Occasionally the best vacation we can get is a staycation. We can still get most of the benefits of expensive travel at a fraction of the cost. I address here the staycation we choose for ourselves. For COVID19 staycation reading here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
When staycation is recommended
During the COVID19 crisis, we all had to stay home. With children. Without the ability to walk around except for short distances. And, there was no prior warning. This is not a proper staycation, but a perfect black swan.
Typically we can use staycation when:
- we have very young kids,
- our spouse cannot have a vacation while we can,
- we do not have resources for a proper vacation,
- our secondary job and hobbies need our attention.
Preparing for staycation
Just like we should prepare for vacation, it is best if we can prepare for a staycation:
- prepare everything for the projects to do: home improvement, acquire new skills, production of creative work,…
- organize daily restoration activities: cooking or restaurants, films or games, …
- plan sports and nature: when to walk outdoors and where, swimming, digital detox …
- allocate the financial resources,
- coordinate with our partners: spouse, kids, friends – whoever we need to make our time happy.
Why COVID19 is staycation from hell
Here are the things we should try to avoid during staycation:
- lack of choice and control,
- staying at home most of the time,
- unpredictable entry and exit dates,
- financial anxiety,
- frustrated family members,
- limited physical activity.
Staycation should feel like a joyous project in a supportive environment, and not like a five stars prison confinement. During staycation, we should have a boosted resilience to make the best out of it. As we get stressed and anxious, frustrated and over-sensitive, our capacity to do smart and complex processes is reduced.
Flow at home
Many people experience flow at home: programmers, writers, artists, and others. To experience flow, we should have a worthy challenge, finish all necessary preparation, and ensure we do not get interrupted in our creative activities. Quite often, if the family respects your privacy, home is the best environment to generate flow.
At home, we usually have (or can organize) top-quality equipment and connectivity, comfortable furniture, a quiet corner, a small park to observe nature, someone to comfort us if we are frustrated or anxious. There is no place like home, not only to rest, but to be safe enough to step out of the comfort zone.
Some people when they stay at home, try virtual traveling. It is possible to be telepresent in a safari, an underwater adventure, a visit to a museum or even time travel. The adventure is usually limited to our eyes and ears, and we can overstimulate these senses while other senses are not stimulated enough. This is a small price to pay for avoiding the costly and lengthy commute, extreme temperatures and humidity, long queues, and crowds. The financial saving is colossal.
Now, this is not the same thing as actually being there. Some elements of intensity and scarcity are lost. We will probably not enjoy reminiscence of such travel after several years, yet it can provide a welcome diversion from the limited space we can traverse during a staycation.
The positive experience may be intensified by trying ethnic food, music, and films, maybe even wearing ethnic clothes or using the local language if we know it. This requires certain preparations…
From time to time I organize my wife and kids great 2-day trips to various locations and take this time off at work. Being home alone is great!
You need to take care of yourself and clean after yourself only, and you can wear whatever is comfortable so there is an intoxicating feeling of freedom and autonomy.
This is possibly the best time to meditate of tinker with equipment that takes space or can be broken by others.
If you have culinary fantasies, nobody will complain about the smell or cost of your ingredients, and nobody will shame you if you fail.
It is also great if you need to stay focused on work, without your spouse calling you to dinner, or to have fun together.
To be able to generate such opportunities, there needs to be a lot of autonomy, trust, and cooperation within the family. So, when it happens, it is great.
Staycation in some other home
It is possible to have a staycation in some other home. For example, one can rent a small room for a weekend or spend time in friends’ house when they travel. Personally I do not like this sort of vacation, as we do not have access to our equipment and need to look for utility items. There is also a burden of responsibility as people trust you with their home.
The added value of such an experience is a new perspective. We can almost literally place ourselves in the shoes of another person and visualize what’s it like to live that life. If the location of the house is remote from our own, we get an interesting opportunity to visit new places and gather new experiences.
Such a vacation can be even more interesting if the owners are at home, and there is a deep and intimate communication with them. It is hard to remain total strangers while sharing the living space with other people for several days.
How long should a staycation last?
Typically, a good staycation lasts several days. After that, we finish all the cool projects we planned to do and a new routine sets in. As we adjust to the new situation, our added benefits diminish. A staycation of more than a month can become profoundly boring.
There is an effect called “cabin fever”, when the lack of new experiences and routine generates a sort of temporary insanity. If your staycation gets long, you should probably generate a very regular routine with fixed rituals you enjoy.
If we need to stay home because we become sick or unemployed, such a staycation is much less effective. Some people can organize staycation activities and focus on creative work, while others are anxious and miserable. Most of us are somewhere in between, waiting for the right moment to get back to our routines. As long as you have control, there is no stress. Once you get stressed from staycation, it’s time to build a strict routine with specific rituals: food, sport, cleaning, …
A common mistake is introducing the rituals too early. This will reduce anxiety, but also some of the fun and creative possibilities.
My own staycations
I try to take several staycations per year. At least one week a year, my wife travels with kids and I work from home. Probably twice a year around holidays we (Lev+Anna) place the kids at grandparents’ and stay at home doing things together. Most of my new projects are done during staycation.
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