This is not a unique phenomenon that only pertains to people outside of the United States. There are multiple reasons why locals do not travel.
Many locals do not travel outside their own cities because they simply cannot afford to do so. Their income is enough to cover living expenses and travel is a luxury expense. This is the case in every country we have lived in, including the United States; some people just do not make enough money to afford to travel.
This is why some people whom we meet think that Mike and I are wealthy because we have been too so many places and done so much. What they do not know is that we save a lot of money by living very inexpensively and by not flying into and out of the US wasting lots of cash, we travel as a local would travel instead so we feel that we are traveling smarter.
We also concentrate on traveling to new places. This is a mind set choice. Not everyone has the mind set that if they have a spare moment or two they should use it to travel or visit someplace, be it local or long distance. I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY and I can tick off on one hand the number of times I’ve seen Niagara Falls. It is one of the natural wonders of the world and it was right in my backyard and yet I saw it only a handful of times. Going to see the Falls was just not a high priority; it was something we did when people came to visit us from another state or another country. In this instance perhaps familiarity does breed complacency. In my mind I always knew the Falls were there and they would be there whenever I wanted to visit so I planned vacations to far off lands instead.
Another reason many locals do not explore the treasures right in their own backyards is that they do not know they exist. We had a tour guide in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina tells us he bumps into this problem all the time with his friends. He will show them amazing pictures of beautiful places and they all ooh and aah and ask him where these places are. He tells them less than an hour’s drive from their doorstep and they do not believe him. He assures them these treasures are there for their enjoyment. Sadly they still do not make the time to go and see them. Perhaps travel is only travel to some people if it involves long distances or even in using a passport.
Tourism is big money and tourism boards spend a great deal of time cultivating buzz and getting tourists from other countries to come to their country to explore and spend money. What they ignore or even forget about is that their own people, other locals, might just be interested in what they have to offer as well. We found this to be the case in Sibenik. Croatia. Our landlady told us that we were incredibly lucky to have made the contacts we made and to get to see as much of her country as we had. She said she was born in Sibenik and hadn’t been too or even heard about some of the places we had been, but given the chance she would go and see all of these places in a heartbeat. So yes, another issue is having the opportunity to see these things. People fail to ask the local tourism boards what it is they are showing tourists who are coming to their city because they think they know everything there is to know about their city; they were born there after all so they must therefore know everything about it.
Several years ago I returned to Buffalo and planned a whirlwind set of days for excursions of places to visit. My nephews thought they had seen everything in the city or knew about all the places and laughed when I said I was going to set up a tour of the city. I pulled out all the stops. We rode the Carousel in Tonawanda (one of the last all wooden still working carousel’s in the US); we went to the Eden Kazoo factory where they handcraft Kazoo’s; we went to the Q-R-S museum where they made the music rolls for player piano’s and I finally rode on the Maid of the Mist which is as close to Niagara Falls as I wish to get! All of these things were less than a couple of hours drive from their home but they had never been to any of them. They were in awe that these things were available to them and they did have a good time.
Many of us fall into the time trap that on weekends we need to spend our time in doing laundry or mowing the lawn or in doing other household chores. In reality we should be taking the time to get out and explore those things that are right at our own doorstep. It is so easy to get into the mind set that we’ll get to see all of these places one day. One lesson Mike and I have learned is that if we don’t concentrate on seeing these things now we might never find the time to have this experience later. The old saying, ‘don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today’ seems appropriate here.
Mike and I are determined that when we get back to the US we don’t fall into this trap again; the ignore everything right in our backyard trap. We hope to explore everything we can in our city, county, state and country. Maybe we’ll make a grid and walk and explore this grid on a weekly basis until we have seen or experienced everything around us. This way, when someone asks us what there is to see in our neighborhood we’ll just smile and ask them how long they have to explore.