Be a traveler in your local area and state. You are probably asking why and that is a great question.
In New Zealand we had a big marketing campaign in the 80’s that talked about knowing your own country. Their slogan was “Don’t leave town till you’ve seen the country.” Boy, am I ever grateful for the experiences my parents gave me growing up. They were already doing this long before it was a marketing campaign in New Zealand for New Zealanders. Almost every school vacation we were taken to a different part of NZ and my parents taught us to be a traveler in our own country. We got to live in many different places around NZ and explore many different areas of NZ. Even when I left home and went out on my own I would still take vacations to different parts of NZ. Some I revisited, some were new experiences. To this day there is not much of NZ I haven’t seen or experienced.
Many people today are eager to fly the coop and explore the world. Now I’m not against that BUT when people find out where you are from they are going to ask you about the area you live in or even your country. Can you confidently answer their questions about things to see and do in your country or the even the state where you live?
When people find out I’m from New Zealand one the most asked questions I get is “what are the must see and do things in New Zealand?” Because I know my country so well my answer is always “There is a lot to see and do in New Zealand that caters to almost everyone’s interests. What do you like to see and do when on vacation, then I can let you know some must sees based on YOUR interests and not mine?” They are often surprised by this comeback and are not prepared for it.
When I ask people what are some of the must see don’t miss things for their state I usually get one of three responses. They either give me the puzzled looked; or stumble through some possible ideas; or they immediately launch into a list of highlights they know about their state, but have not necessarily experienced for themselves. I get the textbook, rehearsed tourist answers. I don’t want those answers. I very really get someone who knows their area that can give the best off-the-beaten path things to see and do. I like these rare people as I truly want to know how do I get off the beaten path and find an authentic state experience that only travelers get to experience. When people ask about the best things to see and do they are looking for local insider knowledge. Some want the tourist things, others want to get off the beaten path and experience the hidden gems that tourists don’t know about.
Take time to explore your state and maybe the surrounding states, become a traveler and not a tourist. You maybe surprised by the hidden gems that you find within your state. You can do mini vacations and visit and explore a new part of your state. Check your state visitors website for suggestions on things you can see and do, upcoming festivals and events and get out and explore your state. Go to your local visitor’s center and play tourist in your own town/city or a neighbouring town/city. Visit the Visitor Center websites for towns/cities you want to explore. You just might be surprised at what you find.
What is the difference between a traveler and a tourist? Very simple. A tourist comes to see the local sites and does the ‘typical’ tourist stuff. A traveler takes time to absorb, immerse, and experience the local culture and discover the hidden gems. It doesn’t matter where in the world you travel if you are a traveler you have a much richer and deeper experience and understanding of a destination than someone who is a tourist.
My husband sent me this article from USA Today about 50 Scenic Drives Around the US. It is an awesome article. I have now added more stuff to my travel bucket list! How many of these drives have you done? What are some hidden gems in your state that not many tourists know about? Please leave your answers in the comments below.