This article is one of several on reclaiming rest in all aspects of our lives. For more, read Get Radical. Get Some Rest. , Give Us a Break , Breaking It to Your Boss , Sleep Tips: Age Matters , and The No Wake Zone .
In the last couple of years, amid high gas prices and economic gyrations, the term staycation entered the media lexicon to describe the concept of vacationing at, or close to, home. Lifestyle feature editors love it, grammarians are irked by it, and the travel industry is positively terrified of it. Arthur Frommer of Frommer’s guide fame even delivered a blustery broadside against the term—“the shameful second-rate substitute for travel”—in a commentary published in newspapers and on his website.
Get past the oxymoronic semantics of the buzzword, though, and there’s a real phenomenon here. Many people are looking for ways to enjoy R&R without breaking their budget or committing egregious eco-sins, and often that means vacationing closer to where you live. The real trick is to use your break wisely, to end up feeling as if you’ve gotten away instead of simply frittering away your precious vacation time around the house.
“I experienced my first and only staycation a short while ago,” writes Maureen Dixon in California’s Pacific Sun newspaper (July 11, 2008). “If not taking a shower until three in the afternoon, staring blankly at your computer for hours, and gazing longingly in the kitchen at a bottle of Grey Goose vodka is your idea of fun, then you’re in for the time of your life.”
To help you avoid Dixon’s fate, we scoured Utne Reader’s alt-press library for suggestions on ways to make the most of your whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Here’s what we gleaned.
Make a plan. “One must plan her home time just like she would a real vacation,” writes Dixon after consulting experts. This isn’t to say throw spontaneity out the window—but fun isn’t going to come and find you. You need to point yourself toward it.
Leave your work behind. Don’t check your office e-mail or phone, and don’t stop by the office just to see how things are going. Just because you’re in town doesn’t mean you’re on the clock. Tell your boss in advance that you’re incommunicado unless the office burns down.
Feed a passion. Holly Mullen at Salt Lake City Weekly (July 3, 2008) divided her eight-day staycation into two parts: first, five days learning how to write fiction at a college writer’s conference, and then three days “in bliss sleeping in the back of my car in a friend’s one-acre yard in Wilson, Wyoming, with several side trips to neighboring Grand Teton National Park.” Sweet. Sounds like a good mix.
Explore your eco-region. David Medaris at Madison, Wisconsin’s Isthmus (June 12, 2008) writes about a short road trip with friends in which they stay at a lakeside cabin and make day jaunts for rock climbing, wine tasting, and geocaching. The Colorado Springs Independent (June 26, 2008) celebrates its area by suggesting swimming in a reservoir, soaking in hot springs, or horseback riding in the Garden of the Gods. But, of course, we don’t all have the Garden of the Gods out our back door. “Living near a major city or in gorgeous surroundings . . . is a huge advantage over someone who is stuck in Waco, Texas,” Dixon writes. Still, once you start seeking out local natural attractions, you’ll be surprised at how much scenic beauty is right under your nose.
Volunteer. The Independent suggests a stint on a local trail maintenance project, Six in the Wilderness, or another gig through the group Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. Find a local volunteer opportunity that appeals to your passions.
Keep it in the family. “My dad recently turned 89,” writes Paula Stuart Warren on Ancestry.com, “and my present to him was our own staycation of guided family history tours around the area to places where various family members lived over the years.” The endeavor turned into a string of treasured reminiscences for her father, as well as a block of truly high-quality family time.
Go green. Got no car or want to minimize your travel footprint? Plenty (Oct. 2, 2008) suggests visiting Public Transportation.org to find out about communal travel in your area, or going to carpool websites like RideAmigos or Zimride to hook up with someone.
Feel free. Of course, since the whole point of a vacation is to do whatever you find refreshing and rewarding, don’t feel you have to meet anyone’s expectations about what it should include. With the right ingredients and attitude, even the mundane can be sublime. As one online commenter writes, “I have always felt like the best part of the staycation is that you get to really enjoy the time off, without all of the hassles of vacation. I enjoy travel and food the old-fashioned way: Slowly, and with great deliberation. And great enjoyment. Stay home. Slow down. Truly enjoy everything—sleeping late, long brunches, afternoon woo-hoo, and quiet, lovely evenings together.”