Desperately need an escape? But can’t afford one? Try your own backyard!

Photo by Sheree Zielke

“Why do you have to travel so much?” he asked.

“Why do you have to breathe?” I shot back.

For some, travel is an addiction to adventure; for others, travel is a way to survive, in the same way that breathing oxygen ensures our continued existence. The knowledge that an escape has been planned can make our daily routines — our weekly drudgery — that much easier to bear.

But what if you can’t afford to travel? That might be, but that shouldn’t stop you from having a rejuvenating adventure. Some of the best escapes are right in your own backyard. But like all travel, they’ll take a little planning.

Read on . . .

When was the last time you became a tourist in your own city? Try it sometime. Pack up the car, the kids, the bike, the picnic basket, and head out into your own city. All it takes is a little imagination, and a spirit of adventure. Most of us have a little of both.

My husband and I regularly spend weekends with our grandkids. We try to do something that will enrich their lives, something that isn’t connected to an electrical outlet, and doesn’t go by the name of Mario or Luigi. It’s sad really — so many of today’s children have lost the ability to adventure imaginatively; it’s all being done for them in a myriad of computer games. But while the games are entertaining, they shouldn’t take the place of real adventures.

Here are 10 suggestions for finding adventure in your own backyard:

1. Take a walk through your area’s historic downtown. Study the architecture. Talk about what times must have been like when the building was being erected.

2. If the building has stairs, climb them. Kids love stairs. There’s adventure just in knowing they lead somewhere. Good manners are in order, especially if the building is privately owned. But for the most part, public and commercial buildings have great stairs worth exploring.

If the outer walls (at street level) have great architectural stone features, let the kids explore them. If you have a camera, take shots that can later be turned into real adventure pictures in Photoshop. Here’s one of my favorites with the kids only about a foot above the sidewalk. But they got into the game and pretended they were high in the air.

Photo by Sheree Zielke

3.  Check out the art galleries. Many have free admission. Explore with an open mind, but be cautious as some art is not meant for family viewing. Visit your local museum, or jump in the car and drive a couple of hours to a museum outside of your town or city. Day trips make for great adventures. Remember to take a picnic lunch.

4. Visit a cemetery; older ones are best. There’s so much to see when exploring a graveyard from the crumbling tombstones to the mementoes left at the gravesites. Make it into a game and have the kids find the common names of kings and queens: Mary, Elizabeth, William, Charles. It doesn’t take much to turn a visit to a cemetery into an adventure; kids just get it. Good manners rule here, too. It’s a great opportunity to teach children respect for the dead, and respect for other people’s property, like the gifts placed on graves.

5. Get a listing of your local play parks; chart these on a city map. Mark the spots with an ‘X’ and then pretend to be pirates on a treasure hunt. Bring along some dollar store loot, candy and chocolate coins. When the kids aren’t looking, plant them somewhere. Or send the kids on a scavenger hunt — get them to find a magic feather, a rock of power, a pinecone of doom, a dragon’s eye — you get the picture. Upon their return with the items, reward them with loot.

6. Get on a city bus. Ride it from one end of its route to the other. Be sure it runs through safe neighborhoods. You’ll see your city much differently through a bus window.

Photo by Sheree Zielke
7. Do you have a rapid transit system? A subway? A monorail? This is a great way explore. cheaply. Remember, it’s the mindset, not the destination. Look around. Play an “I Spy” game as the train rolls along. You’ll have no deadline, so relax and study the view.

8. Sometimes just sitting in a city park or square can be an adventure. People-watching is an art in itself. There’s much to learn about our own city, and ourselves, as we watch the world go by.
9. Garage sales and yard sales can be a great adventure for kids. It’s not so much about the purchase of items (extremely cheap buys) but rather the exploration of somebody else’s stuff. Give the kids a budget of 25-cents each; let them decide to spend it, or hoard it.

10. Skip the fast food joint. Go to an Italian grocery store, or a farmers market. Then sit outside on the curb, in the sunshine, or have one of those parking lot picnics. Rip up a freshly roasted chicken, a fresh sourdough loaf of bread, and gnaw on some really good cheddar. Just remember that all good adventurers (at least modern ones) travel with wet wipes.

Photo by Sheree Zielke

Being a tourist in your own city is (as Martha Stewart says) a “good thing.” It’s the best kind of alternative travel, when you can’t afford a vacation. The thing that makes an adventure, well, an adventure, is the unknown. It’s the act of exploration as one travels; not necessarily the destination.

Adventure is waiting for you just outside your door; just pull on your shoes and go. Be smart, and stay to safe areas, but do go. True, there won’t be any dragons to slay, or princesses to rescue, but the treasures will be abundant — just not the silver and gold variety.

Sheree Zielke

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2 Responses to “Desperately need an escape? But can’t afford one? Try your own backyard!”

  1. peggy salinas says:

    A really good one!! And you have a beautiful city to explore–and beautiful grand kids to do it with. Good job!!

  2. Sheree says:

    Thanks for keeping up on the blogs, Peggy. I know how active you are, so I appreciate the time you take to do this.

    Safe travels,