5 ways to explore your backyard

A recently discovered view of Los Angeles

Traveling doesn’t necessarily cost a lot of money, but it still costs money. And with a 9 to 5 job and life to live, it can get even trickier to find time to explore.

The nice thing about traveling, though, is that it isn’t impossible to do given those circumstances. It isn’t necessary to have access to an aircraft or a car to travel, nor is it necessary to venture off hundreds or thousands of miles away from home. It also doesn’t need to take a whole bunch of time.

I’m immensely fond of taking trips just around the block because there are so many places I’d never noticed in the vicinity of where I live until I set aside some time to notice what’s here. It’s so easy to take our immediate surroundings for granted that it’s easy to overlook little gems exclusive to where we are.

Five methods of nearby exploration have worked wonders for me, and I hope you find them useful, too!

1. Walk


Feet should be appreciated every single day because they’re fundamental when it comes to traveling. Without cars, buses, or trains, etc. how else would we get around?

Simply walking around your neighborhood and in surrounding areas is a great way to discover new places. Sure, you don’t get as far and tire more easily, but taking things slowly might just allow you to notice a cozy little restaurant around the corner or a park you may not have seen before while driving or on public transit.

Or maybe there’s a Victorian house down the street that is obviously out of place among the modern homes along the block.

Take a walk, take in the sights, enjoy them, and appreciate the details that you previously did not notice.

2. Google Maps

If you’re wondering where to start, here’s how I like to use Google Maps:

– Position the map so you’re looking at your area
– Zoom in close enough so you can read the names of establishments
– (If you’d like, switch the view to satellite mode to see the actual roads and buildings of the area you’re viewing)
– Do you see an eatery, park, lake, or museum that piques your interest? (Even a teeny, tiny bit?) Do you see something and think, “Hm… that looks interesting?”
– Great! Go check it out! 😀

This can be a spontaneous or prepared way to go about exploring: it’s spontaneous if you just pick a point on the map and go, but there’s also the option of doing some research about the place before going there.

*Be prepared to expect some not-so-cool sights along the way with this method, especially if you don’t use the satellite view. For example, a blue circular shape may be labeled a “lake” on Google Maps, but if it has evaporated then there might just be an empty crater to see. However, with an open mind, every Google Maps-based exploration is a learning experience.

**Tidbit: I came across the Descanso Gardens in La Canada (pictured below) by using Google Maps. It’s a beautiful botanical garden!


3. Public Transit


I’m a huge advocate of public transportation because it’s a good way to get around while reducing your carbon footprint and can be cheaper than driving. Even in areas where transit systems are still in development, taking advantage of whatever is available is a great way to discover new places.

Do some research on fees and routes (if you’re not already familiar with them), and start by hopping on buses and/or trains that stop nearby.

Or decide on a destination you want to visit (maybe something seen on Google Maps 😉 ) and figure out how to use public transit to get there.

*Another plus about public transportation is that there’s no need to worry about dealing with traffic: bus operators get to handle that while you get to relax and appreciate everything else outside the windows.

4. Instagram


There’s so much more to Instagram than selfies, photo updates of everyone’s lives, quotes, celebrity posts, and pretty pictures (although there’s nothing wrong with these).

The geotags and hashtags on this social media network provide refreshing inspiration when stumped with the question, “Where should I go?”

Through Instagram, I learned that there is a Bubble Gum Alley in San Luis Obispo by searching through hashtags, when all this time I had only heard of the one in Seattle! (This particular photo was fortunately geotagged, and I have now added this to my bucket list 🙂 )

I’ve also received recommendations on eateries and additional places to see by other users.

Instagram is a fantastic tool for developing a list of where to start exploring and where to go next.

5. Talk to locals

ninongs_granada_hills_ube_pancakes san_pedro_fish_market tiago_hollywood

Locals are the best people to talk to when it comes to uncovering local treasures (since they already live there), like where to find the cheapest produce or where the best not touristy viewpoints are. But even in your own city, chances are there’s still a lot more to learn. Strike up a conversation with fellow residents (as well as acquaintances, friends, family, and coworkers who live in the area) and find out that a local farmer sells strawberries that are way sweeter than the ones at the grocery store, that a hole-in-the-wall bakery two blocks away has unbeatably delectable fudge cakes, or that there are weekly walking tours of historical sites in the neighborhood.

(Pictured above are eateries I’ve gone to, inspired by people who already live here.)

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