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You may be thinking, “Bubblegum lumberjack…what the heck?”, but yes, they are real.

It’s one fun example of unusual stories I discovered through local travel.

For me, this is the joy of a travel writer’s life. You get to delve deeper into the world around you, experiencing your surroundings on a more comprehensive and profound level. Let me explain.

Recently, I took a friend on a short trip to a nearby town. Her feedback delighted me. She said, “Bel, I’ve never had so much fun. Walking canopy bridges, finding bubblegum lumberjacks, and learning which tree to throw into a cenote (a sinkhole with exposed groundwater) to poison a horde of Spanish invaders was awesome!”.

That’s what happens when you explore with a travel writer.

We delve deeper into the places we visit to find unusual experiences. Guess where I found bubblegum lumberjacks? In Mexico’s most biodiverse botanical garden, where we climbed, ate jungle plants, walked on wonky treetop suspended bridges, and more. It was an adventure—definitely not a stroll through the gardens like everyone else.  

local canopy
Best (and wonkiest) canopy walk of my life.

My friend’s experience was more in depth than she had ever had during her lifetime of travel. Why?

Because as travel writers we ask questions. We are curious. We want to know things others don’t about the destination we are in. And that makes for great stories.

We uncover the hidden stories by encouraging locals and guides to share more than their expertise—local legends, fun side trips, attractions, and things other travelers never get to see or do.

To put it plainly, we delve into a destination and experience it to the hilt. It’s the biggest perk of being a travel writer.

bel woodhouse
Bel Woodhouse

And the best news is it’s brilliant for local travel. It is perfect for our limited movement right now. There are so many treasures waiting to be unearthed in your own town and region. Let me explain how my previous adventurous (and local) trip happened.

That experience came by contacting the botanical gardens beforehand. Wanting to delve deeper, I asked for a horticulturist, botanist, or even a gardener on staff to be our tour guide. (And I requested an English-speaking guide because I am not fluent in Spanish…yet.)

The result was outstanding.

They organized a local eco-tour operator and botanist who used to work at the gardens to be our guide. His tour took four and a half hours (it’s usually one hour), and we had an insider’s look at Mexico’s botanical world through the eyes of a botanist of Maya descent.

He regaled us with local Maya tales, myths, and beliefs, showed us edible plants (which we ate), and taught us all about bubblegum lumberjacks—men that lived in the jungle harvesting the sap of giant trees to make bubblegum.

We also learned about lethal poisonous trees the Maya used to poison local cenotes (the only fresh water source in the jungle) to defeat the Spanish conquistadors. It was the reason that the villages in the region survived.

See what I mean? When I go on a tour as a travel writer, I want to know everything. Not only is it more fun, but it also unearths article ideas for a wide range of publications.

Your hometown is a goldmine. Here’s another example.

At Cozumel’s largest eco-park, I learned all about the local self-replicating lizards. All female, they reproduce on their own and are only found on Cozumel and one tiny area of the mainland. Nowhere else on earth.

The local guide loved that he could share his knowledge (and that I would run around the park with him battling through the brush with 10,000 of my closest mosquito friends to spot one). 

My reward—here she is. A lizard most people don’t know exists and will never see.


Local travel really is a goldmine. One destination can give you a dozen story ideas, easy.

So, get out there and find your bubblegum lumberjacks or self-replicating lizards. Who knows what’s waiting in the world around you?

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