Why You Should “Vacay Anyway” during the Pandemic

6 steps for how to take a proper vacation without leaving the house

Just because you had to cancel your vacation travel doesn’t mean you have to cancel time off to rest and enjoy life.

With pandemic travel restrictions, millions have cancelled their vacations, and that’s no good. Our society is already overworked. On top of that, a global pandemic is piling on anxiety and weariness. Without vacation, we don’t have extended time off for restoration and recovery. Recovery means we replace stress with relaxation, fatigue with energy, and work with leisure. We still need time away from work to take care of ourselves and have fun – now more than ever. This is why you should take a vacation anyway.

Over the past year I’ve taken three satisfying vacations at home that were restful and fun. I returned to work re-energized and full of creative energy (not always true when I travel: #jetlag). My well-worn passport is evidence of how much I love using vacation time to see new places, but I’m now sold on the unique power of taking time off right at home. You really can get all the physical and psychological benefits of vacation without going anywhere at all, sometimes more so. Think about it – the purpose of vacation is extended time to relax, recover and have fun. If you’re intentional, creative and do a little planning, you can relax, recover and have fun at home. 

Ready to take that #vacayanyway? Here’s my 6-step guide for how to create what might become your most memorable vacation of all time.

1) DESIGN YOUR TIME OFF – Be intentional about what you need 

  • Make it official! Put it on the calendar. Tell family, friends and colleagues that you are not working.
  • If you had planned to travel, let yourself feel disappointed about the trip that isn’t happening. Be real: this vacation won’t be the same, but it can be good in a different way.
  • Ask yourself: what do I want from this time? Is it spacious solitude? Chill relaxation? Creative expression? Adventure and newness? High-energy fun and party atmosphere? Getting clear on what you most want will help you design your days and activities (or lack thereof). 
  • Create a theme. If you had planned to travel, you could use the destination for inspiration – a tropical island getaway, an Italian cultural tour, Disneyworld, or a nature camping adventure. Create a mantra that goes along with it: “I’m on island time,” “I’m living la dolce vita,” “let’s wander where the wifi is weak” or “the happiest place on earth.”

2) DISCONNECT FROM WORK – You can’t recover if you don’t disconnect completely from work. Eliminate stressors and anything that encourages productivity or impedes rest and fun. 

  • Unplug completely from devices. And any source of productive obligation. Set an out of office email. Power down devices and put them away. Or, if you plan to use devices, turn off notifications and close work-related apps. Use airplane mode or do not disturb. Take a break from the news and TV. Put away clocks and watches.
  • Disconnect mentally. Be specific about what most depletes you and what you most want to take a break from. Is it thinking about your business? To-do lists? Responsibility for household chores? Overly structured days? Early morning starts? Talking to people? Consuming content? 

3) TRANSFORM YOUR SPACE – Changing your home space will make you feel like you’ve left behind your normal life and will create that vacation vibe. 

  • Clean and clear the space. Think about why traveling somewhere else is magical – you get to go to a fresh, clear, welcoming space! Remove anything that reminds you of work. Stash clutter out of sight. Clear surfaces. Put away computers, planners, calendars. Take down post-it notes. Put away non-fiction books and get out fun “beach” reads. Complete as many chores as you can ahead of time. Sweep away normal life and make space for vacation life. 
  • Make the space new. Re-arrange the furniture. Transform areas or rooms – create a gaming area, a reading nook, a project/crafting spot or a workout/yoga space. Splurge on new sheets, a cashmere blanket, a fire pit for s’mores, a fancy grill, a meditation cushion, a hammock, Bluetooth speakers, noise-cancelling headphones, tons of candles, bouquets of flowers – anything that will make the space feel good and different. 
  • Wear a vacation wardrobe. Wearing something different shifts your brain and creates a sense of newness. Wear your favorite sundresses, bikinis, board shorts, gym shorts, island shirts, whatever. 

Tada! Are you starting to feel refreshed? Okay, good…onto the fun stuff!

Every good vacation has both recovery activities and positive experiences. Recovery is all about refilling your energy tank: sleep, relax, do nothing (autonomous freedom!), move your body, eat well, etc. Positive experience is about having fun and trying new things. If you feel worn out and overwhelmed – focus more on recovery activities. If you feel depressed or bored – focus more on positive experiences. Think about it as two ends of a spectrum and create the proportion of each that feels good to you. Below are ideas for both.

