In praise of the staycation
Around this time of year, I tend to have a regularly recurring conversation in which I mention to a friend or colleague that I’m about to go on vacation and am invariably met with this reply: “Oh, that’s great! Where are you going?” My contented answer is: “Nowhere. I’m staying home right here in Queens!”
This response tends to puzzle the person I’m talking with the first time around (the others, the old hats—you know who you are—are used to it by now, of course). After all, most people associate the word ‘vacation’ with travel to some intriguing destination. Not long ago I was doing just that, hopping on planes and getting happily lost in foreign capitals. Through those fortunate experiences, I’ve learned that I can be very much at home in places that are far from home. But these days the travel bug’s bite seems to have lost its potency to a certain extent—at least for now.
Why staycations work for me
Rather than seeking adventures in distant places, I find myself relishing the opportunity simply to be present in life and completely disconnect from work. It’s a chance to check in with myself and get a sense of where I am in life writ large, not just within the confines of my profession or day to day activities. Though I can also do this while traveling, I find that it is less likely to occur when I’m absorbing new sights or navigating an unfamiliar location.
Taking a staycation also affords me the opportunity to deepen my relationship with Queens. At fifteen years and counting, I’ve lived here almost as long as I did in my hometown while growing up in Western Massachusetts. This endlessly inspiring, incredibly diverse, and ever-changing New York City borough is where I got my start as a young woman breaking into a new career, and it’s where I am—in true New York tradition—continuing to reinvent myself today, this time as a writer. At this stage in my life, I can think of no place that fuels my creativity and fascinates me more than the place I call home.
So why should you take a staycation? There are more benefits to doing so than you might think. Here are a few of my top reasons to take a staycation along with some pro tips that have helped me make the most of my summertime escapades.
Reasons to take a staycation
- It’s low maintenance. There’s very little prep needed to throw yourself a lovely staycation compared to taking a trip somewhere. No visas, no stress involved with packing your bag the night before your departure, no worrying about how you’re going to get Wi-Fi while you’re away, and no delayed or canceled flights. This low maintenance factor comes in pretty handy right around the time you’re getting ready to head out on vacation, when you might well have a considerable pile of work that needs to get done before you can log off.
- It’s comfortable. All the comforts of home are right there for you to enjoy to the fullest. If that means sleeping in and wandering lazily down the street to your favorite bagel shop for some tasty nosh, then settling in at a nearby café for a contemplative journal writing session, you can do that. If heading off bright and early to the museum is more your speed, you can do that too. Heck, you can even have it both ways during your time off.
- It’s responsive to your needs. Are you wiped out from having walked all over creation? Did a sudden rainstorm drench you and leave you feeling like having a night in with Netflix and some delivery? If you’re in a foreign city or far away locale, it might some legwork to get yourself back to the hotel without getting lost and you might have to hunt around for a bit to get yourself fed too. But this isn’t a problem if you’re already home. Since you already know everything like the back of your hand, you don’t have to spend that mental overhead trying to figure out how to get the things you need in order to soothe yourself.
- It’s budget-friendly. Because you’re not spending money on a hotel or airfare, you can invest more of your vacation dollars in experiences that give you pleasure. That could involve splashing out on an incredible sushi dinner, taking in a terrific Broadway show, going bonkers ordering delivery at home one night, or buying a hardcover book and spiriting it over to the park with a picnic-ready assortment of drinks and snacks. Whatever it is that you want, you can indulge yourself in it even more with less financial guilt.
- You can focus on what matters. If you’re at a crossroads in your life or just want to get a sense of whether you’re on the right track, taking a staycation can—through giving you the freedom to undock from your daily responsibilities without getting distracted by an ambitious itinerary in a new place—help you re-affirm what’s most important to you and even illuminate some alluring paths you might not have noticed before.
- If you don’t get everything done, no regrets. Sometimes it’s hard to check off each and every item on the list of things you want to do while you’re on vacation. If you missed the opportunity to experience something cool while traveling and won’t be back there for a while, you might feel a pang of regret. Not so with a staycation. Chances are, if you didn’t get to do or see something you can still check it out whenever you want.
