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On the road at home

Travel. Most of us love it. And unless you are a corporate road warrior flying to a new city daily for work, almost all of us wish we could travel more.

Unfortunately, budgets, schedules, kids and limited leave from work mean that many people are limited to just a few weeks a year of vacation. That 6 month meandering trip through southern Europe will have to wait, you tell yourself.

I love travel as much as any Aussie, and I’m very fortunate to spend 3-6 months a year exploring the world and playing my sport at the same time.

But some of the best things about being on the road… you can do at home.

1. Walk

When you’re at home it’s easy to jump in your car and zip to the grocery store, drive to the gym, or cruise your daily commute. But when you travel you’ll be on foot or public transport for the most part. And it’s awesome. Sure, it takes a bit more time to get there. But the extra time outside, going at an unhurried pace, is probably the thing I love most about being on the road. Walking makes my body feel great (humans are designed for it but with our office jobs we rarely do it), the vitamin D improves my mood, and many of my most difficult decisions or creative problems are solved while walking.

You may not be strolling along the canals of Venice, or meandering along the beach front in California, but I guarantee a walk will bring just a little of that holiday vibe to your home town.

2.  Speak

I recently visited Poland and the people there constantly apologised for not speaking English very well. Each time they did I felt embarrassed that I spoke absolutely zero Polish – being fluent only in English and expecting everyone to conform to your language seems the height of arrogance. When traveling, I appreciate every effort the locals make to speak so I can understand, and I’m in awe of those individuals who speak multiple languages – some of them upwards of 5 languages fluently!

When we are home we take communication for granted. To get into the travel mindset, head over to China town, take a foreign language class, or go to a foreign friend’s family gathering. Anywhere that English will not be the primary language you hear. You don’t have to be in another country to remind yourself how lucky you are to live in a country that speaks English, and to reignite your respect for those who study so diligently so they can communicate with us.

3. Eat

Food, food, glorious food. One of my favourite things about traveling is trying the local food – and I always try and get a recipe from each country that I can try cooking at home. Fejoida in Brazil, crepes in France, fermented shark in Iceland (don’t recommend that one!), game meats in South Africa, tajine in Morocco, cinnamon buns in Sweden, chocolate in Belgium, dumplings in China, pho in Vietnam and schnitzel in Germany.

With how multicultural the world is now you probably already eat Thai and Italian on a regular basis, but seek out something more exotic in your city. When was the last time you went to a Fijian, a Georgian or a Mongolian restaurant? Go somewhere new, and if you’re brave, forget the menu and let the chef surprise you with an authentic meal.

4. Dress

Who has packed for a trip, lamented that they couldn’t fit everything in their suitcase, and then arrived home not having worn half the clothes in their bag? I certainly have. You can take, at most 5-10% of your wardrobe with you when you travel, and it turns out you don’t even need that much.

Head to your wardrobe, select your favourite 10% of items and hide the rest of your closet away. Spend 1-2 weeks living on just those clothes. If you don’t reach for anything from the other 90%, perhaps you don’t really need those things…? I always clear out my wardrobe when I return from a trip, but you don’t need to get on an airplane to do the same.

5. Photograph

Although walking around a city with your camera in hand screams ‘tourist’, it does give you a completely new perspective. Try it in your home town for a few hours. You’ll look for beauty in unusual places, you’ll seek out viewpoints, and you’ll appreciate the architecture and people in new ways. It’s a great way to not only feel like you are on holidays, but also to fall back in love with your hometown.

6. Smile

When I walk down the street in a foreign country, I find myself smiling at the locals. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m in a good mood because I’m on holidays, or because when you know no one any connection – even one as small as a smile – feels good.

When I’m at home though, it’s usually head down, hurrying to get somewhere, and no smile in sight.

Try looking at people, making eye contact, and flashing a smile. The next time someone asks you the friendliest country you’ve been to… the answer might just be your own country!

7. Unplug

As much as I’d love to curse out the phone companies who charge an arm and a leg for international roaming, I really have to thank them. When a quick scroll through Instagram while you wait for a coffee will cost you $7 you rethink your phone usage pretty quickly.

To do this at home, simply go to your settings and turn off mobile data for all but a few of your essential apps (Facebook is not essential by the way). This means you’ll only be able to use those apps when you are connected to wifi, and not when you are using your cell phone data. As an example, I switched off mobile data for all apps except Google Maps, Firefox, banking, whatsapp, Skype and messenger.

You’ll realise just how often you pull out your phone for non-essential things. Instead, you could…

8. Read

A book or, even better, a Kindle with thousands of books is a constant companion when I travel. I get to learn something, or get lost in a story.

You probably have a stack of books at home you’ve been meaning to get to. Don’t wait for that holiday, spend some time reading every day at home. 10 minutes over breakfast, 20 minutes during your commute (an audio book if you’re driving!), a few pages before bed, or a leisurely browse through a bookstore.

9. Socialise

On the road I say yes to every invitation. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a real invite. If someone says:

‘You should come over for dinner sometime,’ I’ll reply.

‘Sounds great, how about tonight?’

At home we are busy. We have our own schedules and social circles and we typically don’t engage in social events outside of that. You can bring the holiday attitude home by forcing yourself to make new friends. Talk to the person next to you on the train, to the couple beside you at a restaurant, to people who work at the same company in the elevator, to the person sweating next to you at fitness class, and to the person behind you in the coffee line. Go outside of your comfort zone and get their number, call them and invite them to meet up.

It may not be the beginning of a lifelong friendship… but then again, it might be.

10. Connect

Never have I appreciated my social network more than when I travel. People I’ve only ever ‘met’ online have invited me to their country or their home, have spent time giving me travel tips, and have connected me with their friends. So use your social network for more than posting about your brunch – ask your digital friends for help – you’ll be surprised at home much people will offer. Try posting asking for:

  • A place to stay
  • A restaurant recommendation
  • Favourite books, podcasts, movies etc
  • New friends that they think you might get on with

I’ve been blown away by how helpful people are, and there is no reason they won’t be when you’re at home rather than on the road.

Travel home…

‘You’re so lucky.’
‘I wish I could travel for as long as you do.’
‘We’ve got kids so can’t go too far away at the moment.’
‘I’m jealous of your adventures.’

We can’t all jump on a plane and not return for months. We don’t all have the time or the money to go on international adventures.

But we can all bring holidays home. Some of the best things about being on the road are available to you right here, in your own country, and your own city.

Walk. Speak. Eat. Dress. Photograph. Smile. Unplug. Read. Socialise. Connect.

What are you waiting for. Your next adventure starts now. And it starts here: At home.

February 1, 2020