In 2016, I hardly left my country to travel, but I remember that year as the year I visited (or revisited) places of interest in my homeland Singapore, most of which are off the beaten path or relatively undiscovered by tourists. Here’s what I gathered about being a local tourist and why you should consider exploring your hometown every once in a while:
Still plenty to explore
There are definitely places at home you’ve not been to that are worth checking out at least once. They may not always have a lot of hype around them, and they may be hard to get to, but sometimes travelling is all about discovering spots that are unknown to most people.
I’m convinced there are plenty of advantages when you visit another city as a local in your own country. Even if the language and culture are slightly different than what you’re used to, there’s probably already some degree of familiarity, so that’ll be one less thing to worry about when you take a domestic trip.
Global communities abound
One of my biggest takeaways from ZafigoX 2019 is the notion of getting to know people and communities that are often not included in our respective countries’ narratives. Making the effort to explore this aspect of your country will give you a better appreciation of their contributions and widen your perspective.
In Singapore, for example, a visit to a mall or enclave frequented by migrant workers can seem like a trip by itself. You can have authentic cuisines from the community and shop for snacks and items that are popular in their home countries.
Support the local economy
The money you’re spending on a staycation at a local boutique hotel or on the menu at a hidden cosy café in the suburbs is circling back into the economy and that’s definitely good news for everyone.
A guide to help you enjoy a new city by finding those hidden nooks and crannies, and by meeting new people:
The things you want to experience overseas may actually be available at home. If there’s a cuisine you’re dying to try, check if it’s served in other cities within your country. If there’s a nature or outdoor activity that you thought is only possible with a plane ride, you might be surprised to find a variation of it available at home. You just have to look for them.
When I visited a pottery kiln in Okinawa, Japan, I thought it was like nothing I’ve seen before. A couple of years later, I found out there is a similar kiln tucked away in the west side of Singapore. I wish I’d known that so I could convey it to the Japanese potters and have a better discussion about the topic.
The knowledge and experience you get from being a domestic tourist can also be useful for your travels abroad. It’s also your chance to try something new before you embark on something big overseas. If you have goals to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, it might be a good idea to test out your comfort level of carrying out such a feat, and you might be able to get a bit of practice at home first.
It makes you a better traveller
In a world where we sometimes walk a thin line between cultural appropriation and appreciation, it’s important that we make conscious decisions when we choose to participate in certain cultural or spiritual experiences on our travels. Everyone has their own take on this, but my personal guiding principle has been, “If wouldn’t do this at home, why would I do this when I travel?” Keep in mind that ethical travel has a positive impact.
Local expert status
You gain so much more perspective and appreciation for your country when you take the time to discover its lesser-known parts or even its most popular destinations. And you’ll have better suggestions for friends who are visiting! Because you’ve actually been to these places, you’ll be able to make better recommendations that suit their preferences and needs.
There are still tonnes of places I’ve not been to in Singapore (and I admit, some are popular tourist attractions), and I’m definitely looking forward to striking them off my travel bucket list in future.