I am a huge proponent of the staycation and advocate strongly for living someplace you love and learning where you live. Why bother? Because you spend the majority of your waking hours and life there. Why would you not want to? There is always something new to be discovered, something beautiful to be found, something unique to do, a special tradition or culture in which to immerse yourself, and a history all it’s own just waiting to be discovered no matter where you live.
I haven’t been anywhere in oh, at least the past 5 or 6 years. But I have vacationed. I have travelled. And I just so happen to be at a point in my life where currently I staycation. It is economical, it saves time, stress and paperwork, and making the most of the place you call home and learning to appreciate it in a new way adds quality of life to the remainder of the days you spend in your real life.
But let me first be clear, there is huge difference between travelling and vacationing. Which I will touch on momentarily.
It can get a little frustrating and defeating for people not in a position to leave the borders of their own home or nation that over half of the advice you’ll read online is always travel, travel, travel, vacation, vacation, vacation. I actually hear it most often from my coworkers, family and friends. I haven’t left my home not out of lack of desire, but because of lack of funds, time and other priorities.
Some of these advisers will even get so lowbrow as to be critical of others who can’t or just don’t do it. Some of us simply do not have the financial wherewithal or the time to be able to do so. Some have other priorities and commitments – let’s say a one income home, a home that requires work, a housing/bill payment that is near unmanageable, a (sick and/or surly) pet or an aging or ill family member. For those of you that get down on yourself because you can’t, your eyes and minds can in fact be opened by reading, through learning from others, even by watching television – sometimes even more so than the actual doing would have.
If you have the ability, desire and wherewithal to travel or vacation, by all means you should do so. It is a fantastic thing to do, and there is so much out there to see and learn. But others shouldn’t be judged and made to feel as if their lives are not whole because they can’t or because they are content doing otherwise. Just like the one time (and I won’t say where I worked at this time) I was denied my vacation requests one summer and was advised I should, “Take a trip during winter like everyone else”…. at a stage in my life where I couldn’t so much as afford a trip to McDonald’s, let alone to the lowliest 1 star resort in some winter hot spot.
The part that I find appalling about many of the people telling me that I should travel and broaden my horizons is that it is most frequently being told to me by people I know that rarely go so far as the compound and beach at the best all inclusive resort they could afford, never indulging in or really experiencing the local culture. Some may partake in excursions, but one pricy sightseeing half day excursion is not so much broadening your horizons as it is a comfortable day trip customized and peddled to privileged tourists, to places only the tourists generally frequent. Or in some places, where only the tourists are allowed to frequent. Immersing yourself in local culture is not the same as sitting on catamarans drinking rum punch, eating 5 star dinners cooked by celebrity chefs. This is vacationing; not travelling.
The sad part of this is frequently the same people cannot tell you what is going on or all there is to do where they live, their home’s history, or even much about what goes on inside their own nation outside of their own hometown.
I experienced this somewhat the other day when I was once again being regaled with the same previously heard stories of a one week sight seeing trip to an Asian country that occurred almost a decade ago. Yes I had heard all about the one gondola ride, the one bike ride, the one boat ride and the Russian tourists that person had met up with and flirted with the entire week. But what about the cuisine, the culture, the language, the economy, the resources, religion, the people who actually live and work there, the absolutely anything besides the photos of the two Russian girls posing at the hotel? Then, when I commented on the petroglyphs and abandoned gold mines on the lake here and this amazing rock passage on the water that is literally right on the edge of town I was met with a blank stare and a ‘huh?’. These things are less than 10 minutes away!
I’ve discussed other cultures and practices and foods and customs and holidays with these self professed more worldly travelers, and have even recounted my drives through Mexico, my journeys through the jungle back roads, the towns I had encountered in the more desert like regions, the crime and absolute poverty I had witnessed in the border towns and outside of the resort areas, the houses we rented, the best local groceries and markets and the fishing and local fare, my walking and bussing adventures around the towns, the locals I had met and associated with, only to find out they knew very little of these things anywhere they had traveled and had no interest in learning or doing them. I have been shut down by, “You’ve never been to an all inclusive?!”, “I only travel 5 star/first class”, “I’ve been to way more countries than you”, “I travel a lot; I’ve done spring break every year!”.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I know that for my having only visited 3 countries many think that they have something over me and that I have never really traveled, but as far as I am concerned, neither have they.
