Adventures in your own country can be just as fun as long-haul expeditions. Whether cycling or just visiting a village whose name grabs you, here are some top tips for exploring regions close to home
When we think about booking a trip, our thoughts usually turn to foreign lands. But next time, why not try an adventure on home turf instead?
“When we travel overseas, we have a tendency to push ourselves out of our comfort zones,” explains Wanderlust editor Phoebe Smith, who is also the author of Wilderness Weekends: Wild Adventures in Britain’s Rugged Corners. “What we need to do is take that same mentality and apply it when we’re back home. That way, we can all be tourists in our own backyards.”
So how do you plan an unfamiliar travel experience in a country you know well? Read on for more inspiration.
Cottage in the English countryside (Dreamstime)
When looking for inspiration, you’ll be sifting through familiar names of places. “But remember: anywhere is a travel destination if you’ve not visited it before,” says Phoebe. “Get a map and look for a town, village or city you’ve never been to or only passed through on a train, and head there. You never know what you might find.”
Don’t just think about the places you want to visit. Consider some locations that have negative reputations and treat them like places you know nothing about. Research and make it your mission to find somewhere beautiful or interesting in those areas.
“Force yourself to visit places you wouldn’t necessarily think of going to. In the past, that’s where I’ve found some little gems,” says Dixe Wills, author of Tiny Churches.
There’s no limit to where you should cast your net. “Make sure you explore both what’s on your doorstep and at the opposite end of the country,” advises Terri Weeks, co-author of Adventures Around You. You will often find that the country just opens up before you, full of places you’d never considered or heard of.
For extra tips, leaf through local guidebooks and turn to your friends and social media for bonus nods to off-the-radar spots.
Ruins of a castle in the English countryside (Dreamstime)
Flying is part and parcel of going abroad but if you’re staying at home, there’s often no need to get airborne. Instead, make the most of travelling on terra firma by ensuring the journey is as important as the destination. As for how you’re going to travel, you’re spoilt for choice.
Buses enforce slow travel and call at lots of stops, offering the opportunity to pit stop at many different places. Arguably, they’re also the most ‘local’ of all public transport. You’ll stumble across towns and villages never previously on your radar.
Bicycles are also great for slow travel and convenient for following your nose and stopping when you spy vistas and places that grab your interest.
“I prefer to go by train and take my push bike with me,” says Dixe. This means you can go further from home, then explore slowly once you arrive.
Also, try to pack a tent in your panniers, so you’ve got yourself a ready-made cycling tour (plus a very cheap way of travelling). Trains are quicker and more direct, and perfect for accessing long-distance locations.
“The sleeper train between England and Scotland is one of the best ways to travel,” adds Phoebe. “It’s an experience in itself, adding a nostalgic feel to the journey. Plus, you’re covering distance while you sleep, so you don’t waste any time that you can spend in the destination.”
Finally, you can’t beat walking as a way of exploring, so consider hitting trails where someone else has already mapped out a route of interest for you.
“There are so many trails, footpaths and bridleways in the UK,” says Phoebe. “Check out the Long Distance Walkers Association, where you can search by distance and location for great ideas. It’s how I found the Wanderlust Way, a glorious walk through the beautiful countryside outside Grimsby. It’s a place that I would never have visited otherwise.”
You’re on home territory and there are no language barriers, foreign currency or any other possible teething problems, so what better time to edge out of your comfort zone and try a new activity. “Find out what you can do in the area you’re heading to and give it a go, even if it’s completely alien to you,” says Terri.
If you’re going coastal in the UK, try stand-up paddleboarding or coasteering, or for a bird’s-eye view of your newfound location, have a stab at paragliding.
Aside from sports, look to add a new interest, such as birdwatching, historic architecture or sampling local foods. If the activities you do are new to you, the setting around you will likely feel more foreign, too.
A huge advantage to travelling at home in the UK is that everything is close by, making a quick trip over the weekend feasible. “Instead of visiting somewhere abroad for a week or more, travelling in your home country means that you can plan several day trips and weekend breaks throughout the year,” advises Terri.
As you won’t be shelling out for flights, either, put the cash you’ve saved towards more mini-breaks, or extend one you’ve already got planned. Better still, treat yourself to a nicer hotel or an extra activity.
You’ve probably always known that there’s more to see in your country, but now you’ve got the tools to explore its hidden wonders in the flesh. There are just no excuses not to get out there, whether it’s once, twice or throughout the year.
How do you approach a staycation?
Start to look at your own country as a traveller. Then you realise just how much there is to see. It always surprises me.
I think it’s a state of mind: an adventure is whatever makes you feel adventurous. As long as you’re pushing yourself outside your own personal comfort zone, then you could be a mile away from home and still be on a thrilling adventure. If you’re in the UK, you’re sorted. There’s a lot to explore on these wild little isles.
What are the first steps toward booking a staycation?
I would advise people to plan in the same way that they would for a trip abroad. If you usually hire a car, go in your own. If you’d rather get around on public transport, then that’s possible, too. I prefer to drive because if you already have a car, you may as well use it. That way, all you have to worry about is petrol, which usually makes it the cheapest way to get around.
But, in general, a staycation means that you can go a little more ad hoc in terms of the things you plan to do because you’re more familiar with your surroundings, so winging it is a good way to go.
What does travelling in your country offer compared to being abroad?
The main things are time and money. It takes you less time to get to where you’re staying, and it’s often cheaper, given that you don’t pay air fares. For that reason, roaming at home opens your weekend up to travel opportunities. It’s often not worth going abroad just for two nights, but a couple of hours’ drive away is perfectly manageable.
Any other advice?
Pick somewhere you’ve always been meaning to go but never got around to. Plan something big or adventurous, like wild camping or a long coastal hike, to make it feel even more exciting. Go with an open mind and the curiosity of a traveller in foreign lands.
See Emma’s blog at gottakeepmovin.com.