Sapphic Staycation Success


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Photo: Katherine Streeter

In these trying economic times, everybody is cutting corners and sacrificing. For many, one of the first things to go is the annual family summer vacation. There is even a name for not going away for vacation; it is called a “staycation.” It is cute and catchy and way too long in coming.

I wish my parents had known about staycations when I was a kid. We were lower middle class, teetering on poor, and yet my parents thought it their right and duty to take my sister and me on a vacation every year. It was always a camping trip but it was no picnic: hot car (air-conditioning was for rich people), bugs, bad food (forget s’mores—we had no-mores, which was anything my dad burnt in a cast-iron pan over the campfire) and a lack of any fun activities.

Somehow, my parents thought that taking a couple of kids from smack-dab in the middle of urban blight and plopping them out in the woods for a week with nothing to do but stare at each other was going to be relaxing. It was anything but. At least in the city we had our friends and our bikes, but out in the woods with our well-intentioned but unimaginative parents, boredom reigned supreme. That is, except for a couple of minutes of sheer terror per day, courtesy of some creepy crawly that was supposedly more scared of us then we were of it.

The upside of these family getaways was that home, as homely as it was, looked awfully good to us when we got back.
I have spoken with my sister about the staycation concept and she agrees that our parents would have been much better off just leaving us at home for a week. She even suggested it would have been kinder for them to leave us at a laundromat for a week. That way, we would at least have had clean clothes and been able to watch them spinning around in the machines for entertainment.

I am geographically blessed as an adult. I live in San Francisco. There is so much to see and do here that I could take staycations the rest of my life and still have plenty to do. Back when I was single, my whole life was a staycation. Most of the time I was too broke to leave, but I never minded being stranded where all the birds were flocking. I thought of the San Francisco airport as a delivery service for women. They were on vacation and by extension, so was I, several times a year.

I think I could cope with a staycation as a single lezzie just about anywhere, as long as I had a computer. Women are just a few clicks away, so a gal could set it up ahead of time, with a date every night of her vacation. If being on vacation is not all about women for you, then…well…go to the library or take up a new hobby, like tole painting or fly tying.

It isn’t the single gals I worry about when it comes to staycations—it is the couples. You won’t save any money by staying at home during your vacation if you have to spend thousands on vodka and couples counseling just to get through it.

Don’t just assume that you two are going to stay home together for a solid week and everything is going to be Shangri-la. What are you going to do with that time? Where are you going to go? Are you going to sleep in or chase the dawn on the jogging path each morning, while the oil in the car needs changing, the kitchen cupboards need painting and the garage is threatening to spew its entire contents onto the driveway?

A successful staycation requires careful planning and honest communication. Is your holiday going to be all about lazing around, or home improvement or personal enrichment?

For me, a working vacation is hunting truffles in France or counting fish in Hawaii. The little lady, on the other hand, can’t help working, no matter where we go. We took a tour a few years ago through colonial New England. We stayed one night in Delaware and when I woke up the next morning, she had already swept the entire state.

We staycationed last year and we are doing it again this year, but this year is going to be even better than last, because we know what works and what just works our nerves.

Before our staycation, she makes a list of the “projects” she has to get done in order to have any peace at all on her time off. We go through the list together and negotiate how the tasks will be accomplished, who will do them and how long we are going to devote to each.

I make a list of all of the places and people I want to see during our time off together. She looks it over and lets me know who I will be visiting on my own and what wondrous sights she is willing to take in.

We also talk about how much we are willing to spend on our staycation. I love trying new restaurants, seeing first-rate entertainment and having an adventure that I’ll be able to reminisce about in my old age. My wife would be content to just live off whatever is in the pantry, scrub her days away and read junk mail by candlelight at night. If you ever want the Amish vacation experience, she is your woman.
I think the best part of not being at work is not being at work, so we always try to keep that in mind.

A staycation can be a restful and frugal alternative to the madness that vacation brings. But if you are set on having a real vacation experience, I could bring my dad over and he could take you out to the backyard, throw a scorpion in your lap and tell you Army stories while he burns a can of potted meat in his cast-iron pan.

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