How many of us have visited the landmarks closest to our homes? It seems that so often, no matter where we live, we tend to overlook the sites closest to us. If we live in London we might never go on the London Eye or to Buckingham Palace; if we live in New York we won’t go to The Statue of Liberty or to the top of the Empire State Building. So many of us move to cities like London or New York so we might easily escape to far away places. Londoners, when planning holidays, tend to think first to travel to Spain or France rather than the Yorkshire Dales or the Peak District. So often, little thought is given to the beauty of the town, city, or country in which we are living.
International travel is undoubtedly enriching. Landscapes, cultures, languages, and traditions different from our own expand our understanding of humanity and of the world. They make us see what else is possible, they help us try on new ideas and, often, they help us to see our homes with new eyes. Travel is a joy and a privilege. So, during the pandemic, when international travel became much more complex and many countries inaccessible, at first we felt a great loss. Our worlds became smaller.
With nowhere else to go, we began to seek adventure, solace and novelty in areas close to home. We explored beaches or forests or lakes or even local parks that we never considered. We found beauty in community gardens or discovered new routes to the same shops we’ve been frequenting for years. Last winter, I found a new pathway in my local park, one I never noticed in over 10 years of living there. It led to a new glade, a new vantage point. The beautiful park that felt so stale when it became my only destination for over a year suddenly opened itself up as something more. Something with more stories to tell.
We are reminded that there is always something more, if we stop to think about it. Even in our own garden, there may be footsteps from local wildlife, an ant hill we hadn’t yet spotted, or even just a different area of the lawn that is the best for a lie down, the best angle for viewing the sky above. Or there may be an opportunity to create something new: maybe a rose garden or a small pond.
Adventuring in the familiar allows us to be tourist in our own town, to get curious about the heritage sites in our resident country, to see what others see, to be impressed by the place we have chosen as our home — not as a launch point for other destinations, but as a destination in its own right. Just as moving abroad can give us new insights into our home country, so too can taking time to notice the little things. When we slow down, we open ourselves up to finding beauty where we may have previously only seen the banal.
When the world does return to a level of normalcy, having seen our homes with new eyes, we may begin to find a balance between international travel and local exploration. Though long-haul flights are hard on the environment, traveling abroad remains important to our understanding of the world and of one another, and connects families who are scattered across the globe. But we may begin to temper this with time spent locally, finding genuine joy and curiosity in the place where we live, slowing down to allow the mysteries of our home to reveal themselves to us.
Just as increased time spent at home led us to be more inward looking, to take stock of who we are, what we want and how many gifts we have in our lives, so too does adventuring in our local area. There is a richness to our home ground that can rival that of travelling abroad, as long as we are able to see it with open eyes. Immersing ourselves in our locality and appreciating the quiet moments opens us up, challenges us to dig deeper and to search for connections and meaning in unexpected places. It reminds us of the complexity of the world, even in a snapshot, and of how much we have, right here, right now.
ILLUSTRATION BY RIMA STUDIO