Tag Archives: vacation

Planning the Best Stay-At-Home Vacation

Regular readers will remember my frustration with myself over my last stay-at-home vacation which seemed jam-packed with projects around the house. As much as I tried to fill my heart with the gratitude of having a nice home and the opportunity to do home improvement projects, I was left very tired and still needed a vacation after my vacation.

The reality is that after a few unusually tough years when mind, body and spirit didn’t have the energy to spare to turn a screwdriver or to declutter a drawer, the to-do list got pretty long. Fortunately, the energy and desire are back and ready to tackle the list, but there are only so many hours in a day to get to everything.

Just the same, when I think ahead to next year’s stay-at-home vacation, I have already committed to myself that every waking moment should not be filled with house projects. I want my vacation to be just that… a vacation!

To get to that point, I have made a commitment to myself that between now and then, I needed to find the time to knock one or two projects off the list each week. They just need to get done in small consistent increments.

When the prize is genuine unstructured play time, not spent with a paint roller in one hand and a drill in the other, I think this should be an easy resolution to keep rather than the old habit of deferring the projects to my vacation time.

So far, the plan seems to be working.

Which leads to the next question… So what do I want to do during the next stay-at-home vacation?

In exploring the concept of unstructured play time, I started letting my mind wander and to wonder what would make the best vacation ever.

It’s not that I was trying to plan my unstructured play time, but just to have a list of fun activities ready in my back pocket to make the most out of it, so that I don’t feel like it was a missed opportunity.

I took out an index card and started filling it with ideas of the sights, sounds and activities that would make it the most fun, most interesting and most relaxing time off.

The intent was not to create a bucket list. The ideas didn’t have to be elaborate or cost a lot of money. I just wanted a list of simple, meaningful ideas. With the knowledge that I shouldn’t have a long household to-do list hogging my vacation time, the possibilities were endless.

At the top of the list was time for writing, reading and running, the standards for each of my to-do lists, but the aim will be to fully enjoy them, in the moment, as opposed to in a rush, wedged between other activities as would typically happen in a work week.

To the list I added a few points of curiosity like checking out certain restaurants that have been recommended to me, returning to restaurants I would like to visit more often or to check out some museums I hadn’t seen in years.

Our region is filled with many beautiful waterfront parks and I just don’t seem to get out to as many of them as I would like. A few of those went on the list.

And without thinking about it too hard, the list quickly filled with other little rituals that I enjoy, like watching old movies with a big bowl of popcorn, digging my toes in the sand of a local beach, updating my musical playlists, baking (for the fun of it), enjoying a fancy cocktail (rather than ordering wine or beer at a restaurant), reading a “guilty pleasure” book, and any activity I enjoy where I might lose track of time.

When I took a step back, I realized that none of these ideas were hard to plan or nor were they hard to accomplish. They were just the simple pleasures that I truly enjoy but that seem to get lost in the shuffle of the week-to-week must-do list of cooking, cleaning and errands revolving around my work schedule.

That is when it hit me… if I enjoy these activities so much, why don’t I do them more often and why should I wait until the next vacation to make these happen? What a revelation!

Since then, I have been making time for at least one of these each week. It’s not always easy, but they aren’t terribly time consuming, nor are they expensive or difficult to organize. But because they are meaningful and fun to me, they are energizing activities that add to the joy of living.

If that’s the case, back to the original question, what will there be left to do during my stay-at-home vacation?

It is still intended to be unstructured play time, but by that time, choosing the simple pleasures to make the most of it will be second nature and will probably make it the best one yet!

 

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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When Vacation Time Becomes Home Maintenance Time

Maybe it’s a product of having a busy life and many interests, but I long for the day when I can take a vacation and for it to be entirely made up of time to put my feet up, read a good book and just relax in well-earned peace and tranquility.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a home owner. I also love taking care of my investment. The problem is that through a normal work week, when you factor in time for social activities, writing, cooking, cleaning and laundry, there isn’t much time or energy left to bring out the power tools and the paint cans to knock things off my home maintenance to-do list.

And even when I do set aside time for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, I want it done right the first time. I don’t want to rush the project and risk making a mess. For that reason, it needs a generous time allotment.

It would be one thing if I had no natural inclination for DIY projects or if I hated them, but I don’t. I actually think they are a joy and a privilege.

The worst part is that I am responsible for the to-do list and I tend to expect a lot of myself, so the list does get a little ambitious.

That being the case, the list of projects often get deferred to the only time where time and patience are in good supply: vacations… or should I say, stay-cations. Continue reading

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A Bucket List Trip to Las Vegas

A busy evening on Las Vegas Blvd.

When it comes to Las Vegas, I am definitely no stranger. Despite the distance from Ottawa, I have been there enough times over the years that I seem to have lost count.

It’s not that I consider myself a big gambler. It’s quite the contrary. There are so many things to see and do, whether you like entertainment, food, shopping, sightseeing or just the dry warm weather, Las Vegas can appeal on so many levels.

Back in the early 2000’s I wrote a “Vegas Top 10” email that I kept in my drafts folder for whenever friends and colleagues asked what they should see on their visit. I guess you could consider that my first travel blog entry, before blogs became popular.

The challenge now is that after a decade’s absence, I suspected that my list was getting out of date and not worthy of posting, given the pace at which Las Vegas seems to reinvent itself and to update its attractions.

The opportunity to visit Las Vegas, and to potentially validate my Top 10 list, presented itself last fall as my partner and I decided to treat ourselves and to celebrate our birthdays with tickets to see Cher and Céline Dion in their residency shows.

