I just picked up a copy of “Explore Every Day” at Words Worth Books in Waterloo. It’s a brand new publication from Lonely Planet, the company synonymous with wanderlust-y travel guides to far off destinations.
The author, Alex Leviton, describes this small volume as an “untravel” book. I can’t help feeling like Leviton has been reading this hyperlocal travel column over the past year. Wishful thinking on my part, but I was thrilled to see themes from my columns echoed in a book prompting the reader to seek local community experiences and interactions to “awaken the sense of adventure or connection” we feel when we travel.
I’m in for that.
In 2019, I travelled every month of the year, which is a bit of a dream goal for me. But, if you followed this column throughout the past year, you know a lot of my travel involved walking, hiking, public transit and 30-minute drives to locations within Waterloo Region rather than air travel.
When I started this column one year ago, I was convinced that our community has everything you would expect to find when you travel to international cities. I was not wrong.
I visited our four rural townships for day trip adventures and attended events in Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo. This isn’t a huge stretch for me as I’m a locally-minded and engaged person, to begin with.But, most of the experiences I encountered were things I had never done before and had not even heard about.
I attended my first KW Titans basketball game, tubed on the Grand River, ate my way through the Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese Festival, visited a dozen farm shops and road-side stands for locally grown produce, had lunch and fellowship at an Older Mennonite family farm and spent a day of learning at Six Nations of the Grand River.
I had countless conversations where I learned hilarious local history and obscure factoids and heard numerous passionate defences for why Waterloo Region makes a great travel destination. If it hadn’t been for a casual chat with a friend, I wouldn’t have looked up the story of Black Horse Corner in North Dumfries Township or made a stop to visit Nith Valley Apiaries in Wilmot Township.
I loved hearing from readers who took a local trip because they read about it in this column. Most people also got lost on the unsigned GeoTime Trail in Waterloo. Others were inspired to go see a local sports team or check out the trippy Twilight Zoo in Elora.
In addition to highlighting more local gems and destinations in 2020, I will share some stories of other Waterloo Region people exploring our community as hyperlocal travellers.
I received suggestions for more places to see and things to do and some of these will make it into the column for 2020. People wanted to tell me about their favourite local place and I look forward to sharing these from the perspective of someone who knows it well.
I’m not the only one exploring ideas of hyperlocal travel, untravel, everyday travel, or whatever you want to call it. The common element is that we can find experiences, meet new people and have adventures in our own community that just like travelling around the world.
Juanita is a freelance travel writer and community engagement professional based in Kitchener. As a traveller, she is partial to slow travel and holds high regard for community bulletin boards and actually talking to people as the richest sources for tapping in to local experiences.
Juanita is a regular contributor to several neighbourhood blogs and websites focused on community development. Find her on Instagram @juanita_metzger