4) TAKE TIME TO RECOVER

  • Create a daily vacation routine or ritual. And make it different from your normal habits. Maybe it’s savoring your coffee for an hour first thing, going for a long morning walk, taking an evening bath, or having happy hour at 5pm. Pick a couple things that will restore you and do them every day at the same time. A new routine will make you feel like you’re “away” even though you’re at home.
  • Create an at-home spa getaway. Stock up on bath salts, face masks, shower spray, a great foot file/buffer. Maybe it’s time to invest in a cozy robe, slippers, or a heated neck wrap. Make spa water filled with fresh sliced fruit and herbs. Buy a stack of relaxing new magazines to peruse. Learn how to do partner massage or buy an electric shiatsu back massager.
  • Create an at-home silent meditation retreat. Get a comfortable meditation cushion or chair and download an app (e.g., Headspace, Calm or Insight Timer). Create ambiance with an aromatherapy diffuser, a Tibetan sound bowl, windchimes, candles, or a water fountain. Put your phone in a drawer and retreat into silence.
  • Create a movement practice sampler. Try a new workout every day for a week. Right now, many gyms and workout places are doing livestreams, many with minimal or no equipment. Try yoga, pilates, MovNat, Animal Flow, dance, Qi Gong, high-intensity interval training, etc. 

5) CREATE POSITIVE EXPERIENCES

  • Recreate classic vacation details. You know how there are all those small little triggers and cues that signal vacation? Create “room service” trays, do turndown with pillow chocolates, write yourself a welcome note from the “hotel staff.” You could even pack your suitcase, walk around the block, and come back “home.” Create a vacation “itinerary” for your week with planned activities. Create a signature “house” cocktail. Write postcards to friends and family. Even if it feels totally ridiculous, some silliness will do you good and it can really get you in the vacation mood.
  • Adapt vacation experiences to home. Create an experience or go on an adventure that honors how you want to feel and how you want to rest and play during this time. If you had hoped to read by the pool, could you set up beach chairs outside and indulge in a new novel in your favorite bathing suit? If you wanted to go camping, could you set up a tent in the backyard, a fire pit, or go forest bathing? If you wanted to take cooking classes in Italy, could you find a class online and do it in your kitchen at home? If you wanted to have a beach picnic, could you spread out a blanket on your living room floor and have an indoor picnic with an amazing bottle of wine and cheese and meat platter?
  • Activate the senses to create vacation ambiance. When immersed in a new place, our senses are awakened! You can easily create delightful experiences at home that trigger vacation vibes. Let yourself be inspired by your vacation spot.
    • Taste – Cook a meal. Try homemade pasta to evoke Italy, or fish tacos for a Mexican fiesta. This is also a great time to use your special dishes and tablecloths. Do a wine, cheese, or chocolate tasting. Many places online sell “around the world” samplers you can buy for at-home tastings. 
    • Sound – Play music. Ukulele tunes for a Hawaiian getaway, Disney singalongs for a Disney trip, romantic music in French for a Paris-inspired vibe.
    • Smell – Light coconut mango candles for an island getaway, fill a diffuser with forest essential oils for a hiking adventure, or buy fragrant roses or lillies to evoke a trip to famous gardens 
    • Visual – Watch a movie that features your desired vacation spot or look at online photos or livestreams (many destinations like museums, national parks, and amusement parks have virtual offerings right now to transport you to them).
  • Get vacation delivered to your door. Consider getting a destination delivered to you! Endless creative possibilities abound to infuse fun into your time off. I had to cancel my trip to Maui last month and was really looking forward to eating tropical fruit. So, I placed an order from www.tropicalfruitbox.com and I got all the joy of eating tropical fruit without leaving my house. I also discovered that one of my favorite places on Maui – Hana Farms – has an online store! Can you believe that the best banana bread in the world and fresh Maui coffee showed up at my door? Yeah, me neither. Do a little online research and be surprised and delighted at what you can get delivered to your doorstep for your vacation at home. (And if it’s food, you need to eat anyhow…and you want to avoid the grocery store, right?!)
  • Go all out on fun, inspired by destination/theme. There are SO many fun ideas for vacation at home activities, and you can use a destination theme to inspire them. Set up an obstacle course in the backyard and do a family Olympic competition (each family member designs an event). Create a “Chopped” family challenge where you compete in the kitchen. Have a movie marathon complete with theater popcorn and candy. Have a progressive dinner party and set up “restaurants” in each room of the house. Do an around the world with cocktails and try a new drink every night for happy hour. Do an artists retreat and transform a space filled with blank canvases, paints and brushes and go nuts. The possibilities are endless. Let yourself be amazed at what you can create right at home sweet home. 

6) SAVOR THE MEMORIES. When your vacation is over, reflect on what you loved. I find that vacations at home make my living space nicer and my daily routines better than before. What are you appreciating? What’s shifted that you’ll carry with you once you go back to work? What “souvenirs” are you bringing “home”? On my last vacation at home, I discovered how much I loved sitting on my patio every evening to watch sunset. I never gave myself permission to do that before. Now, I enjoy this evening ritual every day and my life is so much better for having had this vacation at home.

My hope is that you, too, create a memorable vacation at home that rejuvenates you through rest and play in ways that extend well beyond your actual days off. Bon voyage!

If you need help designing and planning a vacation at home – or creating a daily life that you don’t need a vacation from – please contact me for a coaching session. We’ll get it handled!

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