I have this fantasy of being able to jet off to far flung destinations at a moment’s notice. 

Of course, time and money would be no object. Environmentally friendly airplanes and completely sustainable hotels would exist to reduce the impact of my wanderlust … this is a fantasy after all. 

Sadly, this is not my reality and I doubt it will be anytime soon. But, I do find creative avenues to satisfy that travel bug with local adventures in and around Waterloo Region.  

Throughout 2019, I will be writing a column in the Community Edition about travelling in our own backyard. Each month, I will feature a unique excursion, day trip, weekend getaway or hidden gem, all of which can be found within our four rural townships and three cities. 

Waterloo Region has many of the sites we tend to love about travelling to another city or country: museums, top rated restaurants, urban and rural natural areas, rich cultural history, outdoor adventure, art galleries, a vibrant coffee and café scene, creative annual events, historical sites and walking tours. 

Local travel has some genuine benefits; visit destinations in your own community with a traveller’s curiosity and sense of adventure and there’s a good chance you will see things from a different perspective. Guaranteed, you will find places you didn’t know existed. 

Local travel can be a lot cheaper than jumping on a jet. Maybe you get limited time off or have commitments that make long haul destinations inconvenient. Stay-cations can tide you over while you save up for the next big trip. 

Local travel can also mitigate the darker side of international journeys such as increased pollution, pressure on countries with minimal infrastructure and over-tourism in many popular cities. 

Based on a report from the United Nation World Tourism Organization, we racked up 1.3 billion international tourist visits in 2017. That’s a 7 per cent increase from 2016. The same report shows another 6 per cent increase within the first half of 2018. 

As we travel more than ever before, our desire to see the world is having some detrimental effects. Due to overcrowding, cities like Venice and Barcelona are considering tourist caps and schemes to redirect visitors to other nearby destinations. 

Many national parks in the United States are being “loved to death” by rapid increases in visitor numbers. Officials there are increasing entrance fees and implementing internal park transit systems to reduce human impact on sensitive natural lands.

I’m not suggesting you close that browser with your latest flight searches or cancel those travel deal alerts. Rather, this year, I hope this column encourages you to expand your traveller’s palette with some local flavour. 

Just because you live here doesn’t mean you can’t learn from or appreciate what we have with a traveller’s eye and thrill. If you are new to Waterloo Region, these columns will introduce you to activities and experiences to help you learn about your new home. 

At the very least, by the end of 2019 you will have the best list of what to do in Waterloo Region when friends and family come to visit!