STAY-CATION: An abdication of time and space, the stay-cation is the wasteful distribution of life that involves taking time off work to stay home-bound and accomplish things a person seemingly has no time to otherwise do. The pastimes of this bastard form of vacation often include things like relaxing on the couch and watching T.V., cleaning out a closet, relaxing on the couch and watching T.V., sleeping late and, of course, relaxing on the couch and watching T.V..
What rot is the conception to stay in place over an extended period of free time when the Earth is so large and beckoning; offering up experiences that would take many lifetimes for anyone to explore? The further one gets from home, the more present and wondrous the world becomes to them. Every time you use your vacation time to stay home, you might as well tell yourself: “Well, I didn’t need to know what that desert sunset would make me feel.” Or, “Who cares that I’ll never know the delight of drinking my favorite wine accompanied by food that was raised, grown and eaten on the same land as the grapes in the bottle?” Each week of life that passes reduces your options and ultimate experiences. Unfortunately, there is nothing a person can do to save the weeks you must work for a living from the loss of life’s explorations, but for God’s sake, don’t squander the free time you do possess on activities you can accomplish within a single evening, weekend or through brief meditation. I can’t scream it loud enough: Don’t squander your precious exploration time.
The Difference a Year Makes
Last summer, I kicked off a four part summer vacation series with a blog entitled: The Call of the Road. In it I mentioned that exploratory travel is the highest form of vacation, followed next by a pleasure vacation (e.g. lounging in a beach resort somewhere far from home) and contrasted lastly by the lowly stay-cation. It was my earnest intent to bring my readers a new travel series this summer based on my latest explorations. Unfortunately, at the very time I am writing this, I am supposed to be pulling out of my driveway, merging onto the Interstate, and cruising north, in air conditioned freedom behind a windshield that would become my television for the next eight days. The next eight days were to sweep my two boys, my beautiful wife and myself through the lands of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Vermont. It was to be a whirlwind of adventure involving coastal biking, waterfalls, museums, lobster boat rides and crypto-zoology (Champ) hunting. The boys were to travel through the lands of people who did not speak our language or use our currency. We were to see the first place the Sun’s rays touch our country each day and we were to see where the Pilgrims landed.
None of this, of course, will happen. The American-Canadian border is closed and a two week mandatory quarantine has been imposed for simply entering many other states. Travel in the world today has been placed into a medically induced coma. I grieve. It pains me to think of the lost quests to find hotel ice machines, the missing attempt at trying to collect sight of licence plates from every state in the Union and, yes, even the silencing of moans from the backseat inquiring: “Are we there yet?”
I never imagined, at any stage of life, that I would one day write tips for making the most of such an insidious evil as the stay-cation. However, global circumstances as they are, and the resultant travel restrictions imposed upon us by a microscopic enemy, I am forced to swallow such poison in an attempt to thwart the even mightier scourge of depression. Forgive me as a try to muddle together solutions for a topic I have never considered. At this “settling-for”, I fully admit, I am a rank amateur.
My first piece of advice, after you are finished cleaning out your closet on day one, is not to simply pour a beverage, grab a bag of goldfish crackers and plop down on the couch for the rest of the week. Certainly, there is nothing inherently wrong with drinks, food or relaxation. All three should be a goal of any quality vacation, whether hardcore traveling or stay-cationing, but the difference is in the details, and the details, like anything worthwhile in life, takes effort.
- Research a place you have always wanted to go. Read articles about it on line or in a magazine. Immerse yourself in the place.
- Order and read a novel set in the place you wish you could go.
- If it’s a foreign land you chose, teach yourself to say 5 phrases in the language of that land.
- Learn the land’s history.
- Go to the grocery store and buy ingredients for a dish from that place you wish to go and cook it. If it’s New Orleans, make Gumbo or Jambalaya. Maybe you’re dreaming of the Black forest, and need to cook a schnitzel. Any grilled seafood drenched in fresh squeezed lemon will do for a virtual Mediterranean trip. Don’t eat your meal in front of the T.V. You wouldn’t do that while traveling (At least, I hope not). Eat at the dinner table or preferably outside on your patio or in a park.
- Drink a wine or spirit from that country with your meal. Even in Pennsylvania’s socialist liquor stores, one can find an array of choices from at least five continents.
- Go on your i-tunes or Spotify app and play music styles by artists from the land you wish to explore while you eat.
- If you must eat in front of the television, find a travel show devoted to your location and watch it. Hulu, Apple TV, YouTube, Amazon Prime and other on-line vehicles abound with options. If your destination flaunts European culture, I recommend Rick Steve’s Europe. If a down and dirty trip to Asia or Africa is more to your liking, perhaps Anthony Bourdain’s: No Reservations might serve you better. Nothing wets the whistle for an American road trip like episodes of Aerial America.
- Get an old map (the kind you have to fold). Look for a stretch of road near where you live and drive it. No matter how well we know the area a round our own part of the world, everyone should be able to find an area they are unfamiliar with. Come on, you know that area you always get lost in.
- Put an ice bucket on your bedside table and drink cocktails in bed like you know you do when you are in actual hotel rooms.
- If you’re young enough, jump on said bed.
- Advanced move: snort chlorinated water into your nasal passage where it will stay all evening the way it does when you get water up your nose at the resort swimming pool. (Note: roasting some peanuts and popping some popcorn in addition to this will enhance the bouquet of your chlorinated nasal passage, driving memories to that wonderful boardwalk stroll from vacation days of long past.)
- Rub suntan lotion on your skin just for the olfactory effects you’ll associate with vacation.
- Buy a souvenir on-line to commemorate your exploration of the place you chose. Perhaps a picture print to hang in the hall or guest room as a reminder of the place you now really want to see more than ever, and will, once we are free to again travel.
I know. It won’t be the same. There is no substitute for the real thing. When you are a lifelong sufferer of a chronic travel bug bite, like myself, a stay-cation is of little more use than methadone is to a junkie of Lady-H. But, for now, it will have to do.
These travel restrictions cannot last forever. Be prepared for when they end. The travel destinations you love will need your support then more than ever. Make and research your plans now. I guarantee, it will help scratch that travel itch.
Of one thing I’m sure, when months upon months of quarantine at home comes to an end, I never want to hear another person tell me they are taking a stay-cation ever again. Take one now if you must, but when this pandemic is over, lets banish this loathsome idea from our vocabulary and culture. And, if not traveling is part of the new normal I’m hearing about, well then, Covid, take me now.