Ideas

Google Earth Getaway

Are you in a travel rut? Or are you, like me, just too broke and busy to travel sometimes? You can scratch that itch to travel without spending a cent and with just a few hours to spare, with Google Earth. And I mean real travel, not just zooming in on satellite images of faraway lands (which, by the way, is a great way to “travel” without leaving your desk). Instead, use Google Earth to explore your own neck of the woods.

Last weekend, inspired the fighting words of a friend, that there was just nowhere good to go on a sunny day in Portland, I started scanning Google Earth for sandy spots in town. My hope was that somewhere along the river, which runs through the middle of town, I’d find a nice patch of land for enjoying a day at the beach, without leaving the city. It wasn’t long until I’d found something even better. Less than 10 minutes from my house, there is an island that you can walk to! I know, that technically isn’t an island, but I wasn’t about to reject this little piece of paradise in honor of semantics. That weekend, I set off on a quick adventure to explore this “island” which was a genuine island, except it was connected to shore by a sandbar during the summer months when the river was lower.

Surprise! I found an island  I could walk to over the summer sandbar just 10 minutes from home.

Surprise! I found an island I could walk to over the summer sandbar just 10 minutes from home.

It only took a moment to find, a few minutes to reach, and an hour to explore, and now I have a new place to getaway, without getting out of town. Since then, I’ve conducted a few more quick surveys and I have a whole list of new parks, beaches, and trails that I’ll be checking out.

Site of a future picnic spot I found on Elk Rock Island.

Site of a future picnic spot I found on Elk Rock Island.

Try it for yourself. Look up your own street, neighborhood, or city on Google Earth and start scanning for places you’ve never been before. You might find a new park, a walking trail, a river or lake, or maybe just a new place to grab a cup of coffee or a bite to eat, but there’s sure to be a secret spot you didn’t know about nearby. If you’re strapped for cash, or just don’t have the time to get away, you can use Google Earth to go on an adventure in your own hometown.

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