As savvy travellers, we all crave as authentic an experience as possible, wherever we happen to be in the world. The beauty of travel is that it allows us to soak up cultures, experiences and encounters that are completely different to what we're used to at home, and as a result, our horizons are broadened and our minds opened. But do we really have to go far to experience the essence of a new culture or a break from our normality?
We can’t always afford to travel, so in those moments when we can't, we can learn to appreciate our own country. Staycations are also a great way of testing yourself for a solo trip. You can experience what it’s like to be a traveller for the day, do something touristy, find a cafe by yourself and just enjoy your own company. If you’ve never been abroad before, this can give you the confidence to book a trip by yourself.
This month I've doing just that – taking a staycation. I’ve discovered places that I didn’t even know existed before such as the Sculpture Park in Surrey, visited places that I’ve always wanted to go and never had the chance to before – the Solent Forts – and re-visited an island that was once a place for my childhood holidays (the Isle of Wight). And I’ve gained a new appreciation for my roots, especially seeing it from the panoramic platform at the top of the Spinnaker Tower. In fact, where I was born is actually pretty cool!
If you're not able to go abroad or overseas for a holiday, here are my ideas on how to have a staycation.
Something the pandemic has shown us is that we don’t have to go far to escape our daily routine as there could be areas near us that we haven’t explored yet. I’ve spent years exploring other countries further afield when I haven’t even seen half of England.
Self-contained accommodation can now be booked and although international travel is still not allowed, there is a bit more freedom to travel domestically. Book a hostel for the night or treat yourself to a hotel or an Airbnb for the near future. Just being in a different place to sleep at night will give you a break away from your normal life. You can even explore your city or hometown as a tourist, taking advantage of any walking tours, free city bikes or any other activities that you didn’t even know were there before.
2. Hit The Road
I think I’m not alone in saying that hitting the open road in my own ‘hotel on wheels’ is pretty appealing, especially for a weekend road trip. It’s an easy way of seeing a bit more of the country, stopping whenever you like, and feeling pure freedom by not abiding by any timetable or schedule.
If the thought of hiring a motorhome is too much, just take your car and a tent and drive to a designated campsite or find a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle to wild camp. In England for example, there are so many campsites and people are so friendly that you’re bound to make new friends too. Just book up to make sure you don’t miss out!
3. Spa Weekend
One thing that I miss from travelling is pampering myself and trying different styles of massages from Balinese to Thai (which wasn’t as relaxing as I initially thought). Nothing helps you relax more than being pampered. Look for a local salon in your area or go further afield to make it feel more of a break. Hotels sometimes have packages that include the use of the spa and a massage so you can relax and unwind, and come back refreshed and ready for the week.
If the budget is tight, a soak in the tub with a bath bomb, candle and aromatherapy oils you’ve been holding on to for a special occasion might be the perfect way to create a spa experience at home.
4. Isolation Tank
Remember that quiet, peaceful experience of being alone? Where you can just have pure alone time without any interruptions? If you don't have the luxury of taking off for a night or a day, then how about an hour? If you've ever felt like you just want to switch off from the world for an hour, then consider an isolation tank. Rapidly increasing in popularity and very easy to find, isolation tanks allows you to simply float in temperate saltwater in a concealed tank for an hour or so.
Somewhere between meditation and sleeping, hopping in an isolation tank is an escape for your mind more than anything, letting you drift off without distraction. Major cities in most countries are likely to have a place with isolation tanks. This is something that I have yet to experience but with the promise of completely switching off for an hour, it’s on my wish list!
A wise man once said that the true way to get to know a person is by looking at what is on their plate, and this rings true across every corner of the globe. The quickest way to get to grips with a new culture is to eat as the locals do, and whilst in this case, we are the locals, there may still be areas of your city that have a culinary influence. Take Edgware Road in London for example where you can find Middle Eastern food or Camden Market for a choice of world cuisine. As restaurants have now opened up for dining outside, look for a restaurant, bistro, pub or food stalls that you haven’t tried before whether it’s Vietnamese, Thai or Korean.
Or if dining out isn’t your style, one of my at home vacation ideas is to recreate one of your favourite meals that you had on a trip. Maybe you loved a Chinese hot pot or momos in Nepal? Find a recipe and recreate it one night at home. The Internet is filled with recipes so finding one to make at home is simple.
If any of your friends appreciate different cuisines, consider inviting them over for a dinner party to experience the same culinary tastes you fell in love with. If you have several friends who enjoy travelling, perhaps you can make it a cultural potluck where everyone brings a dish from their favourite travel spot.
If you’re dreaming of that Caipirinha that you had in Brazil, or the time when you were shaking your hips in a salsa club in Cuba, why wait until you can afford to go back if there are clubs or festivals coming in the summer in your nearest city or town? If you live in the capital, there’s probably a Brazilian club somewhere near you. There’s one in London and spending an evening there mingling with Brazilians and trying to keep up with their dances for each song was definitely a night to remember! Who needs travel?
7. New Interests
Incorporate new hobbies or interests into your routine at home. For example, if you enjoyed visiting art museums on your travels, look for local art museums and galleries near you to visit on weekends (or during the week). Or relive your travel memories by finding a coffee shop somewhere where you feel inspired and write about your travel experiences. Take a journal to the beach and reminisce on your favourite travel moments.
8. Escape Room
Part of solo travel is being able to figure things out for yourself and one way to re-create that is inside an Escape Room. Although being stuck in a room for 60 minutes might seem an odd suggestion to unwind, Escape Room isn’t exactly your average place to hang out. It will test your ingenuity and nerve like nothing else and help you escape from your normal life for an hour. It’s your mission to solve puzzle after puzzle until you finally find the last key and break free.
An Escape Room offers a bit of fun with tasks that may seem incredibly hard at first, but once you’ve figured them out, it's meant to be a rewarding feeling. It won’t be for everyone, but you can use problem-solving skills you maybe didn’t even know you had. And don’t worry about getting stuck there as you’re allowed out after 60 minutes, even if you don’t find the final key.
9. Virtual Tours
Everyone needs some escapism and although you may not have the time or money to take a trip, you still deserve a short break from your routine, especially if you've been working from home. Another way to solo travel without leaving home is to take a virtual tour. There are so many from a guided tour of the Colosseum in Rome to an Italian cooking class.
There is always a new way to see a place, whether it’s up high in a tower with a panoramic view or whether you’re trying something new such as exploring it from the waters edge on a boat.
If you’re unable to travel abroad this summer, is there somewhere in your home country that you’ve always wanted to go? Maybe you could go on a day trip, or try a new activity for the first time? There’s always an experience to be had…
Do you have any ideas for staycations?