Our plans of chasing our bucket list across the world in 2020 have been replaced by cancellations, quarantines, and an uncertain future. Many countries still have a ban on non-essential travel, and others have opened borders under strict restrictions. It’s safe to say that we travel lovers have had to do some pivoting.

As domestic travel opens up, we’re looking into new destinations in our own backyard just for the sake of satisfying our travel bug, even though they aren’t quite the exotic getaway we’ve been dreaming of.

For those who have been on a plane recently or have plans to in the near future, it’s likely to be for a specific purpose that doesn’t involve the destination itself. Some people are travelling for work, relocating for an extended period of time, or for obligations involving out-of-town relatives or friends.

But as we’re all craving the good old days of travel for pleasure, there is all the more reason to make the most out of any new destination we find ourselves in. The things we love about travel — new experiences, people, cultures, and to escape the ordinary — can still be found no matter where you are. You might just have to look a little harder.

Here are some ways to find the magic in a place that wasn’t necessarily at the top of your bucket list:

Find inspiration on Instagram

Instagram is filled with inspiration for your travels, and it’s a great resource for an upcoming trip. Browsing through photos of your upcoming destination will show its most photogenic side, sparking motivation to go find these beautiful spots when you arrive.

Photo of author appears on her Instagram post @kelliepaxian
Photo of author doing yoga in Tofino, British Columbia appears on her Instagram post @kelliepaxian

Ask for recommendations

You may feel uninspired by having to “settle” for a destination that wasn’t on your bucket list, but there are likely some gems that you’re not aware of yet. Maybe your friends, family, or coworkers have been there and can recommend a secret spot that you just have to check out. Maybe engaging in a Facebook travel group will inspire some ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask, and your trip will likely shape up quite nicely!

Put on your photographer hat

Spend your time in the destination snapping some photos. This will encourage you to keep your eyes peeled for things that you find unique, different, or captivating, and will really make you realize just how beautiful the place is.

Dine out at an independent restaurant

Sitting in your hotel ordering room service, or opting for your go-to fast-food chain, isn’t going to open your taste buds or eyes to any new experiences. Go to an independent local restaurant, ask the server what the signature dish is, soak in the atmosphere, and discover what makes this spot unique.

Spend time in nature

Nature often sets the stage for our best travel memories. Even if your destination isn’t known for its nature, try to find a nearby mountain, field, river, or beach, and spend some time social distancing and soaking in the elements that surround you. Some fresh air might just be the rejuvenation you’ve been needing.

  • Flood Falls, BC taken by Kellie Paxian
  • Lighthouse Loop, Ucluelet, BC. Photo: Kellie Paxian
  • Bald eagle in Ucluelet, BC. Photo: Kellie Paxian
  • Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. Photo: Kellie Paxian

Talk to the locals

Don’t cling to your friends or colleagues you’re on the trip with. Minding social distancing guidelines, of course, make an effort to ask a question or strike up a conversation with a friendly-looking local, even if it’s a bartender or store clerk. Ask them what they love about their home, learn something new, and you might even make a new Facebook friend while you’re at it.

Catch a sunset

Sunsets are good for the soul. There’s something about seeing the sky tint with gold, pink, and orange that just makes you appreciate the world around you and feel that everything’s going to be okay. And guess what — sunsets aren’t just found in your bucket list destinations (although I swear they’re better in Bali). No matter where you are, find a window, rooftop, or open view, and watch the sun go down with gratitude. 

Sunset from Big Beach, Ucluelet, BC. Photo: Kellie Paxian
Sunset from Big Beach, Ucluelet, BC. Photo: Kellie Paxian

Go for a morning stroll

As the city is just waking up, you’ll be able to observe the locals starting their day and take in the destination while it’s still a bit sleepy. Ask your hotel concierge, a local friend, or Google some nice spots for a walk — a waterfront promenade, a quaint residential neighbourhood, or café-lined street — and soak in the new day in your new destination.

Pay attention to your surroundings

Don’t just focus on the person, event, or circumstance that brought you to the destination. Make note of what’s different and beautiful around you, from the architecture to the landscapes to the interactions. If you’re focused on getting from point A to point B, you’ll miss all the beauty that’s in between.

Be grateful 

Remember that travel is a luxury. COVID-19 or no COVID-19, there are many people around the world who don’t have the privilege to visit new places due to limitations in abilities, finances, schedules, or other barriers. Being able to jump on a plane, car, or other means of transportation is something not everyone can do, and we must humbly acknowledge that if we can travel anywhere at all, we’re extremely lucky. Now more than ever, gratitude is the most important travel companion!

Photo taken by author on her Abby Grind hike in British Columbia.
Photo taken by author on her Abby Grind hike in British Columbia.

Cover photo: Author Kellie Paxian on Hornby Island, British Columbia