This semester I’m taking Local Travel Writing as a special topics course for my major, Business Communication. While I’m reading articles written by famous travel writers who’ve traversed the globe — Andrew McCarthy, Rolf Potts, Pico Iyer — the big assignment for the class is my own local travel piece. I’m not going far, but the hope is that I still have memorable, meaningful experiences.
I chose to visit Alexandria, Virginia. Others in my class chose Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and St. Michaels, Maryland, to name a few. All of these locations are no farther than two hours from my university, which is just outside of Baltimore, but it’s still travel to visit them. Why? Because visiting somewhere new is travel!
Every time you walk out your door, you have the opportunity to travel — you don’t have to leave the country or visit an exotic land. Really, you just have to be open to exploring, learning and experiencing. That’s what travel is all about.
Talk to people. Ask questions. Observe.
Discover history, unique facts and special places.
Try an activity you’ve never done or a food you’ve never had.
Visit monuments and landmarks — be a tourist.
Walk, hike or bike the nearest trails and paths.
Inquire about obscure places — be a local.
These simple experiences comprise traveling because, think about it, don’t you do similar things when traveling abroad or far from home?
Travel is about what you make of it. If you take a 14-hour flight to Europe but barely step outside your hotel room or into a non-Americanized restaurant, did you truly travel?
If you take an hour drive to Alexandria and walk King Street, visit the George Washington Masonic Memorial, tour Gadsby’s Tavern, take a ghost tour, and bike the Mount Vernon Trail, then you’ve truly traveled.
You know that cliche quote “It’s about the journey not the destination”? Well, it’s a cliche for a reason. It’s not about how long it takes you to get somewhere or where you’re going; it’s about what you open yourself up to while you’re there.
Each town or city has a sub-culture that you can learn from. There will always be people and places unlike anything you’ve encountered before.
Plus, with a closer destination, you don’t have to spend as much money or time. Local travel is something you can do as often as every weekend!
Local travel has the power to change you, even if it’s just in small ways. Maybe you learn to relax and enjoy family and friends. Maybe you uncover a new location and realize that you love your state even more. Maybe you discover that you’re an amazing hiker and want to take it up as a sport.
Hopefully, you realize that even traveling less than an hour can lead to new insights.
So get out there and travel. Be open while you do — that’s the first step to taking something more than just memories back home with you.
Do you travel locally? Where have you been?