Whether you’re someone who’s on the move or you tend to settle in the same place, so many of us can live in one spot without really getting to know our surroundings. While there is so much to be said for traveling far distances and seeking the exotic, we often take for granted the treasures in our own towns. Before expanding your horizons, trying expanding your neighborhood. Here are a few easy ways to explore what’s right outside your door.

1. Learn About Native Wildlife

Is there a bird you always see or a type of tree that seems prevalent? Look them up! Nature doesn’t have to be exotic to be interesting. Learning more about local wildlife is a way to feel connected to nature and to enjoy its beauty. Nothing beats being able to recognize birdcalls or knowing which plants are edible.

2. Find a Local Trail or Landmark

You could travel to see the Grand Canyon or the Everglades. Indeed, you should! But we’re willing to bet that are some beautiful sights right in your district: a nice secluded stream that’s perfect for a picnic, a meadow for gazing at stars. These places can feel all more special because they’re right in our back yard (and depending on where you live, they won’t be flooded with tourists).

3. Meet Your Neighbors

Who are the people who actually live in your area? Some of us may know our neighbors like our family, but with our social lives slowly being moved online, it’s getting harder and harder to just meet people in person. Challenge yourself. Take a chance and introduce yourself when you catch your neighbor on the sidewalk or taking out their trash. Offer to water their plants or pass on some cookies you just baked. Small gestures are the seeds to plant more meaningful relationships.

4. Learn Your Town’s History

When was your town founded? Who founded it? Was it mostly used for farmland or was it a stopover during a great migration? When you study local history, you learn about the history of the country itself. Not sure where to start? Check out the local historical society, museums, and town libraries. Archives and records are a great to nose through during a rainy afternoon.  

5. Attend A Local Event

This one may be a no-brainer if you live in a small town, but you’d be surprised how much goes on without you even realizing! Is there an outdoor fair coming up? A church concert you might enjoy? What about a drive to repair the local bridge? Once you start learning what does on locally, you’ll never have an excuse to be bored.  

6.  Volunteer For a Charity Group

No matter where we live, there are always people striving for good. Who are the folks that are working to make your town, and the world, a better place? Go out of your way to meet them. These individuals don’t necessarily have the funding, fame, or following that larger organizations do, but their causes are just as worthy. Spending some time volunteering for a small group can also be a better way to really feel the impact of your efforts.  

7. Eat Local

Make it a point to go to try that restaurant you pass all the time, or the new place that just opened up. There will always be chain restaurants, but there’s nothing like finding a dish that you can only get at the nearby joint. Eating local doesn’t have to mean a night out with servers and waitresses either. Farmers markets have so much to offer in the way of delicious foods. Get to know what local produce or home baked bread looks, smells, and tastes like. Farmers markets are also full of vendors selling homemade sauces, sweets, and pickles.

8. Support Local Artists

Great art isn’t always hanging in fancy museums. The best tunes aren’t always downloadable. Learn to relish the art of creators who also happen to be your neighbors. Maybe there’s a group of retired dads who regularly jam on at the local restaurant or an award-winning poet who sometimes speaks at the library. Meeting these people in person and enjoying their creations imbues their work with a personal connection that you just can’t find at a museum or opera house.

9. Attend a Class or Group

Venture to a drawing class, a dance lessons, a running group. Not only will you experience the joy and challenges of simply trying something new, you get to meet others who share your common interest. The folks who attend and lead such groups can sometimes be veritable experts in their fields! Plus, you’ll be giving yourself something you can attend regularly and a new weekly event to look forward to. Bored with book clubs? Think outside the box! Try a spelunking group, historical reenactment, the local orchid society. 

10. Shop Local Businesses

From bug spray to wrapping paper, it’s getting easier and easier to order everything online. While sitting on your couch and clicking away has its perks, there’s something to be said for checking out what the local businesses have to offer. Not only will you support the town economy, but store clerks sometimes have an expertise that an online review just doesn’t. The neighborhood hardware employee might know the perfect tool for hanging that picture. The woman who owns the local bookstore knows exactly what children’s series your four-year-old niece will enjoy.  Finally, who can deny the pleasures of an in person experience? The click of a mouse can’t beat the warm chat you might have at the register