Get out, travel your home front

Leah Petr is able to take weekend trips to other countries, such as Ireland. Photo courtesy of Leah Petr

In the past two months, I’ve checked more places off my to-visit list than I probably had in my entire life.

In the next two, I’m set to check off even more!

I’ve been keeping track with an awesome TripAdvisor map application on Facebook, and it’s so fun to look and see all of the amazing sites I’ve seen.

Places that I never considered going, like Malta, where I met up with Sarah Jenkins, blew my mind with their rich cultures and others, like Dublin, that I expected to be amazing, completely lived up to the hype.

I’ve definitely been using my opportunities while I’m over here to explore anything and everything, taking advantage of the low-cost airlines and public transportation at every corner.

When I talk to locals, I’m always amazed by how many of them can tell me by rote which sights to see, but then follow up their recommendations with, “but I’ve never been there before.”

It makes me realize how much of my home area I’ve never seen, and that I need to keep up this tourist mentality when I get home.

My suggestions to someone visiting the Knoxville area would probably include things like Market Square, the Tennessee Rambler, Dollywood and Cades Cove, all things that I have done.

Petr has been exposed to much local history and architecture. Photo courtesy of Leah Petr

However, I would also say to check out the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, go up in the Sun Sphere, explore James White Fort, tube down the Little Pigeon River or ski at Ober Gatlinburg (depending on the weather) and go horseback riding in the Smokies, none of which I’ve experienced—kind of sad.

Also, I’ve packed my time here with day trips to little towns and attractions all around Scotland.

Have I ever ventured the two and a half hours over to Ashville to visit Biltmore? No.

The three hours to the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg? No.

But I have been to multiple castles/palaces and the Dewars/Aberfeldy Distillery and the Guinness Factory here.

I tell myself that I see everything here because I’m taking advantage of this short-lived opportunity, which is true, but I wonder if I would have done any of this adventuring if I knew I was going to be here for the long haul.

I think of all the time that I sat at home seemingly with nothing to do, wishing that I was half a world away where there were so many things to visit and explore.

I should have been out exploring my own region and enjoying Knoxville’s unique culture.

This isn’t saying that Scottish culture (or European as a whole) has let me down at all.

I see its stunning beauty and rich history around every corner and still probably prefer it to what I’ll find when I’m back home, but my time here has definitely taught me to not ignore the familiar: embrace and experience all that you can, even if it’s in your own backyard.

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