What springs to mind when you think of explorers? What images do you conjure up when someone says they enjoy travelling? Thailand? Australia? Far flung corners of the globe and rugged landscapes? Bustling Moroccan spice markets exploding with colour?
Why? Why do you think it’s always foreign lands we imagine when we talk of travel and exploration? Why don’t you ever think of your homeland? Your home county? The town you live in?
I consider myself a traveller. An explorer. One keen on adventure. Yet I haven’t stepped a foot abroad for over five years, and even that was the first time in four years. In the past decade I’ve spent a grand total of seventeen days on foreign soil yet barely a week goes by that I’m not travelling or exploring.
In that decade I’ve become more familiar with my homeland that I ever would’ve imagined. I’ve travelled the length and breadth of my home county and explored the far-flung corners and rugged landscapes it has to offer. I’ve seen parts of this little corner of England that most don’t even know exist, and felt great sadness at how much of it will never be explored by the people who live there because the appeal of the next long-haul is too great.
It’s not that I don’t like going abroad. As I write this I’m only five days away from venturing to a volcanic island off the coast of Africa. And we do have holidays every year, but there’s something about local exploring that never disappoints. It never takes us long to get there, never costs us much, and we don’t have to plan months in advance. There’s always something new to discover; always a stretch of beach we’ve not visited or a castle/peel tower/ruin of some sort we’ve missed. Forget the big tourist traps; the Alnwick Castles and the Holy Islands. They’ve got their place, and for brand new visitors to the area they’re a wonderful introduction to the county but we like seeing the other bits just round the corner that get all-too-often overlooked.
Consider this: Northumberland to someone from Phuket could be no different than Phuket is to someone from Northumberland; a place of adventure. An exploration of the unknown. A window into the lives and lands of a different culture. So if Northumberland can be that exciting to someone from a different part of the world, why can’t it be like that for us? Most of us don’t really know the land we live in and never take the time to explore where we’re from. Our county is steeped through to its very core in history. It’s brimming over with wondrous things to see and discover. You just have to take the time to look for them.
Try this: go down a road you’ve never been down before. Go for a day out with no plan at all of where you’re going. Pick a random little village on the map then go and find out what’s there. Follow a footpath marker to new territory. I guarantee you’ll find something of interest. Even if you don’t, for just that one day you’ve been an explorer.