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.