- You don’t need to recuperate afterward. Vacations are awesome, but they can also be exhausting. Ever heard anyone say that they need to take a vacation from their vacation? This is less likely to happen to you if you’re taking a staycation. The very point of staying home is to relax. By allowing yourself a meaningful opportunity to recharge your batteries, you increase the likelihood that you’ll return to work happy, refreshed, and ready to rock out.
Pro tips for enjoying a staycation
- Make a plan. What do you want to do while you’re on vacation? If you want to make sure it actually happens, you’ll want to create a plan. Some people prefer to have a tightly regulated agenda they can follow for each day. I like to have an à la carte menu of choices to pick from along with a smattering of scheduled events like a day spent at the US Open. I find that it’s helpful to keep an open file of ideas that I begin working on several weeks before my staycation begins. This year, I opened up last year’s file and used it as a template. Every time I came across something interesting that caught my eye, I added it to the file. Voilà.
- Do what you want. It goes without saying that since this is your vacation, you should do what you want. What gives you pleasure? Take that as your first question and go from there. Don’t worry about what other people think you should be doing with your time off. Instead, make it your priority to savor the experiences that bring you the greatest joy in life. If you won’t do this now, when will you do it?
- Maximize the timing. When planning fun things to do, think about when your favorite events tend to take place. I usually schedule my staycation for summer because we have a lot of outdoor movies, concerts, and sporting events this time of year in New York. The parks and beaches beckon with their restful natural splendor, too. It’s also fun to sip cocktails with friends while watching the city skyline sparkle from a rooftop bar. Whatever it is you especially enjoy about where you live, you can make the most of it if you plan in advance.
- Book your transportation. Do you worry that you might go full couch potato during your staycation? Well, apart from having a plan, it helps to book your transportation beforehand to make sure you get out of the house. I load up a MetroCard with rides for the period I’m planning to be on vacation, but depending on where you live a car rental might be more fitting. The point is to make the investment upfront so that you know you will get out and about while you’re on break.
- Disconnect from work. If you’re taking a staycation, you might find it tempting to check work e-mails, voice mails, texts, and so on. Likewise, others might assume you’re available since you’re home. Don’t fall into this trap. Unless your job involves saving lives, you should not be tethered to anything work-related while on vacation. Give your colleagues and clients a polite and thoughtful heads up, well in advance, that you’ll be delightfully incommunicado for the entirety of your time off.
- Reconnect with friends. One reason I prefer staycations to vacations is that staycations give me a chance to reconnect with friends. We all live busy lives, especially those of us in metropolitan areas, and it’s not always easy to see everyone we care about as often as we would like. But if you let your friends know that you’ll be on break, you can plan to spend a little quality time with them. You might find that you’re more capable of being present and appreciating their wonderful company since there are no deadlines or to-do items buzzing around in your head.
- Soak up the stillness. Not everybody likes to be alone. It’s usually more natural and comfortable for us introverts, who thrive in pools of stillness. That being said, no matter what your personality type may be, I recommend giving yourself some quiet time to think, not think, stare at the wall, stare into space, or just be. In essence, permit yourself to slow down the frenetic pace of your daily life and experience some unstructured, peaceful moments. You may be pleasantly surprised at the thoughts and realizations that arrive before you as a result.
Though taking a staycation may not be de rigueur, at least judging from the quizzical looks I’ve racked up from friends and colleagues, it does represent a unique opportunity to unwind and revel in being alive. When I think back on some of the happiest memories I’ve made in recent years, quite a few of them can be traced back to staycations that I’ve taken. I relish the time that I’ve spent with myself, my friends, and my city while taking these vacations at home. And, I suspect, I’ll enjoy traveling even more when I next hit the road. If you haven’t tried a staycation yet, you might want to give it a whirl. You might be surprised to discover where it takes you.