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Have you ever considered spending a weekend touring your hometown as if you were seeing it for the first time?
The travel itch is constantly scratching at my toes. I feel it when I see a friend’s photos of a sacred temple in Bali. It’s there when a “Travelzoo Top 20” trip from Toronto to New York City catches my eye. I get it every time I Skype with my brother, who’s currently living in Vancouver after a yearlong adventure in Paris.
I know, amongst a generation of millennials, I am not alone in my wanderlust.
But I also know I am not alone in the current state of my travel savings (or lack thereof).
In these moments, when the desire for voyaging is high but the cash flow is low, I am reminded of a quote a reader once shared:
“Experiencing our familiar rooms and belongings, our local supermarket and neighbourhood streets, as if we had never been there, is also travelling.” – Melanie Peter
Sometimes, hometown tourism is the perfect solution, satisfying the itch without draining the wallet.
You’ll save money.
When you take a vacation in your own city, you can choose to forgo the expensive hotel room and instead enjoy the comfort of your own bed. You can pack a lunch (or a picnic basket) with delicious treats, and then you don’t have to feel guilty about splurging for dinner at that trendy restaurant you’ve been dying to try. You can travel by foot, bike or transit, and skip payments at the pump. Not to mention, you can score deals on admission prices by using your knowledge of the area to pick up on cheap attractions. (Sometimes a bargain tip from the local newspaper or community Facebook page can go a long way).
You’ll learn more about what exists beyond your backyard.
When was the last time you read a tour guide detailing the hot spots and historical facts of your hometown? Grab a guidebook from the nearby CAA office, or borrow one from the public library. Indulge in your native attractions as if you are seeing, tasting and visiting them for the first time. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover. (And just think, you can always return to your favourite spots again next weekend!).
You’ll be forced to try new things.
When you’re a tourist in your home city, you have to be willing to get creative and try things you normally wouldn’t do. Why not book a walking or biking tour? Or try a kayaking excursion? Head to a park, museum or market you have never visited before. Challenge yourself to look beyond the main tourist attractions, and dig up the hidden gems of your city. When you’re travelling in your own town, you’ll feel inclined to stay in your comfort zone. But the best memories are often made through a willingness to draw new boundaries. Don’t be afraid to explore.
You’ll meet new people (and possibly make new friends).
It’s hard to meet new people these days. But if you’re like me and have friends living all over the country, you miss being able to pick up the phone (or walk next door) to make last minute dinner plans. Be proactive in creating opportunities to meet new people. Take the time to talk to local business owners and residents walking the streets. Ask them about their favourite spots to visit in the city.
Most importantly, try disconnecting from your smartphone. It may be more difficult to unplug when there’s a Wi-Fi connection everywhere you go, but ignoring work emails and social media updates will help you feel like you’re truly on vacation. Have real conversations. Don’t rely on a GPS to get you where you need to go – when was the last time you got lost in your hometown? Perhaps it’s for the best.
You’ll catch up on some R&R without the guilt of overspending.
Hometown tourism can bring a lot of travel excitement without the stress. You don’t have to worry about language barriers, you won’t be flying or driving for hours and you’ll rest well at night, without having to worry about locking up your valuables in a safe or double locking the door to your foreign hotel room. Plus, just think of what you can do with the money you save from travelling close to home — like saving up for a life-changing trip overseas, or you know, topping off your TFSA contribution. After all, the world really is your oyster — even when it’s on a tight budget.
Have you ever played tourist in your own city? Did you save money by staying close to home? Did you learn something new about your hometown? Share your experience in the comments below.