Whether you are looking for things to do when you are home, when people are visiting you, or when you are visiting somewhere else but you are far from any real sites worth seeing, you have to figure out what you can do – after all, Netflix and chill only works for so long.
So, stuck in the suburbs (or middle of nowhere Kansas) and what do you do?
First, if you are creative enough, there is always something to do. There are parks to see, walks to take or hikes depending on the terrain and these seem much more common the more central you head. In Kansas, this ended up being Milford State Park and Kansas Landscape Arboretum. If a few walks in the park doesn’t fill your time, you can take any mundane thing and make it an adventure if you change a few details (anyone remember fancy dress bowling?). Get overdressed, make a scavenger hunt, make an event out of every small thing the town can offer.
Second, if you can get your hands on a vehicle – especially if you are in LA or the middle of nowhere – you options grow exponentially.
In LA, we recently discovered cooking nights. There are companies out in the warehouse areas – like West LA – that house classes from cooking to tastings to game nights and as long as you have a rough idea of what activities you may want to participate in you can usually find them. However, even in LA, it usually means taking quite a drive. This doesn’t mean that you won’t find these activities elsewhere. Even Kansas can boast it;s share of murder mystery dinners and zip lining activities – we actually found these when looking for fun activities to explore.
And finally, of course, if you have access to a car and time to move further away – say a few hours – you can usually hit another area (a bigger city, for example) and then, once again, your odds of finding things also expands. Take Kansas: from where I am staying, a two hour drive takes you to either Wichita or Kansas City. Personally, I’m looking at the latter. But that’s next week.
This weekend, there is a camping trip for the SCA and while I would love to get out of my life for a weekend (it’s getting addicting), I have way too much stuff on my plate to add in planning a long, busy weekend. What I can happily set out to do is give myself a day off and road-trip up and back to the campsite.
Remember, the whole point of a staycation, whether you get just beyond your own city or explore your city, is to get out of your own head and relax.
In this case, a friend and I are road-tripping about 2 hours (so barely a road trip – but again: staycation!) up to camp and, just like any road-trip, there are things to consider.
Money: Are you splitting costs such as gas, snacks, or anything else that comes along? Sometimes it’s worth it to divide these costs but other times when they are so small, it’s not worth splitting hairs. Best policy is to discuss before setting out.
Timing: When do you need to leave and when do people need to be home by? Where are you meeting up (important to know for your personal timing)? Never ever make the person who is driving wait for you! I have had to wait on people many times and there was nothing worse than starting a road trip ticked off by the people you are going to have to sit in a car with for hours on end.
Doing Your Part: This could mean picking up coffee for everyone, or volunteering to drive part of the way, or working as the DJ or navigator (taking into consideration everyone in the car with you!). Basically, stepping up so that no one is left doing everything themselves.
Now, just because a staycation doesn’t make you go as far (and in my case, for very little time), doesn’t mean you should skip out on the prep and planning. If you aren’t going far from home for a day or two, having to buy anything because you forgot supplies from batteries to sunglasses to power chords and chargers can put a real damper on your trip. In that case, so can getting lost if you don’t look up your directions beforehand.
So yes, go out and hike, to a campsite, to a beach, anywhere out of your element and center yourself.
This post marks number 108 over the course of three years and, without having any real new travel in the last few months, it is easy to admit that I’m getting more than a little stir crazy being back home – a feeling I know more travelers than not have felt more than once or twice (a year!).
So what can you do? After all, despite what a million pins say on Pintrest, 90%+ of us -especially with college loans – are never going to put enough away to quit our jobs and travel for years at a time.
Well, you can work on your staycation list – or start creating one!
As I’ve said before, most of us that have lived in one place our whole lives haven’t explored much of our local environment, so if you get together the kind of things you want to do or see in places that you don’t live, you’ll probably be able to find an a similar activity closer to home – with a few environmental exceptions of course.
Look at art, science, or history museums, local carnivals and Ren Faires – which are growing in number and theme! – or just different parts of surrounding towns or cities. Push this further by subscribing to your local event sights – they’ll cover everything from art events to fairs – this way you’ll be notified on events all year long!
The key is to just get out and away from the sights (and sometimes the people) you see everyday.
