The idea of travel can be scary for some, and when you think about all the finer details it can be quite overwhelming. Where will you go? How will you get there? How much will everything cost? Will you have enough money to get you through your holiday? What accommodation will you use? Will it be in a good spot or will you still have to travel a fair distance to do the things you want to do? What is the public transport like at this destination or is hiring a car a better option? What do you even want to do? Will you have enough time to do it all? The questions could go on and before you know it, planning to go on a holiday just seems like too much work. It’s not by the way; I think it is completely worth it. But I can see how others may feel a bit stressed while planning their holidays, especially if you are travelling a fair distance from the comforts of your own home. So, what if I told you that it’s not necessary to travel great distances in order to have a great holiday? Ok, Let me tell you my story.
I grew up in Australia and I recently moved to Scotland where I am currently living and working. I have ‘travelled’ a tiny bit but I plan to do a whole lot more. My first memorable trip was when I was sixteen and I went to the United States for three weeks. I started on this journey alone and joined up with other people around my age planning to do the same thing. It didn’t seem like a big deal at first but now when I look back, it was a rather brave decision. It was my first time on a plane, first time in a foreign country, first time on a holiday alone! I hadn’t even lived alone yet at this stage in my life. But it all worked out well and I had a blast. I had some fabulous experiences, met some amazing people and learnt some valuable lessons. One of the biggest lessons I came across on this trip was becoming aware of how little I actually knew about my own country. As I met new people and shared stories with them, they were interested in knowing me and learning about the country I came from. They were asking me about places that I had never seen and asking me questions that I just could not answer. I knew straight away, that I needed to see more of my home land.
Skip forward a couple of years to when I am old enough to drive and now I had a road trip planned to see more of this place I called home. The main focus was to get to the big rock but Broken Hill, Adelaide, Port Augusta, and Coober Pedy were all stopping points along the way. The trip was amazing and finally I could say that I had been in Outback Australia. Again, I had some fabulous experiences and met some great people. I was able to enjoy a camel ride across the red sand to watch the sun rise over Uluru; I was able to endure the blazing sun as I hiked around Katajuta; I succeeded in climbing Kings Canyon and was rewarded with amazing views and a hidden little swimming hole to cool off in; the helicopter rides, the star gazing, learning bush skills and history from the local Aboriginal people, mining for opals, staying in underground hotels and even seeing famous locations for filming were all experiences that will stay with me forever.
On the last day in Coober Pedy before returning home, I came across some friendly people in a charming little opal shop. We started talking and I found out that they were actually from my home town, Newcastle. They had moved out to Cooper Pedy to try their hand at opal mining. They asked me about my trip. I obviously had a lot to tell them and I was excited to hear any stories they had too. I told them all about what I had experienced and they were eager to hear it all. They’re faces lit up with excitement and genuine interest in what I was telling them. I finished by asking them what they enjoyed doing around this area. Their faces became a little less bright. The man looked down with a slight look of shame on his face. The women sighed and finally said ‘we haven’t done anything yet’. I felt a little sad for them but realised that life is busy and maybe they were still settling in. I responded by saying ‘oh well, soon enough’. The man then told me that they had already been there for ten years and they hadn’t even made the drive to see Uluru yet. I couldn’t believe it. Ten years, and they hadn’t even made a day trip to see this wonder of the world. Something that I had spent days and many dollars to be able to do; they could do it in a day and with spending very little money but they still hadn’t done it yet.
As I was standing having this conversation with these people, I started to think about all the places closer to home that I had not taken the chance to visit yet. My thoughts were interrupted as the women attempted to clarify. She offered the explanation that sometimes when things are so close, people take them for granted and it doesn’t seem to be of high importance to see and do things that are so readily available. She went on further to say that they had been on holidays and overseas trips but they hadn’t taken the few hours to visit Uluru. She confirmed that it was something that they wanted to do but because it was at their fingertips, something else was always put higher on their priority list. This made me think even more. Why would someone spend months saving money to go on holidays somewhere when they could see and do things closer to home, every afternoon or weekend, spend significantly less money, and still have the option for a larger holiday at the end of the year. This way you could have a holiday every week and you wouldn’t have to slave away for so long before you could enjoy yourself.
