Staycation vs vacation

Now that I’ve enjoyed my time away, I’ve been pondering what to say about the current trend of going on staycations.  Staycations, if you don’t already know, are vacation periods where you stay at home or local to home.  Vacations are now being thought of as time away from home.  I would take a staycation if I worked around the house for 2 weeks, a vacation if I went to Disney World, far away from southeastern Pennsylvania.

I think that the question of whether or not a vacation is better than a staycation is moot.  The real purpose of a stay/va/cation is to set apart a period of time for re-creation. that is the re-birth of the person.

What matters is not whether or not you go on a staycation or a vacation, but HOW you go on a staycation or a vacation.

Merriam-Webster defines a vacation this way:

  • Main Entry: 1va·ca·tion
  • Pronunciation: \vā-ˈkā-shən, və-\
  • Function: noun
  • Usage: often attributive
  • Etymology: Middle English vacacioun, from Anglo-French vacacion, from Latin vacation-, vacatio freedom, exemption, from vacare
  • Date: 14th century

1 : a respite or a time of respite from something : intermission
2 a : a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended b : a period of exemption from work granted to an employee
3 : a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation <had a restful vacation at the beach>
4 : an act or an instance of vacating

From this we can determine that there are two kinds of time:  time at work or activity, and time apart (vacationing) with one goal, which is to re-create.  Thus when you are on vacation or a staycation, it is critical to do two things:  set aside time with a beginning and an ending, and do something productive to re-create yourself as a person.

The best vacations I have are ones in which I go on retreat with a bunch of friends on a yearly basis.  We gather to work on our spirituality and set aside time for this purpose by going to retreat centers (some of which are within a short distance of my home, some of which are not).  What makes this time better than a trip to Disney World or puttering around the house is that I’m not idling time away.  I’m working on ME by setting aside time and by focusing on my spirituality.

This year I had a good vacation in Myrtle Beach, but the people I went with (as well as my friends on the net) were wondering why I decided to work on “work” during my vacation.  Well, I find myself currently between jobs (I start the new one on Monday), and I am in a place where the part of me that is re-creating is vocational in nature.  So, I focused on getting a good tan, hanging out with the family, and reading up on the population affected by my new work, the elderly.  Do I feel relaxed?  Yes.  Do I feel energized?  Yes.  Why?  Because I set aside time with a beginning and an ending and had a purposive activity in mind to re-create myself.

So, what can YOU do to spice up your next vacation?  Mark it with a beginning and ending, and do something to further yourself as a person (whether it be for yourself or for others).

Here are some ideas:

  • Go to a retreat house for a day of reflection.  Many retreat houses offer this as an option.
  • Volunteer to work at a homeless shelter for a day.
  • Pick a book to read that has to do with an area of your life that you want to develop and read it in a new place, e.g. the beach.
  • Google “volunteer” and your zip code and see what comes up.
  • Take a class on meditation (or just read my earlier post on meditation) and devote a regular period of time each day on your vacation to meditating.
  • Teach your child fishing or hunting (something where they learn the peace of quiet).
  • Learn a new skill in an area you want to develop.
  • Learn a new skill in an area you know absolutely nothing about and are just curious about.
  • Don’t putter around the house throughout your whole vacation.  Celebrate accomplishments in the house.
  • Vacation with a theme (Civil War battlefields, learning about interesting places in your state, etc.)
  • Make sure that the greatest number of purposive activities you do during a day is 3.  No more than 3, and no less than 2.
And have fun!
What are the best vacations/staycations you have had, and why?

About Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW, CAS-PC

Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Pastoral Counselor who maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Drexel Hill, PA.
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