Exploring at home – how to be a backpacker in your own country

See your home country through new eyes. Be a stay at home backpacker!

With the coronavirus discouraging people from travelling overseas and many countries closing their borders, perhaps for the forseeable future, exploring our home countries may the only option for travel hungry backpackers. Obviously it is important to follow government advice and like many people, I’m currently practicing social distancing in this troubled and uncertain time.

Tor with sign for Tor Hill, National Trust, England
Backpacking at home can throw up some great discoveries!

However if or when it’s possible, why not take the chance to see your own country through the eyes of a backpacker? I wrote a post last year about the joys of being a domestic backpacker and here’s some more top tips for you.

Buy a travel guide to your own country

We often take our own surroundings for granted and fail to see the highlights that a backpacker visiting a country for the first time would. What is the recommended itinerary for travellers to your country? Where do visitors make a beeline for?

I recently bought a guide book to England and I was surprised to see the Cotswolds on the recommended itinerary. It’s not somewhere I’ve thought of going before but now it’s on the list!

On a budget? Try a Workaway at home.

Workaway is a great way to spend an extended time in one location and really get to know it as a local. I’ve blogged many times now about my Workaway experiences overseas but probably haven’t mentioned that I’ve also volunteered at home. It’s the perfect way for me to fill in any gaps between working and overseas travelling while saving money and getting to experience some of my own country.

Read here about how to combine travel and volunteering.

One of my favourite Workaway stays in the UK was on a smallholding in West Yorkshire. Emma was a single mum who runs her own business. She wanted a volunteer who could feed her menagerie of animals in the morning, keep on top of the weeds in the veggie plot and help out around the house. After my five hours of work each day was complete, I took off to explore the many walking trails and small villages locally. It was an area I’d never been to before so my fortnight stay was a perfect introduction to the beautiful West Yorkshire scenery.

Try a hiking or cycling holiday

These are activities backpackers often do in exotic locations. Every traveller in South America has hiked up a volcano, while all backpackers to South East Asia will have rented a bicycle to cycle to a ruined temple. Yet renting a push bike for the day to explore a new city or scouting out a hike in a national park at home doesn’t necessarily occur to us.

Tor and bicycle in on a bridge in Shropshire
On a cycle ride in Shropshire

The entire UK coastline has just officially opened as the world’s longest continuous footpath. This has gone on my list! What’s the must-do hike in your country?

Or you could explore ideas for a cycle ride. A good place to start is a riverside or canal path. If you don’t have your own bike, there’s usually a bike shop hiring bicycles close to any good one-day cycle paths.

Do a museum tour in your own city

How many of us have never been to a museum or tourist attraction in our own city? If we were travelling overseas we’d be straight off to that history museum or art gallery. Research the top museums or galleries in your home city, then have a day exploring.

You might be surprised at what strange museums there are locally that you’ve never heard of. I’ve just done an online search for strange UK museums and I’m definitely excited about the Pencil Museum in Keswick and the Dog Collar Museum in Leeds!

Join a city walking tour

Choose any city and check whether there’s a walking tour for tips. These tours, usually led by students, are popular all over the world. I’m a relative newcomer to them but I’m a definite convert. It’s a great way to get some simple history and local culture tips, while also becoming familiar with a new city. Solo backpackers also use them as a way to meet other travellers.

Bristol is my local city and not only is there a walking tour for tips, there’s also street art tours, foodie tours and community garden tours.

Try a new dish or check out an independent cafe

Food is super important to travellers to a new country. I spend as much time researching local dishes and where best to try them as I do looking for accommodation. Many of us don’t know what the specialities of our own country or region is.

Tor eating sesame cookie in Guatemala
Enjoying a delicious sesame cookie

Take the time to do some research then set yourself the challenge of finding the perfect cafe, restaurant or bakery to go and find that local delicacy! In the UK for example it could be tracking down the perfect Cornish pasty or figuring out where to buy the best Bara Brith.
I have to confess that I spend most of my time planning overseas backpacking trips. But I’m definitely feeling more inspired now to plan a domestic backpacking tour. Especially if if involves a Cornish pasty followed by a slice of delicious bara brith!

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