Jimmy Buffett once sang, “Changes in latitudes change attitudes.” I mostly agree, although I’d include longitudes in the lyric if it rhymed. Here’s why.
Once while rafting through the Costa Rican jungle on the beautiful Pacuare River, my group rested halfway at this extraordinary lodge. On arrival, I beelined to the first hammock I saw overlooking the area. While swaying to and fro, I watched and heard the top-rated river do its thing. Enveloped in greenery, I spotted a hanging bridge off in the distance.
I’m rafting in the freaking jungle, I said to myself, not believing my luck. Moments later, my guide approached and commented on the impressive view as she had probably done a hundred times before. She asked where I was from. “Utah,” I replied, which excited her. “I just returned from Arches and Canyonlands National Park two weeks ago!” she exclaimed. “I can’t wait to return to Zion and Bryce next year.”
Oh, the irony, I thought. The grass is always greener. Or in the case of my Costa Rican guide, the red rock desert is sometimes more appealing than the lush, green and mountainous rainforest I was enjoying at that very moment.
This exchange gave me pause. While I wouldn’t personally consider my home state an exotic place—although it does make the short list of most scenic states—it is exotic to her and other non-residents others. Coming from what most foreigners would regard as an exotic country, it’s where she decided to vacation for the foreseeable future.
So where do locals from other exotic locations like to vacation? I did a little research. This is what I found.
Hawaiians favor Las Vegas. So much so that it’s colloquially dubbed “the ninth island.” Kiwis head to Australia’s Gold Coast or Fiji for warmer waters, even though their own backyard is world-renowned for its beauty. Southern Californians set their sights on Cabo, Hawaii, and Vegas, while millions travel the opposite direction in route to Disneyland, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
Alaskans vacation in Hawaii. My fellow Utahns prefer the Caribbean. Other recognizable areas usually head for whatever it is they can’t get at home—be it skiing, the ocean, mountains, desert, jungles, or warmer weather. (Floridians, interestingly, mostly stay in state. In other words, 20 million residents found paradise and aren’t leaving it.)
Either way, changing geographies is popular for a reason. Even if it only helps us escape the familiar for a brief moment, it’s largely why many of us yearn for, plan for, and ultimately vacation for.
But as I’ve said before, the travel habits of exotic locals is further proof that vacation is a state of mind. Exploring your own backyard can be just as rewarding (and usually much cheaper) than journeying thousands of miles for newfound perspective.
This story first appeared in Paste Magazine