Lessons from My Recent Staycation

This weekend, my family (wife and three youngest children) went on a brief, local staycation. They were off from school (midwinter break) and my older three kids were all away for one reason or another.

Circumstances prevented us from taking the kids on a more elaborate trip (such as to Florida) that many of their classmates and neighbors enjoyed, and so I thought that our planned “trip” to a nearby hotel (with a big TV, a “private” pool, and other amenities) and then to visit Manhattan attractions would seem lame by comparison.

I am delighted to report that the kids really enjoyed themselves and not once whined about not doing something else.

A few lessons that I learned from our local excursion:

  1. Farther isn’t always better – We often think that we need to go far away to feel like we’ve left. That should not be the case. Leaving, in my opinion, is more about relocating mentally than it is about repositioning physically. Ways to get yourself “away” even when you’re just a few miles from home include:
    1. Announcing (even if just to yourself) that you’re leaving – Vacation is a state of mind as much as it is a physical reality. Just acting as if you’re on vacation is already a great start towards making the shift.
    2. Imagining like you’ve gone far – Pretend that the hotel room or Airbnb apartment are in fact hundreds (if not more) miles from home. Call your new location by an exotic name that couldn’t possibly be near when you live.
    3. Buy some vacation items – Getting a new bathing suit for the pool or food for the road gets you in the mindset for your “trip”.
  2. There’s so much to do in your own backyard that you didn’t even know about – Staying home can often force you to become better acquainted with and more appreciative of the things to do near you. How often do you meet people who live in a place and never visited place of interest X (such as me living in Chicago for twelve years and never once going to see Wrigley Field)? In this trip, I went to a restaurant that I had heard much about but hadn’t visited as well as two new attractions just minutes from my home growing up (mind you, they only came into existence after I moved out).
  3. You can get much more done in less time – Big travel means big time expenditures in both shopping (getting everything that you need, especially for a kosher-consuming family like mine that is traveling to a place with limited choices, can be a BIG deal), packing, and traveling (many desirable destinations take much of a day, if not more, to get to and from). Staycations are great for those who want to get in and get out.
  4. It offers added flexibility – When you go away, once you’re gone, you’re gone. You need to use whatever you brought (and buy whatever you didn’t) and use local amenities (which, for Orthodox Jews like me includes praying in local synagogues). For my family, a seven-minute drive brought me back to the ‘hood for food, prayer and anything that we overlooked while packing. No need to go shopping.

The saying goes that the grass is always greener on the other side. We naturally assume that if it’s “out there” it’s better than what’s “in here”, especially when the “other side” is filled with sunshine and warm temps. I’m the first one to admit how beautiful many vacation destinations are and would never suggest that a rainy, mid-50s day in metro NYC trumps sunny and 70+ along a beach lined coast. That said, we don’t need to fall for the narrative that joy and satisfaction requires a major expenditure and relocation. The main thing is to find ways to “vacate” that will bring you a much-needed break while clearing your mind of the clutter that too often defines our standard routines.

Did you like this post? Is there a perspective here that really speaks to you? Is there another insight that you'd like to suggest? Share your thoughts in the comments below!