Sometimes the bank account runs dry, we use all our vacation time for a family emergency and we can't pack the kids up for a week away. But we can all use a break every once in awhile, and it's important that we unplug and get away-even if it is just in our own backyard.
Many people think that traveling requires a plane ride, passport and extended time away from home, but this isn't the case. I am frequently surprised by the number of people who say they haven't visited the sites in their own cities, counties or states. "There will always be time to see the place I live," they say.
I'm a self-proclaimed travel freak, but I can't always be on the road. That doesn't mean I ever stop traveling. To me, travel is a way to explore the world … and the world definitely doesn't stop at the entrance to my neighborhood. I'm not a fan of the word "staycation," which, to me makes it sound like you never leave the house. Rather, I prefer to think of my local adventures as a way to explore those things beyond my normal around-town routine.
With this in mind, every couple weeks or so, I make it a point to venture beyond my driveway to new and unknown places in my hometown. This may mean hitting up a local festival or fair, eating a meal in a new restaurant or taking a walk through a different part of town.
If you, too, would like to explore your backyard, here are six ideas to get you started:
1. Check the listings for your local library for author visits and seminars. This is also a great place to find activities for children, including puppet shows, family-themed reading days and storytelling hours.
2. Find classes at your community center, if your town has one. From cooking to kickboxing, these fun classes allow families to interact with each other for a relatively small fee.
3. Enjoy a local concert instead of taking in a big-name show on the road. For only a few bucks a person (or often nothing at all), you can listen to hours of music ranging from folk guitar and local symphonies to blossoming young rock bands. Find these performances in your local parks, in cafes, or at a local college or university.
4. Local theatre productions put on by children's theatres and community show groups are a good alternative to big-city or traveling productions-and they cost significantly less. Many dance companies hold choreographer showcases and off-season recitals, and you may also be able to find summer film festivals of old classics.
5. Pick up the free arts and culture publications that are stacked in the entranceway to your grocery store and favorite local restaurant to find out about local festivals and celebrations. Throughout the summer months and into early autumn, it is common to find gatherings of artists decorating sidewalks with chalk, making jewelry, sculpting and painting. Strike up a conversation with any of these artists, and you'll often find they can suggest similar local events or galleries you might enjoy. Some community festivals extend beyond a single event and encompass parades, pet shows and sampling homemade goodies.
6. Enjoy the great outdoors with an exploration of your community parks as well as any state or national parks located nearby. Picnic, hike, swim and play in the miles of free space offered in your neighborhood. Recreation clubs or sports stores may offer classes on new outdoor experiences, such as kayaking and rappelling. State and national parks have the added bonus of guided hikes, on-site museums and nature programs designed specifically for kids.
Even if you're a strong believer in "traditional" travel-the kind that requires a plane ticket and suitcase-once you've discovered the secrets of and fallen in love with your own backyard, you may never yearn for a vacation away again.