Many of my generation are travellers. We have done our bit for job, country and family, and now have the time and the funds to see the world. Many of us travel to exotic locations, with cultures not remotely similar to ours, to experience all that human civilization has to offer. I’ve seriously considered joining my friends, especially where the destination offers some unique photography. But I’ve also come to realize that much of the beauty of life can be experienced right here, in the country where I live, Canada.
Canada is a huge country, with so many diverse environments, providing so many different ways of life. It has absolutely amazing landscapes, which are routinely explored by residents and visitors alike. I’ve decided that until I fully explore what’s in my own backyard, travel outside the country will probably be limited. So here are a few tips on how to get the best out of your local explorations.
The first is obvious. Visit the same tourist destinations that non-residents visit. It’s amazing to me that we don’t often sight-see at the locations near us that others visit. For me, that means downtown Toronto, the waterfront, cottage country areas in Muskoka and areas to the west along the Niagara Peninsula. How many of us can rhyme off the tourist destinations that non-residents routinely plan to visit? How many of us have those local locations in our photo collections?
Check for publications from your provincial or state authorities on vacation destinations – these are amazingly helpful. Search for images from those destinations on sharing groups like Facebook or Flickr. Even look up photo excursions to those destinations from experts who know the area like the back of their hand. It’s this latter that I’ve come to appreciate most – finding the spots that others don’t tend to discover, right in my own backyard. And of course, talk to like-minded travellers who have done it before you – word of mouth from kindred spirits is the best advice possible.
When branching out beyond day-trips, consider planning a route that will provide changing landscapes and experiences – from cities to towns to rural and untouched areas – all in the same trip. Having a variety of experiences is key to a successful local holiday, I find. I don’t necessarily want to “get away from it all” and just experience wilderness while travelling. Instead, I want to know how wilderness blends with more developed spaces. I want to see how the two co-exist, and move between them as I need to.
And the opportunity to drive rather than fly is another benefit of more local travel. While you can indeed rent a car while flying into almost anywhere, you do have more flexibility on what you can take with you if you only drive and don’t fly. I appreciate the variety of camera gear I can take with me on local trips, along with other supplies to make my time more comfortable.
Local points of contact are key to any successful trip for me, whether travelling locally or more distantly. I try to establish ahead of time the connections I need to not only feel safe, but feel informed, about any local destination. Having said that, you probably do have less to worry about in terms of local culture, since a gesture or action won’t likely be misinterpreted as something inappropriate. Access to these contacts seems easier ahead of time for local travel than for more distant travel, and I appreciate that for my planning.
Lastly, the ability to wander is much more possible for local destinations than for more distant destinations. I recently took a local trip to a destination that required about 3 hours of travel if done by the most often used routes. Instead, I told the GPS to keep me off the highways and major roads, and took 5 hours to get there, revelling in the sights along the way. I stopped when I wanted to, took photos as I wanted to, and had no pressure from an agenda or tour schedule. It was wonderful.
So don’t discount what’s around you. Include these destinations in your travel plans. Discover something you didn’t know. You’ll be amazed at what you will find.