Travel Where You Live
Guest blogger and photographer Valentina Locatelli is back with an informative and passionate blog about what it means – and what it takes – to travel where you live.
I often hear young people complain about the fact that they cannot afford to travel because it’s expensive. I can’t agree with that. I understand there are young people in the world who really can’t afford to travel or move, but this article is not about that. I just want to describe something that is important to me: that it is the way you travel that can make travel expensive.
In my life, I’ve been an au pair, attended volunteer programmes and Erasmus+ projects, hitchhicked, couchsurfed and rideshared. I have been travelling a lot – always on a budget and often for free. It is my being open to the others that made me find so many people willing to help me long the way.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided I wanted to visit Slovenia and Croatia, as I had never been there. I left by bus from my hometown and travelled by bus and local transportation only. I used couchsurfing and the tent I was carrying with me for accommodation and spent almost no money on my trip. But I don’t want to talk about this.
What I want to talk about is an inspiring video I saw about one year ago. Its message was ‘travel where you live’. Basically, this German guy decided, after travelling the world, to go back to the start and (re)discover his own region.
Well, once I saw the video I started to reflect about my own life, on how I used to take what surrounded me for granted and tended to escape somewhere else instead of focusing on what I already had.
I decided to challenge myself by putting on my traveler’s lenses and living the same way I do when I’m travelling. I had always seen my time home as a pit-stop between one experience and another, but I realised that the pit-stopped me was just too lazy to go and look for adventure in the familiar, to discover unfamiliar right behind the corner.
I had one year to spend back in Bergamo, my hometown in northern Italy, due to work and studies. I decided to see it as an opportunity to start over again, rediscovering my city, its surroundings and the region with new, curious, wide-open eyes.
Now one year has passed, and I’m looking back on my travel where you live experience. I discovered secret corners of my own city. I hiked in the mountains I thought I knew so well and discovered new trails and breathtaking landscapes.
I caught trains on my own to go sightseeing in the cities nearby. I visited castles only half an hour away from me by public transport. I birdwatched and visited national and regional reserves.
I showed around couchsurfers and foreign friends. I visited lakes, monasteries and little churches. I attended several festivals and events. I met people from all around the world who, in turn, invited me to go and visit them in their countries.
I attended a quality Erasmus+ training course in a town nearby and found myself taking part in a ‘local dinner’ with the international participants hosted by local families, experiencing a huge cultural exchange right at home.
I found myself explaining to friends about my culture, my roots, my traditions, my home. I’m a more active citizen. I found beauty in the smallest things. I fell in love with my city.
I discovered that sometimes you don’t need to go that far away to travel. You don’t need to go that far away to get to know yourself, to have new experiences, to enrich yourself by an exchange with other human beings. You just need curiosity, a mindset open to discovery and a heart open to exchange. The rest will follow.
What I did was driven by a new personal attitude towards life. It was inexpensive and yet so enriching, and I warmly suggest it to everyone.
If you can’t afford that flight to Amsterdam right now, start looking around yourself with new eyes, inform yourself about the places of interest nearby and discover the totally unknown ones: it will feel like travelling and won’t cost you a thing. Travel where you live!
Article submitted by Valentina Locatelli, a 22 year-old international affairs student. She spent last summer in Gaziantep, Turkey as an EVS volunteer. Follow her on Twitter @v__locatelli and read her other PCI blogs, How to Promote Tolerance: Valentina’s Story, A Sharing Economy Example, Youth Unemployment in Europe: the NEETs and What Women Empowerment is All About.
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