, they are in great need of support as international tourism isn’t the greatest.
Look for local artists and artisan shops where you go, have a chat with them about their work, and buy a new piece of art for your home or as a gift.
Choose small locally owned accommodation to make sure the money for your stay remains in the village, town, or city you’re visiting.
Discover the beauty of your own backyard
Finally, there is nothing like really discovering the beauty of your own backyard! I talk with so many people that overlook what they have at home. Think about what you like about traveling abroad and look for that in your own country.
You might not have palm trees and beaches, but you might have lakes and rivers. You might not have mountains of 5000 meters of altitude, but I’m sure you have a smaller top you can walk, unless you live in Denmark.
Denmark’s highest natural spot is actually only 170,89 meters (561 ft.) above sea level. But make sure you at least get there if you do live in Denmark!
You can Google tourist spots in your own country and check out if you have been everywhere (most likely you haven’t).
How to travel locally
There are so many places you can discover close to home no matter where you live, I’m sure there is a great variety in nature scene, many undiscovered towns and cities, and new corners of your own city you might not have explored yet.
Get on the train
One great way to travel locally is to jump on the train and see where it takes you. You can take the train for days and weeks and jump off random places.
I love to see on Google Maps where the train is heading and look up different places on the way to see if I want to explore any of them.
Getting the train is a really relaxing way to travel as you can listen to music, read a book, look out of the window, chat with other passengers, or watch a movie on your phone or tablet.
MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT:
Go on a road trip
If you prefer to take the car instead of the train, go on a road trip! Check on the map for places you haven’t been before or places you would love to revisit and make a fun road trip route across your country.
Or if you don’t want to plan too much, then don’t! Just look up places as you go, take a spontaneous turn towards a sign that seems fun, or ask the locals on the way where they recommend you visit next.
The advantage of traveling by car, is that you can leave when you want to without being attached to train times or train destinations.
As I said before, the car gives so much freedom and you can get to places really off the beaten path!
Going camping is a great and cheap way to travel locally. Some countries even allow free camping in nature which makes it a great combination with hiking or a few days at a lake. You can even do a road trip and camp different places along the way.
Camping definitely helps keeping the costs low and whether you’re at a camp ground or in nature it will really help you wind down. If you travel by car and explore different places, it gives a completely different view on your destination.
When I go camping it’s like the world around me slows down and I can really enjoy the moment as the distractions of the material world are minimized.
Go beach camping
If you have beaches in your country where you are allowed to camp, there is nothing better than beach camping!
Waking up to the waves crashing onto the beach, running down to the water in the crisp morning air jumping into the clear, cooling water.
Spending the days snorkeling, jumping from cliffs, and having a barbecue on the beach before sunset when it’s time to make a bonfire and get out the guitar for some tunes.
I know I want to go beach camping right now!
If you don’t have beach, you might have a lake with a beach or nearby forested area where you can pitch the tent.
Hit the hiking trails
I’m sure there are plenty of hiking opportunities you can explore wherever you live. It doesn’t have to be mountain tops, it could be forest hikes or coastal hikes.
Hiking is a great activity I often see people do only when traveling to far away destinations. However, the benefits of hiking are huge both mentally and physically.
Who doesn’t love to explore new spots in nature? I know I do! I don’t think there has been one single year here in Spain where I haven’t discovered one or more new hiking trails that have blown me away!
When I lived in Norway the same. So do some research, get out there, and hit those trails!
If you’re not much of an outdoorsy person, there are still plenty of things to do locally. Have you been to all the museums in your region? I’m sure you’ll find something of interest that you haven’t explored yet.
Either in the city you live in or the surrounding cities. There are so many different kinds of museums where you can learn about your country’s history and background but also about the city or place the museum is situated.
Visiting museums is also a great way to support tourism businesses.
Explore new beaches
If you live in a country with beaches, spend the summer exploring as many new beaches as possible. What I love about beaches is that they are all different and have their own charm.
Especially the ones off the beaten path, the virgin beaches that are a bit harder to get to. Search on the internet and look past the first and second page on Google and you might find some real treasures.