For example, this weekend, we took the metro down to union station for the Chinese Lantern Festival. While this felt a lot more like a local multi-cultural festival than anything else and only lasted a few hours (not quite enough to slake my travel thirst), it was a good way of getting out of my own house and head and explore part of my world I hadn’t seen in a while. It helped.
Another thing to remember is you should try to save what you can do locally for the long haul, and do shorter, far away trips. Maybe you won’t get a month – yet alone a year – exploring temples or forests or beaches in your dream destinations, but you can usually figure something short out. For an added bonus, try to plan for the off season and you’ll get more out of your money with fewer crowds to fight through.
The thing that many of us are guilty of – myself included – is to torture ourselves with images and pins of all the beautiful places in the world we hope to travel to instead of the office/jobs that we are – for lack of a better term – trapped in. For this reason, if you are really traveled starved, I do not recommend pinning travel ideas or images or even reading about others adventures if you aren’t actively working to get yourself on those adventures – be it saving money or staying local.
Whatever it is that you need to do to get over your travel-pining, do it without torturing yourself.
Since beginning this blog, this isn’t the first time I’ve written—and experienced—things just not going right in my travels. In fact, this seems to be a running theme and I’m not sure whether to blame my planning, time keeping skills, or just dumb luck, but all in all, it’s never something I regret. While this time, I was lucky enough not to be traveling very far—staying within half an hour of my London flat—but no matter if you’re planning a close staycation or a trip around the world, things not going to plan can completely kill your night, right?
Well, only if you let it.
To start, my best friend upon hearing most the details dubbed this worthy for a TV episode or romantic comedy—if I were romantically inclined—so, hopefully, you’ll be entertained, if nothing else.
Basically, the plan for last Saturday night was to have an end of exam celebration with fellow members of my master’s program (as well as a few related majors) which included a three and a half hour boat ride down the Thames with everyone “dressed to impress” to relax before we all fall into the hermit-hood which is dissertation writing.
Where things went wrong in my long day of dress hunting—not my dress!—and party prep, came down to communication and execution—or a lack of both.
A few days prior, I’d been talking to my friend (we’ll call him Cal) about the party and, since we live in the same building, I was going to join the group of people he was headed over with. Unfortunately, Cal and I couldn’t seem to get our phones to message each other over whatsapp or regular messaging (an issue that has since been sorted—it’s all about the country area codes!). Still, no worries, Cal had my flat number and would run up and get me before they left (Can you feel the foreboding? bum, bum, bum!).
It wasn’t until the day of that I realized we never talked about what time we were going to be leaving (issue two in the plan destined to go wrong!), so I got ready super early and waited…
And played guitar and waited….
And then I waited a little bit more…
And then I double checked the time and sprinted down the stairs—not an easy feet in my heels!—because I was very, very late.
What took place over the next fifteen-twentyish minutes I wish I had on film—CCTV across London is sure to have it and it must be priceless.
If you noticed the skirt I’m wearing in the picture, you don’t have to be a fashion expect to know that a slight breeze will give you an authentic Marilyn Monroe moment—Ladies, always wear shorts, please!
Now, imagine that, except I was literally sprinting through the tube station and across Westminster Bridge—Big Ben’s Clock Tower and Westminster creating a picturesque backdrop behind me—trying to keep my skirts down with my purse and high heels (I changed to flats on the tube) clutched in my hands as I dodged camera wielding tourists and fellow London commuters alike.
With five minutes to spare and frantically texting my other friend—we’ll call her Nat—who was stuck in traffic and nowhere close enough to make the boat, I tried to locate the correct pier which none of the local kiosk keepers seemed to be able to help me with, only to have the clock run out.
We missed the boat.
But soon enough, Nat met me down by the river and we started to plan the spontaneous fancy dress night to totally kick the butt of the missed boat party.
While we decided what to do, we walked along the Thames chatting and getting smiles from strange passerbys—seriously, how often do you see girls in storybook princess garb just strolling down the street?—before the idea of doing something totally mundane and yet totally epic because of our overdressed attire.
Apparently, fancy dress bowling was on both of our bucket lists!
In what would be a video montage if this were filmed, we ran from bowling alley to bowling alley—Londoners really love their bowling!—before we ended up at Bloomsbury Bowling (thanks to the lovely and very helpful ladies at All Star Lanes!) with a ten o’clock reservation and an hour long break to partake in some fabulous pumpkin pizza (a serious yes!) before getting our shoes and continuing our epic party.
