A round-the-world trip is no doubt very exciting. Arguably the further you go, the more unfamiliar the culture, the harder the language, the more thrilling the journey. Conversely, Americans tend to think that if you travel within your home state, you’re not really traveling. But here at Go! Girl Guides we believe that travel is a state of mind. You can go abroad with a closed mind and learn nothing, and you can drive 20 miles and change your worldview. In that spirit, here are some tips for being an active traveler at home.
Do things in your home state today, for no reason. There’s usually one excuse I hear from a Michiganian who hasn’t visited Mackinac Island, a South Carolinian who hasn’t attended the Spoleto Festival, and an Oregonian who hasn’t seen Crater Lake: they’re waiting for an out-of-town guest to provide an excuse to go. Unfortunately, this is the best way to never do it. So just go for yourself, and do it this weekend! Worst-case scenario, you end up going twice, once for you, once for the guest—what’s so wrong with that?
Do the touristy stuff. Many locals assume that “tourist attractions” are universally a waste of time. For example, gazillions of New Yorkers avoid going up the Empire State Building, because they think it would damage their street cred, but it’s one of my favorite things in the whole city. That view is downright inspirational! And unless you own a 102nd floor penthouse, going up the Empire State Building (or the Top of the Rock) is the only way to see it. Besides, once you visit the major attractions, you’ll have a greater context in which to appreciate the hidden gems.
Be a nerd about it. Maybe there’s an insecure high schooler in all of us who’d rather be cool than be a well-informed nerd, but we’re all adults here. You might learn something fascinating about your local government from touring your state capitol building. Or maybe there’s a cluster of Portuguese restaurants near your house, and you always wanted to research where they came from. Many Floridians don’t know that the Everglades are not actually a swamp, but rather a 50-mile-wide, slow-flowing river, just like many Texans don’t realize that only about 12% of their state is comprised of real desert.
Figure out what your state does best. Every state, no matter how boring it appears (Indiana, I’m looking at you!), has something to brag about. I lived in Indiana for two years and heard from dozens of locals about how bland it was, just another forgettable chunk of Middle America, but I was impressed immediately by the fall foliage. In my opinion, Indiana’s colorful autumnal leaves rival anything you’d see in New England.
Take public transit. Especially if you’re married to your car, this will instantly refresh your perspective. You’ll take a new route, you’ll notice new things, and who knows, you might meet people unexpectedly. You’d take public transit if you flew to London or Beijing, so why not do it here?
Remember your state and national parks. These unspoiled landscapes are being preserved for a good reason: they are quintessential examples of what makes the USA diversely beautiful. Plus your tax dollars are helping to maintain them, so get your money’s worth and go hiking, camping, canoeing, snowshoeing, or what have you. If you were in Argentina, you’d be reading up on Iguazú and other national parks, so bring that mindset back home.
How do you get your travel fix at home?