Oh my friends! I shan’t name names, but some of the airlines are experiencing difficulties, and those difficulties are rolling downhill on travelers.
My sister just flew to Boston from Denver. Imagine her joy on finding that her original flight, complete with extra-long layover, was canceled in favor of a non-stop arriving much earlier. Her phone pinged: Did she want to accept this new, much better itinerary? A moment after she typed YES for this unexpected upgrade, her phone pinged again: FLIGHT DELAYED.
If the pandemic or the pilot shortage or ever-present budget concerns are keeping you close to home this season, we have some low- and no-cost ideas for your staycation.
Luck and determination
Science has determined that lucky people typically change things up. They take a different route to work—just because! And it’s on that random route that they
encounter their true love, or a sign for free kittens, or a Help Wanted notice, or maybe just a penny … that turns out to be lucky.
Vacations put us in the way of new things, fresh vistas, weird encounters and possibly luck. Just figuring out where coffee is gets our brain going in a way it hasn’t before.
And all that novel neurology kicking in makes everything really vivid. You can do this from your home base. Just make a list of day trips! Anything you’d want to show a visitor but somehow never get around to seeing for yourself.
The second research-backed finding is that people enjoy their vacations much, much more when time away includes a mission to accomplish. When I tagged along on my partner’s work trip to Lisbon, my friend asked me to get her a Portuguese olive oil pourer. She drew me a picture, pointing out a little tin crossbar connecting the spout to the body of the container with the note, “This piece is really important! If it doesn’t have a crossbar, I don’t want it.”
I walked all over Lisbon looking for this thing, this supposedly ubiquitous, iconic thing. My mission took me into all kinds of nooks and crannies. On a Sunday morning, at the open-air flea market I found it: a really old, magnificent olive oil pourer. Mission accomplished! It was so much fun.
But we’re not sending you to Portugal! Your hometown has such an item, I bet. (In my town, it’s a special kind of pottery.) It could be a local dish or a natural or cultural site instead. Anything that takes you a little out of your way—which is a way to find your luck.
Decide what your day trip radius is, draw a circle on a map around your location, and start listing areas of interest. You may not cross any borders or change climate zones, but you can get far enough away for a fresh perspective and fire up some curious neurons.
A few more ideas
Hunt for mushrooms. Wherever you live, there’s going to be fungal activity, seen and unseen. It’s not hard to avoid the deadly and the boring, and there’s no better treasure hunt than the hunt for tonight’s dinner. A perfect guide is How to Forage for Mushrooms without Dying: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Identifying 29 Wild, Edible Mushrooms by Frank Hyman.
Have a beach day! You can do it at the actual beach, or in the park, or on your porch—whatever your weather and location permit. Key ingredients are beach reads, knitting, swimsuits and snacks. Personally I would pack a cooler just for the vibe, even if I were only going to the backyard.
Take a class in something you’re interested in just because. Do it with a friend. Be fiercely non-competitive! I’m taking a class in ex voto painting from Morbid Anatomy in August, and I won’t be good at it. I can’t wait!
Go on a picnic. For me, alfresco dining—farther than my backyard—takes me out of my everyday routine. I mean, you’ve got to get away from your kitchen to make it a picnic—and that’s key—because it limits the amount of fussy last-minute improvements an improving sort of person can be tempted to make. You pack, you go, you’re done!
Perhaps I’ve told you about cookbook club? You pick a book, everybody declares for the recipes that most interest them, you make your dishes, have your meal together, and you leave a little time to choose the next book.
My club has been going ten years and I tell you what: we are now at the point of putting some memorably good meals together. These friends make me try harder and attempt cuisines I would be afraid of on my own. There is always a surprise standout, and it is always a great night.
I hope this starts you thinking about how you can spend less, plan less and holiday more often. Put your own suggestions in the comments below, and bon voyage!