Last week I had the opportunity to drive to London, Ontario, and visit the hiking trails, restaurants, and cultural spots in the area (respectively – Sifton Bog, Waldo’s on King, and the London Music Hall). I’ve been to London multiple times in the past to take in much of the same, with some variations, but the place continues to fascinate me. I also love the feeling of hopping into my car and traveling over a short, two-day period entirely on my own schedule.
Although I get a huge thrill from this form of travel, I often wonder if other people feel the same. I enjoy local trips because they are comparatively cheap and require limited pre-planning. I always find something novel and exciting to enjoy on the fly – for this particular trip to London, I also made a brief drive down to Norfolk County, where I went ziplining at Long Point Eco Adventures and hiking in Backus Woods.
I’m firmly of the opinion that this kind of travel has social, environmental, and cultural benefits. Socially, it means that I have deeper emotional and cognitive connections with Southwestern Ontario (what some might refer to as a ‘sense of place‘ towards this geographic region). This kind of connection provides me with a long list of positive psychological reactions (e.g. a stronger personal identity) (Cross, 2001). Environmentally, it means that I’m not traveling by air, “the most polluting form of transport per passenger-kilometre” (Green Choices, 2014). Culturally, it means that I’m supporting my local tourism economy. When I worked with the Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation (SWOTC) last summer, they were always debating how to attract more people to Ontario’s Southwest. A lack of charismatic attractions and overnight accommodations was seen as a detriment to the economic success of the region. This would not be the case if everyone in Ontario traveled and spent their money locally.
My sense that local travel is of declining interest to the modern tourist (or ‘traveler’, as they prefer to be called) is based on both anecdotal and research-based evidence. My social media feeds are full of people traveling and volunteering abroad, often for the purposes of course work or perceived benefits to their employment eligibility. Many people in the Millennial generation see it as a point of prestige to travel internationally (see the report, Traveling with Millennials). A recent report by the World Youth Student & Education (WYSE) Travel Confederation found that “[i]n 2012, $217 billion of the $1.088 trillion tourism “spend” worldwide came from young travelers, an increase that vastly outstripped that of other international travelers” (Mohn, 2013). Sexy travel for current generations means finding that unique, local spot in a foreign country, rather than staying home and exploring new spots in your own home province or country (Mohn, 2013).
As I’ve previously pondered, we’re not like Kerouac anymore. Tied down by bureaucracy and high gas prices, the sense of economic freedom and curiosity that past generations enjoyed has evaporated. Fewer young people relocate for work (see my blog article on this topic here). Although it would seem logical to travel locally in an era of rising costs, more people are finding ways to travel internationally on the cheap (Gourgy, 2009). Companies like G Adventures profit from this attitude by offering unorganized, self-initiated, and cheap international travel experiences. This makes me wonder – can we expect to see the death of the road trip in our collective future?
Do you take regular road trips in your local province or country? If so, please feel free to contest my ideas by commenting below or Tweeting me (@legault_maria)!
Below are a few memories from my road trip last week (in just two days, much can be seen and experienced).