Author: Hannah Miller

Backyard Adventure For the Budget Indie Traveler

When we think of travel, we often think first of far-off destinations and postcards from abroad: the Pyramids of Egypt, the jungles of Bali, the Old World town squares of Europe. And inevitably, some of us quickly give up on the idea of travel altogether. It feels too far-off, too much like a ‘someday’ dream that would require 10+ years of savings, a boost of confidence, and a sabbatical from work.

But what if I told you that adventure isn’t tied to the big-ticket items?

It’s not necessarily even tied to international travel, though there are some benefits to being that far out of your comfort zone. What if I told you that adventure can be found in your own backyard?

Find adventure in the routine, and routine in the adventure.

We often fail to be tourists in our own home state. It’s easy to fall into a routine and forget to notice, let alone explore the beauty in your locale.

Leaving to spend a week the Adirondacks was an exercise in finding adventure in the routine for me. I live just across the Canadian border from this mountain range in upstate New York and never thought to check it out until a spontaneous opportunity for a mother-daughter trip with my mom popped up.

We wanted to reduce our potential carbon footprint by avoiding air travel, and didn’t want to drive more than three hours. The pressure was on to build a travel-worthy experience without going overboard.

As it turns out, our “backyard” was chock full of incredible activities and learning experiences.

It wasn’t hard to create an escape without boarding a plane. Airbnb provided quick, easy short-term rentals, including an off-the-beaten-path glamping experience.

Just a few hours away from home, we drove to the top of a mountain overlooking the Hudson River, where local entrepreneur Leslie and her daughter had hand-built a remote glamping stay on their family property. We shared stories and a Hershey’s bar under a beautiful canvas canopy as an Adirondack thunderstorm rolled through the mountains, pattering a drumroll on our tent.

The next morning, we rattled down the mountainside on a dirt road to the fantastic Adirondack Adventures company, where local guides met with us to raft the mighty Hudson. Twin brothers, Matthew and Patrick, guided us down the rapids, masterfully dodging rocks and branches along the way, joking with the group and reminiscing about their years in the rafting trade and trips down the Grand Canyon.

After a wild ride down the river, we were invited to join the locals at their “tiki bar” in the woods, a quaintly fabulous setup perched over the creek behind the company lodge, complete with ice cold gin and tonic. Perfection.

This was just the start of a one-week romp through the Adirondack State Park that included hiking, great food, comfortable accommodations, and plenty of downtime to commune with nature.

The best part? The entire trip cost less than international flights for two to pretty much anywhere outside the US or Canada.

We don’t need to board an airplane and fly 6+ hours to make new connections, test our limits, and gain new skills. We don’t even need to dip deep into our savings. To me, travel is about pushing our comfort zones, meeting new people, and seeking to consciously expand our understanding of the world.

Being an indie traveler is a lifestyle, not a mindset to pack in your carry on. Who says we can’t apply it within our 200 mile radius once in a while?

For those of us based in the States, I’ll take it a step farther and say that local travel is a way to rediscover the USA at its best.

In our current political climate, it can be easy to get caught up in negative feelings of despair and frustration – our situation is far from perfect. But the good roots of humanity remain, away from the Facebook posts, hidden in the raft guides’ local tiki bar, Airbnb host Leslie’s entrepreneurial spirit, and the everyday vibe of the ordinary working-class Americans you’ll meet along the way.

Though I hadn’t seen it coming, seeking local adventure helped me to reconnect with reality – in general, people are good.

Sometimes you need to recharge and build community before taking on the world again. No plane tickets required.

To build local adventure intentionally:

  • Find a local destination that you’ve maybe put off visiting until now.
  • Commit to pursuing exploration in your life more regularly – set your first trip on the calendar for as soon as possible.
  • Build a “Small Adventures” bucket-list. Add the Eiffel Tower if you feel like it, but focus on adventures you could do with a day or two (or even an afternoon) off.
  • Start a small travel savings fund if you haven’t already – prioritize experiences over things in your budgeting.
  • Think about building your trip around skill-based travel – what do you want to learn?
  • Be brave. Go solo if you can’t find a travel buddy! You’re worth the investment.
  • Keep a travel journal and make an entry every time you get out there. It’ll inspire you to choose adventure again and will serve as a reflection tool for any lessons learned along the way.