Why you should explore your own country

This past weekend I took a solo road trip from Auckland to New Plymouth to see my friend perform in a show.

For those of you not from New Zealand, here is a map outlining the trip…

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The drive is approximately 5 hours from start to finish if you don’t make any major stops. It takes you through some great little towns including Otorohanga and Te Kuiti. About half way down you also pass through the Waitomo district, home to the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves. I stopped there on the way down which you can read about here.

I have been to New Plymouth a couple of times before but only when I was really young, perhaps about 7 or 8 years old. I had never driven that route before though so that was all new.

Although the destination was truly the purpose of the trip, I still enjoyed the journey. This was my first solo road trip and I had a really great time. I actually lost my voice on the way back from singing so loudly to the songs playing from my car.

Travel does something to me. It awakens my soul and keep me going. It’s my escape from my every day life and to me, nothing feels better than leaving home knowing an adventure awaits. This is why I believe it’s important to explore your own country. Take short day or weekend trips to towns and cities you’ve never or rarely visited.

As I said earlier I had already been to New Plymouth but there’s a difference between going somewhere on that family holiday when you were 8 years old, and making it a weekend adventure at age 22. I got the opportunity to visit Pukekura Park which is where my grandparents were married and I also visited one of the houses my Dad lived in as an infant. These are little personal things I wanted to do and probably would’ve also done back on that family holiday as well. This time I stepped it up a bit and went to places I’d never been before. My friend and I visited Paritutu Beach (at 6:00am before the sunrise) and I met with a lovely girl in a little cafe in town, which are two things I’d never done before.

I guess what I’m saying here is that exploring your own country can be a great idea for a multitude of reasons. Here’s a list…

1. It’s cheaper than going overseas. In fact if you play your cards right it can be almost free! I managed to pay for almost nothing except the petrol to get there and back. If you have friends or family near your destination, hit them up and offer a bottle of wine or invite them back to your city or town to stay in exchange.

2. You can do it in a weekend. Adventures don’t need to be weeks long, in fact they can last just a few hours if that’s all you’ve got time for. Many of us are busy human beings and only get a few days off here and there so why not use them to your advantage? Obviously this is easier if you are here in New Zealand as it’s quite small and you can get quite a distance in half a day.

3.You get to mix the new with the old. If you’ve been there before then you’ll know the good spots, but you should always try something new whilst you’re there. Visit that park you’ve never got round to going to or have dinner at that restaurant you read about. This is a good one for hesitant adventurers. Baby steps!

4. You can make friends with the locals and soon you’ll have a nationwide network of people to see and places to stay. I find that travel advice is always better received when you have some to give in return. For example if you’re in New Plymouth but from Auckland, someone you meet may ask “I’m heading to Auckland this summer! Where’s a good place to stay?”. You can give them your advice and then they’ll be more than happy to point you in the direction of a great eatery round the corner. People are more friendly when you strike up a conversation instead of just straight out asking “Hey tell me where this is”.

5. You learn a lot about where you live! History may not be your subject but isn’t it always interesting to find out about your country from a different perspective? Different towns have different trades, stories and histories. You may come from a big city but might want to know more about dairy farming. Take a day trip to a small farming town and visit their local community hall or tea rooms. You’re bound to find out some interesting facts and you’ll come home more knowledgable then when you left. You can surprise your flat mate or friends with random facts about your own country that you can bet they didn’t know!

6. Any adventure is a great adventure! No matter where you go or how long you’re there for, traveling is an experience that should be had.

There ya go, you’ve got no excuses now. EXPLORE!

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