Traveling abroad is on a lot of people’s bucket list – the desire for new experiences, cultures, people, and places. We get it, it’s the best! And honestly, when we think of “travel” here at Middleton & Company, that’s where our minds instinctively go to first.
But now that we have small children, we’ve also started rallying around the idea of exploring our own country in new ways too, like indulging in staycations, taking more short weekend trips within a smaller radius from home, and trying out new modes of transportation. Domestic travel is also perfect for anyone with an itch for exploration but may be constrained by a busy workload, limited time, or a smaller travel budget.
So here’s to getting out there and exploring the country you live in!
Seeing your familiar surroundings with fresh eyes and perspective
It’s easy to become complacent and perhaps even bored of your daily surroundings. You may feel like you’ve ‘seen it all’ already… or maybe you’re just in desperate need to shake up your normal routine a bit.
Think about it this way: consider how much more you see when you walk somewhere rather than drive; you start noticing little details – like new restaurants that have recently opened or a For Sale sign out front of a house you’ve always admired in your neighborhood – that you just didn’t see before because you were either on autopilot or moving too quickly past it (or both!). Maybe it’s not really about changing the place itself, but rather switching up how you move through the place.
If the thought of regional travel sounds boring to you, think again! It all comes down to perspective and appreciation. After all, where you live is an international travel destination for someone else!
And playing tourist in your own backyard can be a great reminder of why you chose (and continue to choose) to live there and what brings other people there to visit.
If you’re in need of a break from the typical routine, and you don’t want to go very far (or spend a ton of time on a plane), here are our top tips for creating an amazing experience:
Be a tourist…at home
There are some things we all just love about international travel – the new and different food, the excitement of getting lost on public transportation, striking up a conversation with the locals unexpectedly. But guess what, if your city is anything like ours, all these things can be done right where you are!
We tend to get stuck in our rituals. We frequent our usual restaurants, we have our go-to activities with our regular group of friends. We don’t go to certain parts of the city because we don’t like driving that far or getting stuck in traffic. It’s all relatively predictable, which can lead to boredom over time. But it doesn’t have to!
Rather than going all the way to France or Patagonia for wine tasting, check out the local wineries in your area. Take the tour through the vineyards, try out their wine flights, and indulge in their recommended pairings. If wine isn’t the local drink of choice, no problem! Try out the local coffee or tea houses, breweries, distilleries, whatever suits your fancy.
Or let’s say you still talk about the cooking class you took in Thailand a few years back. Well, see if you can’t replicate a similar experience with your local ingredients as part of a food tour or a regional cooking class.
Or maybe you’re on the complete other end of the spectrum and you’re just dying for someone else to cook for you for once? Maybe consider staying at a local bed and breakfast for a long weekend, or even better, hire a private chef to cook for you in your own home!
And finally, consider moving through your city in a different way than you normally do. Try riding your bike to work for a week, or zoom through the streets on a rented scooter. Or take a ride on your local public transportation if you usually drive in your car. Or test out a fat tire bike…consider all the things that you usually like to do on your trips abroad and see how you might be able to do them at home.
By separating locations from the activities you love, you may be able to identify some extraordinarily fun things that don’t require you to hop on a plane for.
Vacation is a mindset, not necessarily a place.
Create a travel radius
Once you’ve exhausted all the cool things to do in your own city, expand your radius a bit to include your overall region. But clearly define how far (either in distance or time) you are willing to go first.
Road trips are an amazing way to see your home country with a new perspective. You can take the scenic highways and go through small towns that you typically fly by on the freeway. They also give you the flexibility to go at your own pace, take spontaneous side trips, and stop when you need to.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve added to our bucket list taking a few weeks to travel around the Pacific Northwest in a luxury camper van or a high-end camping trailer, like the Mantis. A camper van means less setup and takedown than traditional tent camping, you can still get outdoors, and you get the added bonus of taking your accommodations with you.
With little ones, sometimes the vacation part doesn’t actually start until you arrive at your destination. Getting there can sometimes mean a lot of work. So instead of spending a bunch of time doing the not-fun part of travel, we’ve started trying to make travel itself part of the experience!
Travel by plane, but avoid the layovers
Another one of our favorite ideas is to see how far away we can get by plane without needing a layover. This is a great option if you want to get a little bit further from home without having to spend time behind the wheel.
We can get somewhere a thousand miles away in about the same time it takes us to drive from Portland to Seattle! We’ve gotten it really dialed-in too: we save time by parking in the short-term parking garage at the airport (it can actually be cheaper than getting an Uber to and from, believe it or not!), we use our TSA-precheck to go through security, and we take just our carry-ons to avoid waiting for bags on the other end. Just like that, we’re off and away!
When we need some inspiration, we like to search airline route maps and see all the nonstop flights out of our local airport (we typically fly out of the Portland International Airport). If it’s a quick trip we’re aiming for, we narrow our search to an evening flight on a Friday afternoon and a return flight on Sunday night. It gives us the whole weekend to explore somewhere new!
From the Portland Airport, we can get as far away as Spokane, Boise, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Austin, all along the California coast, and even to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico all with one flight….so many options!
You could do the same thing with trains, buses, ferries…how far can you get from home using the time and/or distance radius you’ve defined? Think creatively!
What do you want to get out of your trip?
And just like when you plan your international travel, it’s worth thinking about what you want to get out of the experience.
For example, do you need some downtime to sit back and decompress from your normal life? If so, maybe you need a spa weekend at a nearby lodge.
Or do you want to stuff your face full of delicious food? Then maybe it’s a trip to a more metropolitan city with a handful of swanky high-end restaurants, or one that has a funky food cart culture.
Or are you in need of getting outside and breathing some fresh air to get your body moving? Then an outdoor retreat might be the ticket.
Identifying what you want to get out of your trip will help you decide how and where to plan your time away.
Change your routine
Something that makes us feel on vacations is having different routines. Maybe “vacation time” is the only time you take a train or a bus. Maybe it’s the only time you get to sleep in or actually finish a hot cup of coffee. Maybe it’s the carving out time in your schedule to be utterly unavailable to others that makes it so special.
So try spicing things up at home for a week by adopting a different routine. See if it’s just enough to make you feel brand new!
You don’t always have to hop on a 12-hour plane ride to get your travel fix. Too often we get caught up in dreaming of faraway lands and forget about all the wonderful adventures that our own home has to offer. Every place is filled with its own natural wonders, historic sites, cultural traditions, and delicious cuisine. And it’s just waiting to be discovered by you. Domestic travel gets to be a truly enriching, and stress-free experience.
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