How To Plan A Meaningful Staycation When Everyone Else Is Vacationing
I’ll never forget the time a friend was telling me about their summer trip. They had gone abroad with their family and visited multiple European countries in just one week. They had also done all of the excursions, seen the sights, and taken the tours. They packed their days with foreign adventure. From sun up to sun down, they were on the go.
“I need a vacation from my vacation!” My friend told me after recapping the trip. I felt like I needed a vacation just from hearing about it. Never before had time off work sounded so exhausting. It was a short and seemingly casual conversation, but it made a lasting impact on me. I began thinking about how I spend my own vacation time and whether I return to work feeling rested or more exhausted.
Later that year, I did something I’d never done before: I took a vacation but didn’t go anywhere. This was a change for me because, growing up, my family always traveled somewhere whenever my parents had time off work, or we kids were on school break for the summer. Our very definition of vacation included travel. We didn’t go abroad or on expensive trips (I didn’t fly until I was a teenager), but instead we camped in the mountains or visited my grandparents’ house in the city. It didn’t matter where we went as long as we packed our suitcases and went somewhere. Vacation didn’t officially start until we had left home.
“I realized how much I’d equated leaving home with relaxation, as well as adventure. I wanted to shift that way of thinking—to focus instead on vacation as a mindset, not as a physical place.”
So when I decided to take a week-long staycation from my nine to five job a few years ago, I was rightly a bit nervous about it. What would I do? Would I be bored? How does one rest if not at a beach or reading a book in a cabin in the woods? I realized how much I’d equated leaving home with relaxation, as well as adventure. I wanted to shift that way of thinking—to focus instead on vacation as a mindset, not as a physical place. I was also curious: how does one find pleasure in exploring their own backyard? There were still so many places in my city that I’d not yet seen, because whenever I’d had time off in the past, I’d chosen to go elsewhere.
“For once, I didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything. This meant I could go anywhere, and I could do anything.”
It’s probably evident at this point in the story, but that week was monumental. My staycation wasn’t busy and packed with faraway adventures, but neither was it boring. Instead, I discovered meaningful ways to spend my hours—ways that were much slower and simpler than if I’d been exploring new cities.
For once, I didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything. This meant I could go anywhere, and I could do anything. Take a long nap? Sure. Spend hours cooking an elaborate meal? Why not. Take a day to explore the hidden corners of my small town? Absolutely. I spent the money I would have spent on travel expenses on morning coffee at the cafe down the street. I got a haircut. I splurged on new books and a cozy blanket for my bed.
When the week was over, I felt refreshed and rested. While my Instagram feed didn’t show photos of Spanish beaches and plates of Italian pasta, my journals were filled with pages of thoughts and reflections. These pages were better than any vacation souvenirs I could have come home with.
I’m not saying traveling can’t be relaxing or that shouldn’t explore new places if circumstances and privilege allow for it. I’m compelled by this idea that we don’t need to leave home to have a meaningful or memorable vacation. When we reset and redefine what vacation means, we can all experience our time away from work in a new and possibly more meaningful way.