We all want to have a fun and happy summer but with the coronavirus running rampant, a trip to a distant tropical island in southeast Asia is not on the calendar. It’s time for a staycation to fake the experience at home.
Start off by thinking about the things you want to do on tropical vacation. Then throw all those expectations out the window and do some of these activities instead:
Set the Stage
First things first. This is summer and you’re going to SE Asia. Turn off your air conditioning and embrace the heat. Let your house feel like an ocean-front cottage on stilts or a cabin in the jungle. In a day or two, you’ll acclimatise to the heat.
Next, haul out your Christmas lights and decorate above your dining table. Thumbtacks in the crown moulding will let you string them back and forth like a night market. Put them on “blink mode” to feel like India, or steady light for a more chill Thailand or Bali vibe.
Designate part of your home as the “Sacred Temple” where you can quietly contemplate life. May I suggest the toilet as an ideal location?
Simulate the spotty Internet available in every beach paradise by putting your WiFi access point on a timer. Turn it on for a few hours around midday only.
Find playlists of appropriate music. Spotify has tons of summer options, or check YouTube for long music playlists of Thai pop, traditional Balinese gamelan, or Bollywood dance hits. You might want to download these, since your WiFi isn’t going to be so reliable.
With everything in place and ready for your “arrival,” give yourself jetlag. Stay up all night watching B-movies on a small screen, and on the next day, sleep deprivation will make your regular nap feel like heaven.
Enjoy a Feast
Make yourself some “food on sticks” to serve under the dining room lights. Chicken satay, shish kebab, grilled vegetables, or fruit kabobs are all great. Even a hotdog on a skewer will serve the part.
For an authentic vacation dessert, try a sliced bread ice cream sandwich. It’s just a slice of buttered white bread smeared thickly with ice cream and folded in half. Make the deluxe version by sprinkling the ice cream with coconut (Thailand) or shredded cheese (India).
Fancy drinks are a hallmark of tropical holidays. Chuck some fruit chunks or mint leaves in your tap water. Pour a bit of fruit juice or soda water in your white wine. Garnish any cocktail with twist of citrus peel.
Fill a picnic basket with sandwiches and your favorite finger foods. Go find a spot to spread out a cloth and eat. Could be in the yard, or it could be on the living room floor. Get low and enjoy a meal at ground level.
Make any meal more festive by serving it with flair. Deconstruct your menu into pieces and arrange the parts on separate platters, buffet style. Make fancy picks with leftover skewers topped with colored paper cut into flower shapes and frills. Origami fold napkins or paper towels to sit at each place.
Dress the Part
Wear a swimsuit and coverup in the house. This will be handy for when you take a cold shower in the middle of the day to cool off.
Give up shoes. Go barefoot to the mailbox, out in the yard, or on the balcony. With your toes on display, a pedicure is both a vacation activity and a chance to dress the part.
Cover your head with a shawl in the designated Sacred Temple in your home.
Read a book outside. Take it out on the balcony or the lawn, or sit at an open window if you lack outdoor space. Let yourself be distracted by passersby, birds, and naps.
Make a visual journal of your staycation. Like Instagram but without the Internet. Sketch or photograph the days. Include sunsets, closeups of greenery, a long shot of your bare feet, beautiful food and drinks. When you “get home” after your vacation, you can share online.
Send postcards. Make some original ones or use leftovers from previous holidays. Your friends will enjoy getting mail from your exotic staycation. Be sure to rave about the food and tell them “wish you were here.” You really do.
Tell your own fortune. With the same book you were reading outside, close your eyes, open to a random page and stab your finger at the words. Whatever lands under your finger is your fortune. What does it mean to you? Creative interpretation is recommended. Or use your poker deck to do a tarot reading.
Give yourself a henna tattoo – without the henna. Grab a red or brown marker and draw on the palm of your non-dominant hand. Then do the tops of both feet.
For wild night life in the staycation tropics, set up a casino. Poker needs nothing more than a deck of cards. If you’re travelling solo, try a version of Solitaire. Gamble for small coins or tokens. Serve snacks and drinks.Staycation movie night can be held outdoors with plenty of popcorn.
If you want to go to a live show, produce one yourself. Create a stage with a sheet for a backdrop. If you’re alone, cue up your playlists and dance like nobody’s watching. If you’ve got other people around, take turns being performer and audience.
Be sure to finish your vacation by catching the plane home – another night with movies that leads into a jet-lagged, groggy day.
Spend that first day back day undoing your staycation decor, turning the WiFi back on 24/7, mailing your postcards, and doing laundry. After that, it’s back to the grind of days that blur together.
For real, though, it’s not a good time to go travel and with international restrictions, you’re unlikely to be on a tropical beach this year. Even domestic travel spreads the virus out of control as we discovered here in Japan after a four-day weekend.
But after weeks and months of being home, it’s hard to make things feel light and cheery. Although my suggestions are a little snarky, they will work. By making an effort to create a memorable moment, you’ll lift your mood. Enthusiasm and creativity are what make a staycation more than just another week at home.
I’ve tried to suggest things that won’t take a lot of time or money, and that can be done whether you live alone, with a family full of kids, or with roommates. Don’t have the skewers or the timer? Make do with what you have around the house. Get everyone in your house involved. Take others’ vacation suggestions with an enthusiastic “Yes, let’s” and make them happen.
Stay home. Stay safe, stay healthy!