We vacation and travel to get away from the daily routine of things and get into the wild, to breathe that fresh air that seems so stifled in our homes in the city. Some people equate a vacation with the distance that you travel away from your home, “the farther the better.” But really, getting as far away as possible is just about removing yourself from those surroundings familiar to you and discovering something once unknown. Adventures like that can happen in the backyard of that very same state that you call home. This article is about the reasons to discover those often overlooked places that may surprise you with what they offer.
In Wisconsin there are caves, in Utah there are hidden canyons and expansive parks, in Michigan there are dunes and so much more. The key is to know what type of activity you are looking for and likely something will be available for you to explore nearby. For the sake of this article, I will use Michigan as a backdrop for my examples since it is where I live and it is what I know.
It wasn’t until I had spent a thorough amount of time away from Michigan traveling Europe, Asia and the rest of North America that I realized what I was missing in my own state. I started taking extended camping trips up north and also those short weekend-long ones nearby when the travel bug bit, but I couldn’t afford more distant travel financially nor temporally.
So perhaps even once you’ve exhausted everywhere else in the world including Antarctica, you can reconsider your own home state as an adventure destination? One advantage is, you’re already there. No visas, passports, expensive flights to pay for. All you have to arrange is simple transportation and lodging.
You’ll find that there is much more to your home state than you thought you knew. For instance, I had been traveling to the Warren Dunes State Park (a favorite park of mine, where you can see Chicago across the lake on clear day) for two years before I traveled to Nordhouse Dunes in Manistee, Michigan. It wasn’t until I was at a nearby ecological center that I learned that dunes run pretty much along the entire western coast of Michigan and even some spots up in the Upper Peninsula and along the western coast of the thumb. Multiple years-worth of travel just opened up.
It’s exciting getting to know about the land in which you live. Learn to tell outsiders about it and you may find that you will foster tourism to your region – which doesn’t hurt the economy. Learn about the land to your advantage as well.
Certain types of mushrooms, like morels, can be expensive in stores, but if you know where the mushroom grows in your region, like in the thumb of Michigan, you can make a mushroom hunting adventure out of it. Bring back enough morels to supply your family with delicious recipes for a week and even have some to share with friends. You’ll have really only paid for weekend get-away you would have taken elsewhere anyway.
If nothing less, do a foodie adventure. Avoid the hiked-up price because of import tax and transportation of a wine bottle from France, for example. Travel to your state’s local wine region, the city of a well-known brewery or a plain where a particular food crop or wild food is plentiful. Anytime I’m in the Traverse Bay area (Leelanau Peninsula) I always make sure to pick up a bottle of fresh, home-made cherry wine. And of course, what’s not amazing about a delicious micro-brewed beer that you can’t enjoy anywhere else but where it’s produced?
If you haven’t gone yet because you don’t know where to go or what your state offers, start by researching things you’re interested in on your state’s Department of Natural Resources webpage. If nothing turns up there, check your state’s tourism department. Some tourism departments may not be state-wide, but region-wide such as southwestern Michigan, northern, etc. Once you are on location, don’t hesitate to make conversation with other tourists or locals. They often know best about what’s out there, and you’ll find it easier to pick their brains than traverse through the chaos on the internet.
No matter where it is or what you will do, you will be helping out the local economy while simultaneously saving yourself money on the travel, in addition to supporting the small, family-owned businesses that populate out-of-the-way places. Discover something new about your state – either something that grows there or the history of a location or its name and it will make your home a much more interesting place to live.
Photo: (underwater stones) Matt Arnold, (dunes) Anne Hornyak, (morels) Rebecca