Now that the weather is getting warmer and everyone will start itching to be outside more, it’s important to remember you don’t always have to travel far to be a tourist. It’s too easy to put off visiting sites that are near home until one day you’ve moved and they’re no longer in your backyard. Take the time this spring to enjoy some of the great places close to Baltimore by being a hometown tourist!
For the nature junkie, spend the day (or two or three, for the more adventurous) hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Or visit one of Maryland’s state parks. Cunningham Falls State Park can also be a great place to spend a full day. There are a variety of hiking trails of different difficultly levels, with one of the easiest leading to the 78 foot waterfall. Although swimming isn’t permitted at the base of the falls, you can take a dip in Hunting Creek Lake to cool off. The park offers cabin rentals and camping if you want to make the trip a longer getaway. From April through October the park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset and from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day costs are $4/person and all other times costs are $3/vehicle. Visit dnr2.maryland.gov for more information or to find other Maryland State Parks.
To escape the hustle of the big city without delving too deep into nature, head to downtown Annapolis or to St. Michael’s on the Eastern Shore. Both towns are great places to have a relaxing day walking around and visiting unique shops and restaurants or to take a ride on a sailboat. The history buffs can take a guided tour of the historical buildings of Annapolis and a trip to Annapolis wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Naval Academy—make sure to see the on-base museum full of ship models and the nautically themed tomb of John Paul Jones. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is a beautiful museum located along the water and includes a collection of actual boats.
We are living in a digital era, and the backpacking traveler, no matter what country she or he goes to, cannot escape that. Just six years ago traveling backpacker-style (moving on local transport and staying in shared hostels) with a cheap, twenty-dollar cell phone meant one more thing to keep track of. At that time it would have been absurd to consider bringing a smart phone to many places, especially such places where these little computers we call phones are not common and generally reserved for the wealthy. Pulling out a smart phone flaunts one’s wealth, which is never a good idea while traveling.
But things have changed. Wi-Fi started becoming common in hostels and internet-cafés in tourist areas are harder to find. As with many things that change, it is never purely for good or for bad, but it has its ups and downs. In some ways it makes living in the moment more feasible—booking an airline ticket the evening before a flight can be done at 11:00 p.m. from a bed. But it becomes much harder to escape home with Facebook and Twitter still at your fingertips. In many cases human interaction sprung from necessity is no longer needed, at home or abroad. Instead of asking a random person on the street for directions, I can use the maps.me application (a downloadable map that navigates without an internet connection) to find my way. While I just lost a moment of human contact that could have turned into a memorable experience, not many people are around and I am able to get back to my hostel before dark, knowing I am heading in the right direction.
Like so many decisions when traveling, deciding whether or not to bring a smart phone is a personal one that can only be decided by you. In my recent experiences, traveling with a smart phone made my life much easier. I pre-booked hostels so I had an address to hand the taxi driver, I was able to easily navigate my way around streets, I booked overnight train tickets a few days prior to get a sleeper berth, and I set up tours which were important to me ahead of time to ensure I’d have the experiences I wanted.
Still, some of my favorite memories from being on the road are the unplanned ones, the ones where I had very little idea of where I was going and how to get there and getting lost at some point was eminent. Those are the moments that reminded me that I’m strong and capable and that life isn’t as difficult and complicated as we make it out to be. If you’re unsure, then do a little research about your destination before deciding.
And whatever you decide, live the experience and don’t be trapped by spending precious time emailing and updating social media.
I have always been fascinated with India and the thought of hippie- era travelers wandering endlessly through this enchanting land. What would it be like to travel through the center of spiritualism, through a land that has held tight to its traditions instead of trying to emulate the West, and in a place known to spark inner awakenings in people?
In India, just a walk down the street is no simple feat as the senses are bombarded with every step. An explosion of colors—brightly dyed textiles hanging in shops, orange marigolds once hung from doors trampled into the asphalt, rainbows of fresh vegetables and ground spices, and beautifully decorated temples—infiltrates the eyes. The sweet aroma of fried jalebi and spiced masala tea mingles in the air with the smell of livestock and burning trash. The constant blare of car horns overpowers the ears, but has no luck drowning out the sharp ring of the temple’s cleansing bell or the sounds of musical chanting. An array of spices that electrify the taste buds with every bite are cooked into all kinds of culinary delights that can be tasted on every street corner. India isn’t a place to visit; it’s a place to experience.