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No need to travel far to explore

Pick up your cell phone and you’re immediately transported to new places around the world. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it detracts from our desire to explore new places much closer to home. Places that are often just as magical as the locations we see portrayed on our screens.

It seems crazy the lengths we travel across the country or the globe without giving our backyards a second glance.

To better acquaint ourselves with locations closer to home, I suggest researching locations within an approximately 50-mile radius of you. Not only will setting a limit on your travel distance guarantee that you stay closer to home, but it will also encourage you to explore places you might not normally consider. So, make it fun!

Practicing this method allows you to: 1) gain a greater connection to and understanding of local history and culture; 2) encourages you to support local businesses and tourism; and 3) it helps you see places in a new light and discover areas for what feels like the first time.

When visiting places closer to home, you are also engaging with the cultural heritage of the region. Keep in mind, it doesn’t matter if you’re new the area or your family has lived here for generations, what matters is that you’re connecting with the land and the people nearest you to build ties and relationships you can pass on to future generations.

Have you ever wondered if your family has ties to the first settlers of the Juniata River Valley like Dorcas Buchanan? Was your great-great-grandfather a member of the Logan Guard? Did any members of your family attend the Tuscarora Academy? Are you related to the Pontius and Hunter families who started the Goose Day tradition in our area?

Even if you don’t have ties to this local history, learning about them gives us a sense of pride and can be profoundly fulfilling. When we make an effort to connect with local history and communities, we can form a stronger allegiance and bond to the place we call home. This encourages communities to keep tradition alive because it would be a shame to lose out on these connections simply because we don’t realize they exist.

Another beneficial aspect of traveling locally is the positive impact it has on local businesses and tourist attractions. Locals know their home region better than anyone, or they at least should try to know it better than any visitor. I mean who better is there to instruct a visitor on how best to maximize their time here than a local? Having a negative attitude toward your hometown is not beneficial to anyone. When locals say, “There’s nothing to do here,” the region as a whole can suffer.

Tell your family, friends and neighbors about your favorite retail shop, your favorite place to meet with friends for a drink, all the race tracks we have, who serves the best wings or the best junk shops to find great treasures. Better yet, take these people along the next time you go!

Do you know we have new breweries in the area like Hidden Stories Brewing Co. and the soon-to-be brewery at Wingman’s? Did you know we have a new art gallery in Mifflintown called Art on Main? Have you checked out The Crooked Shelf Bookshop in Lewistown? Tried your hand at racing a remote-control car at LCRC Raceway?

Tourism generates millions of dollars in the Juniata River Valley. However, with the pandemic, our lodging, food and retail establishments have been hit the hardest. When planning your next meal, birthday gift, or have family coming to visit, please consider supporting our local businesses.

Lastly, there is something special and exciting about going out in search of new places that aren’t often visited. Stumble across some incredible vistas, campsites and monuments by exploring the area around your home more mindfully and intentionally. There is a reason why we love to travel. We love the adventure, but what we really love is the discovery.

With the holidays approaching and have family coming to town, we know you like visiting your favorite spots. This year, be adventurous and try visiting some new places and start new traditions.

What’s your favorite part of exploring places close to home? Share your thoughts on the Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau Facebook page.

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Buffie Boyer is a marketing assistant for the Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau.

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