It’s easy to be cynical. My own inner cynic thought a summer of hometown travel around Nova Scotia would be the best way spend my summer generating blog content before my next big trip. At the same time, my inner wide-eyed wanderer thought there is still a lot to see, do, and learn about the place where I spend most of my life.
Operation Hometown Travel is not a “staycation,” a loathsome word which implies traveling where you live is some kind of unfortunate consolation prize for not having enough money to go further away. What I’m doing is no consolation prize, it’s deliberate, and it lets me do my favourite thing: travel.
I think hometown travel is an important habit to develop. It’s good for individuals in terms of honing their travel “skills,” but, more importantly, it has far-reaching benefits for your home community, and helping you see and appreciate where you live in a whole new way.
1. It’s economical
It’s economical, not cheap. I’m still spending on food, entrance fees, tours, and shopping. In fact, I’ve ended up spending a fair amount on the trips I’ve done so far. Just check my wine rack, it overflows after my day in Nova Scotia wine country. I don’t own a car, so I’m spending a fair amount on transportation as well. So far, I’ve found some great deals on rentals, a trend I hope continues throughout the summer. So far, I’ve only done day trips, which means I’m saving money on accommodations, but for longer trips, I’m happy to spend a night or two in some of our fantastic local accommodations. I hear there’s a bed-and-breakfast in a train caboose…
2. It’s a way to see things you’ve never seen before
Slow down to a wander and I promise, you will discover something interesting you’ve never seen before. Adult lives lack wonder and wander. We rush to work, to drop off someone somewhere, to get back and forth between places as fast as possible, usually in cars, whizzing past fascinating pieces of our community and forgotten pieces of history. Similarly, we rarely just wander around, looking at whatever there is to look at without a specific purpose.
I’m a regular walker, but this really idea struck me during my first “epic trek” to Dartmouth, where I walked through neighbourhoods normally used as commuting corridors. There were tons of small little details to amuse the eye, which you just never see flying by in a car.
3. It’s good for the local economy
This is my soapbox: live local, buy local, love local. Supporting small businesses is the best way to show your community that you believe in it – enough to put your own money into it. These businesses cater to their clientele, employ local people, build life-long relationships, and spend the money they make in the community.
Our local independent offerings in Nova Scotia are simply amazing. Retail shops full of charming people and delightful items, restaurants preparing globally-recognized cuisine using food fresh from the farm, or directly from the sea. You just can’t find those things everywhere.
When traveling, keep your eyes peeled and take advantage of what’s going on in the community. Driving along a back country road in Kings County, I saw signs for upcoming seafood chowder dinners and other community meal fundraisers. I’ve been going to firemen’s breakfasts, pancake suppers, strawberry shortcake suppers, and other community dinners my whole life. Do it. You get a fantastic, home-cooked meal, the price is unbeatable, you’ll make new local friends while supporting organizations which provide valuable services to their community.
4. It’s a travel challenge
As travelers, we acquire and develop skills that take us through our adventures – navigating, observing, composing photographs, responding to seeing something legendary. We learn to observe our surroundings to be aware of what’s going on, find the right street, capture the experience of seeing something for the first time. Frankly, it’s easy to find things new and exciting if you’ve never seen them before.
To pass time on my walks to work, I often look at something I see every single day and try to imagine what a first-time visitor would think about it. It helps me be sharp and observant, and I never run out of things to “see” in a new way.
5. If you love where you live, become its best ambassador
It’s that simple. I love where I live and I want to share the best of it.
For my hometown travel challenge, I wanted to approach trips in Nova Scotia the same way I do when going to a destination for the first time. I do a lot of research through official sources, and unofficial sources like blogs and Twitter, even my personal contacts to find out what I should see and do. I think long and hard about assembling a day’s worth of activities, not only to make itineraries that make sense, but to give people at home and away solid ideas about how to their days in Nova Scotia. Now, when I get asked what to do around Halifax or Nova Scotia, I have a lot of options to present.
Do you do hometown travel? Why is it important to you? Comment away!