We don’t have to travel thousands of miles for adventure. A getaway in our own city can be just as refreshing. Here are some powerful staycation benefits.
Travel means a break with routine and a new environment where we notice even the ordinary details. We’re immersed in another world that makes us forget our everyday problems. We gain perspective and come home with a different outlook – rested and refreshed.
But do we really need to travel thousands of miles to experience these feelings?
I recently spent a day at the Manial Palace gardens, an oasis in the middle of Cairo tucked away on a small island along the Nile. My friend and I sat by a yellow hibiscus bush talking about expat life, travel and career changes. We could hardly hear the car horns and vendors just outside the gates.
We’d spent the morning sightseeing the palace’s luscious throne room filled with grand oil paintings of Egyptian royalty and chambers filled with Iranian carpets and Turkish Iznik pottery.
We hadn’t come far – the Manial Palace is less than an hour from my place. But it felt worlds away.
It was a mini vacation we both needed.
A day away
I’d been immersed for days in my writing and some upcoming deadlines. But an afternoon in the gardens gave us the benefits of travel without the jet lag, the airports and the hotels.
Routines are stressful. They plunge us into our own selves and our problems. We get stuck in habitual patterns and our thoughts are overrun by repetitious worries. Our fears become the center of our universe.
But when we leave that world – whether it’s a garden in our home city or a pristine exotic beach – our problems shift back into perspective. A staycation lets us then return to our daily life with revived optimism.
As I write this, I’m at a cafe with cracked turquoise walls and dark wooden tables, a cappuccino on my left and the noises of Zamalek through the window. It’s November and it’s still warm, and I’m with a group of women all writing away at nearby tables in what’s the first day of November National Writing Month.
But even this feels like a small vacation: a cafe I’d never been to, people I’d just met, flyers for upcoming events by the espresso machine.
And I realize I don’t do this nearly enough.
We need to leave our daily environment to recharge.
There’s something great about a day off exploring our home city, in a culture of trendy destinations and status symbol vacations. It’s as simple as seaweed soup at a new Korean restaurant, a debate about a novel plot, or a flower shop filled with white chrysanthemums.
We focus so much on exotic travel that we often forget what our local cities offer.
And it’s often those born in a particular city that take it for granted. When an outsider comes in with fresh eyes, many natives are surprised by the places they often pass by.
When I worked with a coach for creatives, she encouraged me to take regular breaks without feeling guilty.
We also talked about the importance of white space to dream, imagine and wonder.
But when we discussed vacations, I said I’d only been freelancing for awhile. I don’t have the time or the budget for a big Thai beach getaway – or even a week on the Red Sea.
She asked if a vacation has to be that way. Maybe I could take a week at an AirBnB in a quiet Cairo neighbourhood? Or find a park and spend all day doing nothing?
Because if travel is about new experiences, then those experiences don’t have to be on the other side of the world. A quiet weekend across town can be just as recharging.
And that can mean a lecture at a museum or a new restaurant. All these experiences give our senses the novelty they crave.
If we’re not growing or discovering new interests then we’re stinting our creativity and our work suffers. To get new ideas and motivation, we need new stimuli.
We’ll never experience that if we only reserve novelty for epic bucket list getaways.
We’ll burn out and our lives will be an endless list of tasks and to-dos.
So why save away for vacations that are occasional treats? Why not pack more staycations into our weekends?
Vacations don’t have to be exotic, expensive and faraway. A staycation can mean just a day on the other side of the city.
Here are some staycation benefits:
1. New sensory experiences.
New sensory experiences develop and sharpen our tastes and expose us to new perspectives. Whether that’s a jazz concert when you normally listen to rock, a new dish or an up-and-coming painter at an exhibit.
2. New information and knowledge.
Knowledge can be a day at a museum diving into history, a trip to a botanical garden and new trees, or a panel discussion on street art.
3. New people.
New connections mean different outlooks, shared experiences and fresh insights you’d never think of. Empowerment and inspiration. Shared interests that can develop into collaborations.
4. White space.
Time away from work lets you exist without having to be productive. White space is time away from the role your work has created for yourself.
5. Opposing viewpoints.
Being around new perspectives teaches you tolerance. You can exist and function alongside someone with an entirely different lifestyle without feeling the urge to convince them of your views.
Mini vacations in our home cities can leave us feeling energized and refreshed, even if that means just a day off from our responsibilities.