Are you a backyard tourist?
It was only after I had left my home in the states for Europe that I realized how little I had experienced in my own home town. What brought it to my attention was a fellow traveler who asked me if they visited my city what would I suggest that they do, where should they stay, and how cheap or expensive it would be. When I realized I didn’t know the answer to most if any of these questions, I knew I had been a terrible local. Now that I have met a few amazing locals from Cairo to Kuala Lumpur, I know how it should be done. Backyard tourism or being a tourist in the place where you are from isn’t traveling.
There are many advantages to being a backyard tourist but the biggest would be cost. The two biggest costs of traveling are food and lodging and if you are exploring locally then you have those two covered. It is also easier and cheaper for transportation to go to local attractions because you won’t need to rent a car, buy special train tickets, or take a tour with a company. You also may know someone who will give you free entry or maybe you could talk them into giving you a local discount. If you are bringing friends, family, or friends from out of town you may get a group discount.
As a resident of the city you may hear about coupons, read news, have existing knowledge, or have friends who have gone that can help you know what to do. If you are in a first world country you will get a quality experience as a tourist unlike many second or third world countries. This should make you feel happy that you are contributing to the local economy and supporting local businesses. Then there are the memories, stories, and great pictures you will have to last a lifetime.
Believe it or not, there are a few disadvantages to being a backyard tourist. You will be biased. Because this is your home area you will naturally expect the local tourism to be top shelf. You most likely will have higher expectations for the local attractions than they can afford but that’s only because you aren’t a seasoned traveler. Because you haven’t traveled much you will have no comparison to other tourist attractions, tours, or monuments. It is unfair to judge the local historical monument to places you’ve seen online but it is natural and we’re all guilty even if we don’t want to admit it. When you are out and about and playing tourist at home you don’t get a real sense of what it means to travel because it is way too easy at home. Because it is easy the experience will be somewhat tainted and you will only truly understand why once you have an amazingly difficult time as a tourist in someone else home town.
If you don’t know where to start or how to become a backyard tourist, try contacting or visiting the local tourism office or visitor center if your home town has one. You can also Google your home town + tourism to see what pops up. I lived in a city for nearly ten years before I found out there were about five different companies giving ghost tours downtown. As a local you may be blind to the tourism advertising or even shielded from it depending on your daily life. You may find that your hometown is much more interesting than you knew if only you had opened your eyes a little wider and looked a little closer. We all take things for granted from time to time; like our spouse, children, jobs, status, but that is because the routine of daily life sucks the imagination out of us. Open your eyes and see the beauty right in front of you before you spend your time and savings learning how to be a tourist in a place you are even less familiar with. This small step will help you to decide how much travel you want to have in your life because being a tourist isn’t for everyone.