Walking Into The Spirit of Travel

By David DeFranza on 20 January 2008 (Updated 5 August 2009) 11 comments

It would be great to take off on a trip whenever the whim strikes us. Unfortunately, there is a seemingly endless list of things to keep us at home. Perhaps we feel that travel is not a financial possibility. Maybe our lives are filled with work and family obligations, leaving no time for travel. The list goes on and, in the end, leaves us at home following the same routines.

What if there was a way to experience the excitement and discovery of travel without leaving your hometown? The English writer G. K. Chesterton said that "the whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land." This idea of making one's home foreign is not necessarily about movement or new places. Rather, it involves opening your mind and seeing the world in a new way.

It is safe to say that most travelers believe the easiest way to achieve this new perspective is to immerse one's self in a foreign culture. This may be the easiest, but it is certainly not the only way. I would argue that by simply going for a walk anyone can feel the excitement of travel.

Going for a walk late at night or very early in the morning is a great way to see a different side of your town or city. In rural areas, walks at these times increase the chances of encounters with wildlife. Wandering around a city, buildings are lit to reveal the night workers going about their business. Garbage collectors and street sweepers make their rounds. At the same time, the city seems quiet and maybe empty.

Alternately, you can trick yourself into exploring a new part of your area. Leave your house or office and go for a walk in which you only take left turns. You could also take a train to the end of the line or drive to the opposite side of town to find a place to begin a walk.

Photo walks, either alone or in a group, are great ways to get into the traveling spirit. Try to set a goal for the walk like "I will take 25 pictures," or "I will photograph 15 different signs." These walks, along with reviewing the photographs they produce, will help develop a photographic eye as well as a traveler's sense of wonder.

Finally, while not necessarily a walk, a great way to get a different impression of the place you live is to act like a tourist. Find a guidebook for your area and choose some weekend activities from it. For a different twist on this idea, try to find an older, most likely outdated, guidebook.

These themed walks will not magically transport you to a foreign land. However, they cost little or no money and will go a long way towards giving you a traveler's sense of the world.

If you are interested in some more travel experiments, try the Laboratory of Experimental Travel.

How have you traveled in your hometown?

Tagged: Frugal Living
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Guest's picture

Walking is a great idea. Not only is it cheaper than many hobbies, but the exercise has its own benefits.

Guest's picture
Anne

I have done this walking and in my car, and it is a great way to see new things. Sometimes I like to choose a random person to follow for a while. You have to try hard not to look like a stalker though!

Guest's picture
AD

As much as I hope people reading this blog are on the more intelligent side of the spectrum, I still feel that a disclaimer should be added: don't walk late/early if it's not safe in your area to do that!

Guest's picture
sara

Its amazing how much different the walk is than the drive. As I drive the road to downtown, it feels really far away (which it is when you're sitting in traffic and looking for a parking spot) When I walk it, I'm always surprised at how short the distance actually is. I often discover some public fruit trees where I can grab free lemons or avocados or something, I get a feel for the town by reading the fliers posted on the poles, and stop into stores that I never would have gone into if I wasn't walking by. I agree, walking in your hometown is a GREAT way to get to know it.

Great idea for a post.

Nora Dunn's picture

At my last hometown, I got a chance to play tour guide to a friend visiting who had never been there. It was an amazing way to see my own city with new eyes!

Great post.  

David DeFranza's picture

I agree that playing tour guide is a great way to see a place with new eyes. It can also get you out to those 'touristy' destinations that are so easy to miss when you live in a place.

Choosing a tour guide sounds exciting. It reminds me of the beginning of an O. Henry story.

Walking is a great past time. It's good for the heart, legs, and lungs, but also for thinking things over.

Safety, I must agree, should always be a priority. I would like to think, however, that after some timid ventures into those dangerous parts of your city you might find that they are not so 'bad' after all. Use your own common sense and discretion of course, but challenges to perception like this are, in my opinion, a significant part of travel.

Guest's picture
0ccam

Check into geocaching and waymarking. Both of these can give you some new perspectives on your hometown, or wherever you are right now!

http://www.geocaching.com
http://www.waymarking.com

Guest's picture

Hi David, very nice article you wrote. Lately I found an other article with a very similar topic. It stresses the fact that travelling has more to do with the way you look at the place you are in than where you are. I agree with this view.

In addition to the ways to do so mentioned earlier, you could also help writing a travel guidebook about you hometown. There are several options to do so, but I like to mention WritingTravellers, an open guidebooks project I started last August.

Guest's picture
Jess

I think your focus on walking, rather than seeing sites from the window of a speeding tourist bus or running through the streets behind a guide with a megaphone, is really important. I've lived in San Diego for almost two years now and I am always darting off to other places to travel, without really knowing my own city. I am really happy that I stumbled on this blog and look forward to seeing more posts in the future. Best of luck (from a frugal grad student).

Guest's picture

I really enjoy photography. It is one of my favorite activities. It allows me walk around and get a different perspective of something. I think this article is great at pointing that out. If only we stop and look at the world around us we would be able to escape our everyday routines.

Another cheap idea for travel is to drive out to a random town and take a walk around to look at what they have to offer. Almost every town, big or small has a museum or city hall displaying some of their history. I had to do this for a class project in highschool. Now I love to just go and photograph small towns. It's also a great physical activity.

Guest's picture
Stephanie

I like the photo idea, you could get creative with this.

@Jerry great idea too!