And this was something that I became aware of long ago (well before I ever stepped foot on this turbulent financial rollercoaster that I have been on for some time and am just finally getting off of) thankfully; that there is a difference between travel and vacation; but also that many of us were interested in other places, but never truly taking the time to enjoy and get caught up in the majesty of where we live and to figure out our own hometown’s and nation’s secrets or to learn and see what the tourists here do. So I started making a point to. And now that my budget and time constraints prevent me from doing and seeing more, I am glad that I have taken the time to make enjoying and discovering where I live a priority.
I have all but mastered the art of the staycation.
I have picked up the maps leading me to the artwork on buildings around town, gone through the local museum, done graveyard tours, have stayed at and eaten at our local fishing resorts, have had my picture taken at city hall, the old retired tug boats, the local landmarks and exhibits. I have foraged for local resources, I have golfed, skied, taken canoe trips, kayaked, waterskied, kneeboarded, sailed, ran, biked etc, etc, all over my town, and still have so much yet to learn and see.
I know the people and the cultures in my town. I know all of the best restaurants and the best things on the menus, I know my local shops and where to get everything, and where the best deals are, I get welcomed at many restaurants and businesses by name, and even get special deals being on familiar friendly terms with many of the shop owners.
I have lived in a few different provinces. I have taken trips across the country seeing everything we possibly could with my family, and have even taken a solo 5000/km road trip from Ontario to the northernmost reaches of Alberta and back, making a point of trying to see the things I had always overlooked my previous dozen or more trips the same way.
I’ve been known to do strange things like even in my own hometown, but all across Canada, to make an intentional wrong turn just to see where it would take me, or to hop out in the bush, a blink and you’ll miss it town, or the roadside in BC and Alberta to just wander around and see if I could see or learn something new, or to go climb that rock that just seems to be calling my name.
No, I may not travel right now, and while I could always swing the extra cash to hop along on your one week all inclusive vacation with you, I don’t want to.
I’m going to staycation and keep enjoying what my home has to offer. In 2-3 years from now my slush fund will be padded, the loan I had to take out because of an emergency will be paid off, my credit will be fully restored, my finances are on track finally so that I will be sitting in a much, much better position than I am now, and I will have accumulated an extra week’s vacation time at my place of employment due to years of service. And when that happens, because I am allowed to carry over an extra year’s vacation time, I will have 2 1/2-3 months of vacation time under my belt and the actual means to not go sit at an all inclusive resort of someone else’s choosing, but to take myself on my dream trip to New Zealand and the Polynesian Islands.
Where I plan to learn more about the indigenous culture/s, take a few thousand pics in Middle Earth, learn to bone fish, take a boat out to the deserted islands and take advantage of some of the many camps set up on them that anyone is free to use so long as they are vacant, shop at the local grocers, meet the locals, visit some farms, and search for any charitable project that will have me that gives back to the community. What a dream it would be! That is the point at which I know these years of being broke, of learning to budget, of living tight fistedly, of staying home instead of setting myself backwards financially by just eking out enough for a just okay one week winter vacation will have been worth it.
But for now, stop judging me. Stop presuming what my circumstances are. Stop telling me I have to travel and that I am cheating myself by not so doing; that if you can do it (with your dual income household, lack of kids/pets, manageable or nonexistent payments and/or lack of responsibilities) then I should be able to also. Especially if you’re only spending one week on the beach at the cheapest hot spot sell off. It hurts me because I did not choose to be in the position I am in. Though more than anything, it annoys me, because I also just so happen to find it arrogant.
For now, I’ll just keep suffering away, whiling my time, spending 3-4 weeks a summer in 80 degree weather sitting on the beach on one of the most beautiful lakes you’ve ever heard of.