We all love experiencing new countries and cultures, I of all people know that. I spent four years travelling the globe, but at the start of 2015 came back to the British Isles, my home, and made a commitment to see more of them.
I drove over 5,000 miles across the UK and Ireland, and it was without doubt my best travel year yet. These 10 reasons show why it could be yours too.
1. There’s so much more than you realise
It’s a simple fact that the more time you take to seek out new things, the more will be revealed to you. There couldn’t be a truer sentiment for travelling at home: there's so much even within thirty miles of your house that you’ve never seen before.
If you approach travelling at home in that humble sense – with the knowledge that there’s always more to discover – you will easily pack an entire year with brand new adventures. I also found that my new discoveries led me back to old favourites and the places I visited as a child that I never found time to revisit.
2. It can be worked around a busy schedule
Not all of us can take an entire year off work, of course, but as you’re travelling closer to home you can fit trips around your current work schedule. When taking a long period of time out of your career isn’t an option, dedicate whatever time you do have off work within the next year to see what you can.
As you don’t have to go abroad, you’ll quickly realise that even the weekends offer so much opportunity. Long weekends become even more valuable, and you can cover a lot of ground using your holiday allowance.
3. It’s affordable
Goodbye expensive airfare. Sayonara rubbish exchange rates. Farewell costly vaccinations. Even if you don’t live in the most affordable place in the world, travelling in your own country can in many ways be as cheap, or cheaper, than venturing abroad.
As a native in your own land, you won’t be caught out by any pesky tourist traps that charge you excess fees or admission. You know just the places in which to buy cheap food and everyday items, and if you have a transport pass, you can milk it for all it’s worth.
Hiking in the hills (Shutterstock.com)
4. You can visit all your friends and family
Life is busy for everyone, so sometimes it’s hard to regularly catch up with the friends and family that live far away. Setting off on a long-term tour of your own country allows you to reconnect with all the special people in your life in one fell swoop. This also provides a way to keep costs down, provided you have generous friends and family who will allow you to bunk up in their spare room.
5. You'll learn more about your country's history and heritage
It goes without saying that there’s value in understanding your country’s background, and an extended trip is a great way to learn more. Perhaps your town played a pivotal role in one slice of history, but other area could have experienced something completely different – your travels will give you an idea of this bigger picture.
Furthermore, you can take this greater comprehension of your own country’s history abroad with you and understand how it compares to that of other parts of the globe. Travelling at home helps you to contextualise your country’s place in the world.
6. It's easy travel
Although there is certainly something to be said for being thrown into a country so different to your own that it makes your head spin, when travelling at home you do away with all the nuisances that can bring.
You’re used to the currency, speak the same language (although perhaps not the same dialect – for me, Scotland was a challenge!), and are familiar with national transport networks. Travel in your own country is an absolute breeze, leaving you more time to focus on the beautiful sights around you.
7. You'll make friends closer to home
Meeting new people is one of the best parts of travelling, but when you live at opposite sides of the world it’s hard to stay in touch. When you make new friends on trips in your own country, there's more of a chance you’ll keep in contact and catch up again in the near future.
8. You can drive your own car
A small blessing, but one that eliminates car rental costs or having to get your head around an unfamiliar bus or train system. Sure, depending on how much ground you want to cover fuel might cost you a fair whack, but it’s worth it for the convenience of having your own wheels. You can set off into the sunset whenever your heart desires, and you’re used to the feel on your own vehicle. Not to mention driving on the side of the road you’re accustomed to…
Road trip (Shutterstock.com)
9. It's eco-friendly
Doing away with carbon emissions from your flight reduces the footprint of your travels hugely. If you take public transport around instead of your own car that makes your trip even more eco-friendly. Feel like going the whole hog? Get around by bike or on foot to not only crank up the adventure factor but make your travels greener-than-green.
10. It will inspire future trips
Travelling at home is an addiction – once you start it’s hard to stop. If you decide to take a year to see more of your own country, I’ll bet money that in the first few weeks you’ll think this at least once: What have I been doing this whole time? Why didn't I think of this sooner?
I certainly felt that way. I could do another year in the UK all over again and see just as many new beautiful sights as I did the first time around. Coming away with that knowledge is priceless, and a whole lifetime of new experiences at home will open up to you.
Emma Higgins is a British travel writer who spends an entire year in one region of the world at a time before moving onto the next. Emma publishes the stories she finds along the way on her website, Gotta Keep Movin', and in an annual print journal. Her most recent publication, A Year in the UK & Ireland, is out now.
Main photo: Emma Higgins exploring Inishowen in Ireland.