Discover rivers and lakes
Rivers and lakes are always a winner. Whether it’s a hot summer day or they’re capped in ice and snow in winter. I love looking at Google Maps and search for those blue spots on the map and research if they are worth visiting.
They usually are. Where the water flows, there is life. It’s dynamic and beautiful and it never fails.
In the summer months, bring your swimwear and towel and go searching for the best swimming holes!
Maybe you even have rivers that go through canyons that you can hike?
Uncover your local national parks
Do you have any national parks or nature reserves around where you live?
These are usually quite big areas and even though you’ve been there before, I’m sure you haven’t been everywhere!
Go explore, find new hidden corners that you haven’t been to before or revisit you favorite spots. It’s always good to be in nature. If you do a bit of research before you go, you might learn something new about it too.
I find that I often know very little about the places nearby. They’re just there. And I enjoy them, but as I don’t travel far to get there I hardly ever research them up front. It is definitely worth it though and since I started this blog, I have done it a lot more!
Be a tourist in your own city
If you live in a city, spend time exploring it as if it was the first time you visited. Stay in a local hostel or hotel and visit all the attractions you would have visited if you were a tourist.
Join local guided tours, visit museums, landmarks, and viewpoints. Try out new restaurants and cafes. Try your city or country’s specialties that you normally would only make at home. Visit a new neighborhood.
Talk to people you meet as you would have if you were traveling. Be curious and see your city with new eyes. It is incredible how rewarding this can be!
You could also explore the city in a different way by longboarding, rollerblading, or biking around if the city is suitable for it.
A few years ago I went longboarding around Malaga city and it was really nice to see the city from a different perspective.
By exploring your own city as a tourist, you might even find new favorite corners that you will return to.
Visit new towns and cities
I’m sure there are towns and cities you haven’t visited yet that have a lot to offer! Whether you’re into architecture, history, cafe life, food, or shopping, it’s always fun to explore a new town, village, or city.
Get a map, find out what the best tourist spots are, look for hidden treasures, and wander the back streets.
Spend time, find its charm, and enjoy!
Local travel should also be done responsibly
Remember that even though you travel locally, it’s important to practice responsible tourism. There are always different norms in different parts of the country and different cities and towns can have different rules.
As an example, when I went to Toledo earlier this year, I had to pour water over Ayla’s pee. I’ve never heard of that other places in Spain. But it was still something I did every time she sat down doing her business.
Bring a reusable water bottle
Whether you travel locally or not, a reusable water bottle is always a great way to avoid single use plastic bottles. I always bring one with me.
Tap water in Spain is safe to drink and I don’t have to filter it, but it never harms to do it. The Brita bottle is also easier to drink out of if I’m driving as I can open it with pushing the button on the lid and I don’t have to tip it to drink.
Avoid animal tourism
When traveling locally it is just as important to avoid unethical animal tourism. This could be horse carriage rides, visiting zoos, and aquariums. Some places you can ride animals as a tourist attraction and you should most likely stay away from that activity too.
If animals are exploited or asked to do things that are not natural to them so that tourists (local or not) can enjoy them, then it’s not ethical.
You can read more about unethical animal tourism and what to do instead here.
Respect the environment
If you are out exploring national parks, beaches or mountains it is natural to think about respecting the environment by staying on the marked trails, not leaving your waste behind and also pick up after others when you come over it.
But also in the cities and small towns and villages you should make an effort to keep it clean.
It is a good idea to always have a bag for rubbish in your backpack or bag so that you can store it there if it’s long until the next rubbish bin. If you are in a city where you can sort your waste, make sure you follow the guidelines.
There are also a few things you can bring with you to avoid plastic usage other than a reusable water bottle, like a metal straw and a tote bag for shopping.
While camping, try to bring as little single use plastic elements as possible. You can take plates, cups, knives, and forks from home.
Reflections on local travel
There are so many fun ways to travel locally and there is no reason not to do it as often as you can. For me, it helps to keep my wanderlust in balance when I’m “stuck at home” and I’m sure it will help you too!
Besides, there are so many positive benefits of local travel that there is no reason not to.
Let me know in the comments if you like to travel locally and if you have any other ideas than the ones already mentioned!
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