If your summer travel plans have been put on hold, you may be looking for adventures a little closer to home. Or a lot closer. Even closer. Like, your own neighborhood.
We know: a walk around your neighborhood sounds so, dare we say it, boring. After all, our screens have so many options and our neighborhoods have, if we’re lucky, sidewalks? And aren’t we all a bit tired from the grind?
Yes and yes. But our neighborhoods really do have a lot to offer if we’re willing to look at them with the eyes of someone who’s never been there before. Whether you’ve lived in your neighborhood for years or just moved in, we’re betting there are things you’ve never noticed before. And isn’t that the real joy of traveling? Seeing things in a new way?
Throw on a pair of roller blades or hop on a bike and any neighborhood walk can become an adventure. Here are some ways you can make the most of the neighborhood you call home.
1. Treat Your Neighborhood Like A New Place By Mapping It Out
If you’re traveling to a new place, one of the first things you do is look at a map, right? If you want your neighborhood exploration to feel a little more like a real “trip,” start there. Do some research with your kids and find out what the actual boundaries of your neighborhood are. Find out how far certain parks or landmarks are from your house. Kids can even draw their version of a map and see how closely it matches what you find while exploring.
2. Go On A Photo Expedition Around Your Neighborhood
Sometimes the best way to see something in a new way is through a camera lens. (Or a, uh, smartphone lens?) A photo expedition around your own neighborhood can help you see it differently. Maybe it’s zooming in on a leaf or flower. Or you could let the kids take photos at different times of the day and then compare morning light to golden hour or twilight. Slow down to look for something interesting and you’ll definitely find it through a camera lens.
3. A Scavenger Hunt, But Guess How Many Things You’ll Actually Find
Generate a list of things commonly found in neighborhoods. Things like fire hydrants, street signs, a certain tree or a neighbor’s “charming” garden sculpture. Then share the list with another family. Walk around the neighborhood and try to snap a pic of everything you find. Another way to do this would be to predict what you might find. Kids can guess that on a 30-minute walk, they’ll see four rocks or 16 different flowers or three green front doors. Bring a clipboard along and see how close they get to what you actually find.
4. Explore By Focusing On How Things Smell
No matter their age, it’s always interesting to help your kids notice things with their senses. When you’re exploring the neighborhood streets, ask them what they see, feel, touch and smell. Taste may be a little more challenging (unless you have a little one who likes to sample anything she can pick up!) but you could always walk to a cafe or farm stand you’ve never visited and sample a new snack.
5. Intentionally Slow Down And Let Your Kids Lead The Way
Life can feel so hurried. We’re always trying to get somewhere, usually with as much efficiency as possible. For purposes of exploring, let kids lead the way and actually try to get lost. Plan to take the first left, then the next right, then the next left and so on. The beauty of it is that there’s really no such thing as getting fully lost (hello, GPS!) but kids will love wandering without a set plan in place.
6. Collect Data About Your Neighborhood’s Favorite Color
What is your neighborhood’s favorite flower color? Is it pumpkin orange, school bus yellow? Or, dreamhouse pink? Only a walk around the block will reveal the answer. And if you have younger kids, counting is a no-brainer “travel” activity. They can count blue cars or two-story houses or stop signs.
7. Dress For The Adventure You Want, Not The Walk You’re Having
Maybe you call it a walkabout. Or an excursion. Possibly an expedition. Then pack a bag with snacks, notebooks, pencils, water, binoculars, magnifying glass, measuring tape or whatever else makes it feel like you’re really going exploring. If you’re crafty, you might even make your own actual, literal “ticket to adventure.” Think of it like marketing. You’re turning “boring neighborhood walk” into “who knows what we’ll find as we journey to the heart of University Heights!”
A million inspirational Instagram quotes tell us that “travel is a state of mind.” If this year’s summer plans don’t extend much past a few blocks, now’s the time to look for adventure right under your nose.
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