Become a Hometown Tourist
By Bernard Freeman
Many live their whole lives without really exploring their own town. Out-of-towners happily flock to see key historic places, fun destinations and celebrated eateries, and hometown folks sometimes over-react by avoiding them all together.
Staycation fun can sometimes come down to acting like a tourist in your own city. The same attractions that excite new visitors may have become overly familiar to you as a resident — or maybe you’ve always avoided them because you didn’t want to get caught up in the seasonal crush of tourists.
Pick your spots if you must, perhaps booking in the offseason, but take an opportunity to break out of old habits. You’ll add some spice to your everyday life, and you might just come away with a better understanding of why others find your hometown so exciting and fun to visit.
You may have avoided some of your town’s biggest draws your whole life. But if you’ve already taken all of them in, try digging into the smaller, tucked away attractions that complete the local experience. Look for local galleries, museums and commemorative displays to learn more about the life, arts, crafts and history around you.
Oftentimes, these smaller spaces will focus more intently on narrower, more intriguing moments in time — like by-gone industries or historical sports triumphs. And the art will be made by people right there in your community.
ENJOY THE LOCAL NIGHTLIFE
It’s important to treat your staycation like an actual vacation, which means avoiding the tendency to hit the sack early. Busy weeks filled with work and family obligations probably keep you far away from venues open into the evening for music, dancing and fun. Now’s the time to take advantage of all that the night has to offer, whether with your partner or a group of like-minded friends.
DOCUMENT IT ALL
Don’t forget to take plenty of pictures — just as you would in some exotic locale. Keep your phone or camera handy, and what you notice about your hometown might give you a whole new perspective. Maybe it’s the urban-core architecture, or a particularly picturesque park setting. Maybe it’s something artier, like the way light reflects across a city street. Mix in fun candids of yourself, your partner and the people you meet.
Connect Again Over a Meal
We’ve always tended to gather in the kitchen during parties. Staycations are no different.
When planning your next overnight domestic trip, remember to include a cooking experience. Making a meal together is fun, a great way to save still more money, and a bonding experience that strengthens relationships for years to come.
Why shell out the big bucks for high-end resort dinners when you can grill your own? Restaurant-produced seafood meals will set you back almost as much as that steak. Visit a local grocer, or incorporate an outdoor adventure into your staycation, and serve fresh fish for dinner at a fraction of the cost.
Let’s face it, we all tend to put on a few pounds while we’re on vacation. There are typically just too many options that lead to weight gain — and then post-vacation guilt. When you’re making your own meal, you get to select every ingredient. Home cooked meals are both healthier and lower in calories, according to research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Make informed decisions based on your unique taste, caloric goals and health needs, and you’ll have taken away one of the lingering regrets that sometimes follows our most extravagant faraway vacations.
If your staycation involves a larger group of family members, cooking at home also provides a fun opportunity for younger relatives to take part in the process. You’ll also be setting a good example when it comes to healthy eating. Parents play an important role in teaching kids about making the right dietary choices, according to the government’s Let’s Move! website. Bring them with you when you are shopping for ingredients, or into the outdoors as you try to land the evening’s fresh catch.
EXCITING NEW TASTES
Staycations are a great opportunity to try new things, and to visit new places. Rather than shopping at your regular supermarket, consider visiting the farmers market or local co-op. You’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a growing variety of other ingredients to spice up your evening meal. Ask about favorite recipes that make use of anything you buy. Even if you find yourself going to a more traditional grocer, try a new one. They may have something there that offers a whole new culinary experience.
Take a Moment to Relax
Did you need another vacation after your last vacation?
Sometimes a staycation just means taking a moment to yourself, rather than rushing off to museums, sightseeing, hiking or exploring.
DANGERS OF STRESS
Sadly, more than 20% of American adults felt stressed during their time off, according to one American Psychological Association survey. Nearly 30% worked more than they had hoped while actually on vacation. The truth is, of course, that we shouldn’t be working at all. This kind of chronic stress leads to burnout, or what one study referred to as a “vacation deficit.” So, give yourself time to take it easy.
READ A BOOK
Staycations offer the perfect opportunity to dive deeply into that book you’ve been meaning to read. You probably started it, in fact, while you were on a plane to your last faraway destination, then in the rush of vacation activity never finished. Staycations can offer focused time to devote to quality reading, in particular during warm, lazy afternoons. Create a comfy space in your living room, or relocate to a hammock. Scout out a new coffee shop, or spread out a blanket at a nearby park. The next thing you know, you’ll be turning the final page.
HEAR THE MUSIC
Create or discover a new playlist, then make it the soundtrack of your time away. Hit play while you’re relaxing, sharing a meal or enjoying family time together. These songs will become memory triggers for years to come, as you look back on this happy time together.
GET SOME SLEEP
Not getting enough sleep is often a byproduct of our busy lives. Staycations should always have an element of selfcare, and catching up on your sleep is an important part of that. Turn that alarm off. Have all of the fun you’d like, but either way — leave time for resting, whether that means planned nap time, or sleeping in late.
This may be the hardest part of all, for some people. Put your phone away, or switch it to airplane mode. Delete your messaging app, email updates or social media alerts for the duration of your staycation.
Give yourself needed permission to unplug from your digital life, then more deeply connect with yourself, your family and your surroundings. The Twitter feed can wait.