With amazing speed bowling skills—three games in an hour—inter-played with videos, selfies and musical throwbacks which just had to be danced to—some serious Usher induced, middle school nostalgia—it’s hard to imagine a boat party making my night any better.
I ended the night meeting my other friends at a local club where the after party was being held and danced away the next few hours. This started off with a ‘Dirty Dancing-esque, big lift moment”—as one bystander dubbed it—which was actually me giving up on going around the crowd and walking across a bench to join said friends, in all my big tulle glory, and into the very helpful hand-down of Cal, who was extremely mollified that he’d forgotten to get me earlier.
I ended up feeling worse than he did though as I couldn’t contain my laughter as he, completely apologetic and puppy-eyed, tried to explain his crazy night and why her forgotten me. But I told him that everything turned out better for missing the actual event; no hard, no foul.
To sum up the point of this comedy of errors, I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: sometimes things go wrong. When it does, you can either roll over and let it ruin your night/trip, or you can roll with it and make the night even more epic that it was meant to be.
For me, it’s all about the fancy dress bowling—plus if you’ve watched Gilmore Girls, Paris Geller has already highlighted the many frustrations and disasters which come from young people trapped on a boat with alcohol…. Enough said.
This is going to be short this week. Most of what we’ve covered in this blog so far has had to do with traveling far and wide and, generally, for a good chunk of time, but this week we’re sticking closer to home.
Because I don’t think I’ve said, I live in the valley of Los Angeles county, California, about an hour outside of the actual city. This past week, I was off of work and able to really take advantage; get out of the house and away from my computer (a real struggle sometimes).
So, it’s time to head out. Locally. Oh, and of course, don’t forget your camera. Even close to home, your travel isn’t quite complete without a few tourist shots.
The point of a “Staycation” (a truly undervalued kind of vacation, if I do say so myself) is to break out of your usual routines and explore the areas that are close enough that you never actually go out and explore them, while saving you time and money as you don’t have to actually go very far. Basically, it’s taking the time to be a tourist in your own backyard. I doesn’t even have to be very far; an hour away or a days ride, as long as you get away from your life for a little bit, that’s all that matters.
But, what to do?
I live in Southern California but, honestly, theme parks like Disneyland aren’t touristy for me; they are simply one more thing to do in my area whenever I can, despite how family and friends from out of town tend to flock to these locations as touristy must-dos.
Instead, this break, my dad and I did half-day trips wandering the actual city parts of Los Angeles’ (and surrounding areas’) destinations rather than the artificial worlds created in theme parks.
One of the days we went hiking in Malibu for a few hours (saw some waterfalls) and spent the rest of the day at the beach. Going out to local areas like beaches and doing activities like hikes make you get away from your house and work and all the people you are constantly surrounded by. For me, this is a time when I turn my phone on airplane mode to really get away from life for a few days. Generally, these don’t cost you much except maybe parking, food and sunscreen; unless you pull an overnight and then motels are pretty cheap.
Another day, we went on a self guided walking tour through the city based on the movie “500 Days of Summer.” These kind of tours are easy enough to find (great ones are done through city conservancies and can be found through them) for many kinds of topics—movie, historic, music, ect.—and for pretty much any city you may travel to. Self guided equals actual free tours minus the cost of getting to your location, parking and basic daily needs and are generally pretty easy to navigate distance wise since it is expected that you walk from one site to the next. The fun part of these kinds of tours (and doing them close to where you actually live) is that most people would only consider doing them in areas they don’t live in or when they are guiding people from out of town so many people you know haven’t done them. I have lived near the city my whole life but, because of that exact fact, there are tons of places that I have only visited recently because riding the metro 40 minutes (another thing I rarely do as a LA valley dweller) or driving for an hour is never something I do just to go see the sites.
To get out but not alone or with the people you see everyday, there are ton of group meet ups (through sites like meetup) posted all over the web. These help you get out and meet people from your own greater or super local communities to learn or experience new things in your area.
Then there are the basics. Hit local monuments and landmarks. Go to museums and art galleries your usual life never leaves time to see. New parts of old cities are being found every day; keep your ear to the ground and visit unearthed history. Just go out and explore because if you don’t the tourist we usually come to resent as those people slowing down traffic or simply those feeding our local economy will come to cherish and know more about our homes than we do.
You should never feel too cool to be a tourist, even if you are within an hour of home,