We were fortunate that our late November travel dates are not considered high tourist season. We believe that this played in our favour as we got pretty good deals on the points required to fly, as well as for our “once-in-a-lifetime” bucket list stay at the Bellagio Hotel. Continue reading

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How I Need the Internet to Go “Off the Grid”

In keeping with tradition, last month I booked some time off for some rest and relaxation from the office and to take in the festivities of the Eurovision Song Contest, from the comfort of my couch here in Canada. For what seems like ten years now, Eurovision has been the focal point of my version of “spring break”.

The first few days of my time off consisted of jotting down some blog ideas floating around in my grey matter and puttering around the house, getting chores done. With those out of the way, when Eurovision came on, I could truly let myself get swallowed up by my sofa, pillow, blanket and cat, and to completely disconnect from the world.

That is… until I woke up Tuesday morning to find I was already disconnected from the world.

No Internet service!

After a series of attempts over two days to restore my Internet service over the phone, with the assistance of cheerful client service representatives, it finally took a site visit from a technician on Thursday to get everything fixed up.

Once I was on the couch, with pillow, blanket and cat, watching the Eurovision semi-final #2, my cares completely melted away with each passing costume change, wind machine, and key change.
The next day, I watched semi-final #1, and on the Saturday, I watched the finals live with the other 204 million viewers around the world. Everything seemed right with the universe again.
But those few days I was without Internet, I surprised myself at my dependence on it. How do people actually go off-the-grid anymore? Continue reading

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You Know It Was a Good Vacation When…

Isn’t it wonderful when you have enjoyed your vacation time to its fullest and completely immersed yourself in activities that were so far removed from your day-to-day routine… to the point of forgetting the details of your day-to-day routine?

That being the case, you know it was a good vacation when…

Ice Bar, Stockholm, 2005

You have a hard time falling asleep on cue, to wake up in time for the return to your regular morning routine.

You wake up with muscle or joint stiffness but no recollection of what could have caused it.

The prospect of wearing long pants again makes you cringe.

The prospect of preparing a lunch-to-go makes you cringe even more.

You overshoot your morning routine prep time by half an hour.

Even your pets are seemingly sad to see you go back to the regular routine.

You’re not freaked out by the guy who cuts you off in traffic on your first morning commute. Continue reading

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The Rewards of Vending Machines

vending-machinesOn a recent visit to the mall, I noticed a little girl was carefully perusing the contents of the row of gum ball and toy vending machines, with the same intensity I demonstrated when I was shopping for new appliances. She was contorting herself around the machines, checking out all of the contents and trying to predict which items were to come out next.

I understood that this was a major purchase and she was looking for the best value for her hard earned allowance money. That was me 40+ years ago!

After much scrutiny and analysis, she pointed to a machine, put in her coin, turned the crank, opened the plastic bubble and voilà! Pure joy and a huge smile! I could only assume that she got what she was looking for as she was visibly delighted with her prize.

I was reminded of my own childhood and my borderline addiction to those machines. I remember my sock drawer was proudly filled with little gum-ball-machine toys I had collected from trips to the grocery store or the department store.

I don’t think my experience was all that unusual though. With those machines at eye level for a kid, it was so easy to beg parents and relatives for coins, to get something I “positively need, and promise I won’t ask for anything again”… until the next visit.

But what is it about those machines that ignites our curiosity? If common sense prevails, one would think that being able to hold, feel and inspect a product up close to make an informed decision would the more balanced way to go. However the separation of human and product by a plastic window seems to appeal to our sense of adventure.

Or is it because we have become the product of our own life-long Pavlovian experiment since a very young age: put in a coin, get a treat? Continue reading

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The Surprises at Summer Camp

As I was driving around and dodging potholes this week, I couldn’t help but notice a big sign announcing “summer camp registration”. I don’t know for sure if the flashbacks I was getting were just my life flashing before my eyes given the massive holes in the street left behind from Old Man Winter or the warm memories of day camps I attended as a child.

But there is something about the mention of camp that has of those songs running through my head like a freight train again (40 years later) like the one about the littlest worm that got stuck inside my soda straw or poor Charley who never returned.

I think to myself that I was very lucky that my parents made me… I mean… offered me the opportunity to go as many times as I did.

The truth is, I was at that strange age: too young for a job and too old for day care. Frankly, if left to my own devices, I probably would have been stuck in the 1970’s version of “screen time”: park myself in front of the TV and watch game shows all day for the entire summer. And for this little guy who shopped in the “husky” department, getting out in the fresh air, sunshine and actively mixing with kids my own age was definitely better for me in the long run.Camp

The attached picture is one of the rare pieces of evidence of me ever setting foot in a tent. Even from a young age, roughing it was not my thing, so shipping me off to an “away” camp in the woods, would have required significant bribery. My mom signed me up for the next best thing: day camp.

Most of the camps I attended lasted two weeks, just long enough to give my parents a break from tearing me away from The Price is Right, and not so long that I felt it encroaching on my unstructured play time. As an only child, I had a strong sense of boundaries where that was concerned.

As much as the first days were filled with apprehension and butterflies, not unlike the first day of school, campers had to get into the groove quickly because it was over before they knew it.

My first ones were camps involving getting on a bus and heading to some distant green spaces. I would pack my Archie and Bugs Bunny comics into my little knapsack to read along the way, as well as a classic PB and J lunch, my bathing suit and towel, a rain poncho just in case and an ample supply of bug repellent.

Once there, I forgot any of the apprehensions I had, while mixing and mingling with other kids who were looking for something fun to do over the summer. Our camp counselors were fantastic in Continue reading

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