Backyard tourism

I don’t know how many of you suffer from the disease known as the “travel bug”.  More formally known as wanderlust, my symptoms first presented in high school when I traveled to Honduras for a church mission trip.  In addition to building houses and working with a local doctor to dispense vaccines, we were able to enjoy meals prepared by local women, play soccer with a group of teenagers waiting for their turn with the doctor, and travel across the country, where the lush scenery often contrasted with the stark poverty of most of its residents.

Traveling in another country was an experience both terrifying and thrilling.  Even mundane, ordinary tasks, like ordering a junior bacon cheeseburger in the Honduran Wendy’s became a novelty.  Traveling challenged me, broadened my perspectives on the world, and left me hungry for more.

As a senior in high school, I traveled to Italy as part of a spring break trip led my by AP European history teacher.  When that wasn’t enough, I vowed to study abroad in college.  I spent my spring semester sophomore year in Florence, Italy, and managed to explore most of that country, as well as Paris, Lucerne, Munich, Athens, and Cofu.  When that wasn’t enough, I did another study abroad, this time the summer before my senior year, in Maastricht, the Netherlands.  From there, I was able to see London, Brussels, Bruges, Baden Baden, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Delft, and the Hague. When that wasn’t enough, I convinced my fiance` to take a month while we were both between jobs and travel throughout Italy (hint – if you want to win my undying love and devotion, whisk me away to Italy).  We visited Rome, Orvieto, Assisi, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, Bolzano, and Milan.  And since that still isn’t enough, I’m already planning trips to Iceland, to Vietnam, to Thailand, and beyond.

Traveling is my drug of choice; it calms my nerves and makes me feel alive.  Nothing makes me as happy as reading a guidebook and highlighting all the places I want to visit.  I’m convinced that food ordered in another place automatically tastes better than anything I could get at home.  International travel gives me the greatest fix, but even visiting the next town can hold me over temporarily. When I go without travel, I go through withdrawal.

I can’t speak from experience, but I’m assuming that’s how some people feel about cocaine.

Obviously the difficulties associated with choosing travel as your favorite hobby are many. Traveling requires money, it requires time, it requires at least some amount of planning.  If I had the option, I’d trade $10k of my salary for 20 extra vacation days each year.  But I don’t have that option, and so I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to visit everywhere I want by the time I’m 30.  Which means I have to sate my wanderlust in other ways.

Enter: the idea of backyard tourism.  Backyard tourism, I believe, is a concept that grew out of the staycation movement.  To me, backyard tourism is what it sounds like. It’s being a tourist in your own city; in your own neighborhood.  It’s bringing a camera and pausing to take touristy pictures.  It’s visiting museums or landmarks you may have seen before, but with a fresh set of eyes.  It’s appreciating what makes your city special.  Best of all, it’s very cheap, or even free.

A few weekends ago, between polar vortexes, the temperatures climbed into the 40s (balmy bliss!) and Adam and I ventured out to do some touring.  I was surprised at how much our trip to the Jefferson Memorial (which I’ve seen about 15 times) and the National Art Gallery (which I’ve visited even more) temporarily cured my travel bug.  I saw things I’ve never noticed before, learned some fun facts about the 3rd President of the United States, and listened to a Civil War-era musical performance (there’s always something random like that going on in DC).  Below are a few pictures from our day of backyard tourism.

Looking out from the Jefferson Memorial

Looking out from the Jefferson Memorial

The man himself

The man himself

Flag football on the National Mall

Flag football on the National Mall

Playing around with the reflective triangle sculpture outside of the art gallery

Playing around with the reflective triangle sculpture outside of the art gallery.  Poor fiance` was so bored.

Trees in reflection

Trees in reflection

More reflections....

More reflections….

 

My favorite feature of any of the Smithsonians - the atrium in the National Art Gallery

My favorite feature of any of the Smithsonians – the atrium in the National Art Gallery

This statue, The Dying Gaul, is visiting all the way from Rome.  It was made in the 1st or 2nd century AD, and this is the first time it has voluntarily left Italy (Napoleon stole it in 1797 and took it to Paris, but France returned it after Napoleon was defeated).  Sorry for the poor picture quality, flash photography wasn't allowed.

This statue, The Dying Gaul, is visiting all the way from Rome. It was made in the 1st or 2nd century AD, and this is the first time it has voluntarily left Italy (Napoleon stole it in 1797 and took it to Paris, but France returned it after Napoleon was defeated). Sorry for the poor picture quality, flash photography wasn’t allowed.

Touristy shot of the Capitol building.

Touristy shot of the Capitol building.  It makes me happy.

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7 thoughts on “Backyard tourism

    1. Erin E. Post author

      “Massive” is relative. We got about 5 inches here in DC, which shut the city down for the day, but I’m sure most places north of here would look on 5 inches as pretty paltry. Unfortunately, with the snow came freezing rain, so the only touring I did yesterday was from my couch to my kitchen 🙂

      Reply
  1. El Guapo

    I’m with you. getting to go anywhere is a thrill, whether an international trip, or something close to home.
    One of the nice about NYC is being able to hop on the subway and go someplace I’ve never seen before.

    Reply
    1. Erin E. Post author

      Agreed; that’s one of the fun things about DC too. There are so many neighborhoods, museums, concerts, monuments, etc. that I feel like I could live here for 10 years before I’ve seen everything in the city. And then there’s the surrounding cities to explore! I’d still jump at the chance for an international trip, but I’m trying to make sure I appreciate what I have right here at home too.

      Reply
  2. Maggie O'C

    This is great. I did an internship on Capitol Hill in college and DC is a fabulous city. My daughter may be going on a trip this summer, I’d have to tag along. And Italy is on my list for 50…I’m a couple of decades behind you. Did you love Bruges? I loved that town. I went to school in France for a semester, I think that’s a must for college kids such a great experience in traveling and independence.

    Reply
    1. Erin E. Post author

      Yes, you must tag along to DC! Although summer in the city is horribly hot & humid, all of the museums and at least 20% of the cabs are air-conditioned, so you’ll be fine!

      Italy is my soul-country; I’m already dreaming of going back. And yes Bruges was amazing! We only went for the day, but I could have spent a week just sitting by the canal and eating fries with mayonnaise.

      I agree with you; studying abroad should be mandatory for at least a summer. I was lucky enough that my out-of-state tuition at UNC was almost as expensive as my tuition abroad (which included rent), so doing 2 stints in Europe was actually an easy sell to my parents. But from both trips, I learned so much. I definitely wouldn’t be the same person I am today without those experiences. Totally life-changing.

      Reply
  3. Aussa Lorens

    Oh girl, you KNOW I’ve got the travel bug. But yes, money and vacation days definitely become a factor. The boyfriend and I try to sneak off for as many short holidays as possible and we seem to have totally exhausted all backyard tourism options. It’s seriously become almost joke, how difficult it is to come up with something new to do without leaving our city. Thank goodness for wine and netflix 😉

    Reply

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