So I bet you can guess what I did when I finally got home. I started taking advantage of everything that I had at my fingertips. I took weekend trips up and down the coast, went camping whenever I could, spent days soaking up the sun on some of the best beaches in the world (and they were only a ten minute drive away), took walks along the lake, ran through parks, splurged on eating out at local cafes and restaurants and indulged in some of the greatest food I have ever tasted, I showed interest in the local history, tried new activities and visited local attractions as often as possible. I was no longer going to work everyday waiting for the holidays to come around; every afternoon and every weekend was a holiday for me. I came to realise just how cheap it was to travel and to be a tourist in the very place you call home. This helped me make the decision to call the United Kingdom my home while I worked and travelled Europe over the next few years. I have still not done everything that I want to do in Australia, but that will eventually become my home again in the near future and I will be sure to take full advantage of what’s in my own backyard.
For now, my backyard is the United Kingdom and Europe, and I am going to make it my priority to see and do it all as much as possible. Again, I have ran into people here who have not seen or done half the stuff that I have achieved in a few months and they have lived here their entire lives. I have been able to see landmarks and historic sites like the Angel Of The North, The Tyne Bridge, The Victoria Tunnel, The Segedunum, Hadrian’s Wall, The William Wallace Well and Wallace Monument, Stirling Castle, and many more. Most are either completely free or very cheap things to do but it is surprising to talk to so many people that have still not experienced them yet. They don’t need to pay for travel, they don’t need to pay for accommodation, and they don’t even need to pay to eat out if they don’t want to because it is all close enough to home for them. It is possible to have fun without a lot of money. At the moment, I am just about broke as all of my money has gone onto my upcoming trip to Europe but I am working hard and taking advantage of all the things around me that are completely worth doing and are either cheap or free. So I guess my point is, that you don’t need to have a lot of money to be a tourist in your own backyard.
It blows my mind but some people rarely realise what they have in front of them, as people continue to say to me ‘why have you come here if you are from Australia’. And I mean they really do say it to me rather than asking it as a question because they don’t seem to think there would be an answer worthy enough. Yes, it is very different to Australia which I absolutely love. But this place is unique for its very own reasons. Australia has amazing weather, breathtaking beaches and cityscapes, a tempting palate for all types of appetites, quirky and unique sights to see, one of the most diverse and distinct collections of wildlife to offer, and not to mention the simple things like the outdoor kind of lifestyle that keeps you smiling from day to day. The United Kingdom on the other hand is so rich with history it is hard to go anywhere where someone greater has not been before you. Everywhere you go, there is a story about royalty and past leaders, wars and legends that have changed humanity, poets and artists that are still worshiped today, or scientists whose discoveries and inventions have transformed the world we live in. The U.K. has many famous landmarks and monuments, gorgeous scenery, a strong influence in creating distinguished whisky and gin at some of the finest distilleries, festivals not to be missed, enchanting scenes and famous film locations, and it is simply the place where fairytales are made. In short, you can’t compare apples with oranges but you can enjoy both.
You may think, as they say, that the grass is greener on the other side but the grass may very well be just as green in your own backyard if you look hard enough to find it. Or it may not be; It may be a garden bed filled with beautifully delicate flowers instead; It may be completely decked out for friends and parties; It may be a tiny retreat for sun soaking and relaxation. The point is, that I am not actually talking about your personal backyards and flower beds at all. I am referring to the culture, art and history, landscapes, landmarks and monuments, quirky food stalls, hip little bars and anything else there is to appreciate and enjoy that is closer to your home. The truth is, that what you have at home may be different to the any other holiday destinations that you have in mind but there are still plenty of things to experience and be grateful for whether it is green grass or not. If it is the flower bed then cherish the flowers; the party yard, then live it up with your friends; the retreat, then by all means kick back and relax. I want to make it clear that I am not trying to discourage you from travelling. I am actually an advocate for the complete opposite and suggest that you do it as often as possible. This will hopefully make you realise though, that you don’t need to wait long distances in between your holidays. Remember, wherever you are, someone is always paying big money to be able to travel and to do the things that are there available to you every day. So, think about how you can become a tourist in your home town and why not take advantage to travel your own backyard. Happy travels!