CALL it what you will: “staycation,” “holistay,” or, as the Montrealers apparently do, “Balconville.” That’s how they describe camping out on their humid balconies rather than escaping to Costa Rica. Like it or not, taking your holiday at home is going to be the norm this summer. No more family getaway; now it’s a family get-to-stay.
The good news never really stops, does it?
The Urban Dictionary defines a “staycation” as “A vacation that is spent at one’s home enjoying all that home and one’s home environs have to offer.” This definition also describes being under house arrest. Still, the concept has caught on. Travel experts in the U.S. claim that this year, 50-60% of Americans are re-thinking far-ranging holiday plans and sticking closer to home.
Their logic is easy to follow. As the humourist John Hodgman (who coined the term “holistay”) pointed out on a recent episode of The Daily Show, “Paris will always be there. But, judging from the sub-prime mortgage crisis, chances are your house won’t.”
That particular problem is specific to America. But with fuel prices soaring, embracing the idea of the holistay seems equally wise to many Canucks.
On the other hand, according to a bitter-sounding American journalist called Irwin Greenstein, Russians are now living the life of Bill O’Reilly. “Our former Cold War enemy enjoys water aerobics; we park a beach chair under the backyard sprinkler,” Greenstein claims in an online article called Why the Russians Laugh at American Staycations. “Our former Cold War enemy hops a plane to some hot resort; we can’t afford to back the SUV out of the driveway. Our former Cold War enemy savors caviar by candlelight; we chow down weenies at the Wal-Mart. But don’t worry, it’s OK. You’re taking part in that new American sensation called the Staycation. While Big Media would like you to believe that the Staycation is a good thing, it really is just another clue that we lost the Cold War to Russia.”
Sheesh, Irwin. Have a happy pill and a vodka chaser, why doncha?
In one way, he’s right, though – “Big Media” is promoting the staycation as a good thing. The idea is certainly prompting a lot of chirpy advice from the style gurus, who never let a cost-effective trend lie.
Recently, for example, Good Morning America’s Al Roker conducted an interview with a “lifestyle expert” called Moll Anderson. “Home is the most important destination we’ll ever come home to,” she said, or some such drivel. Won’t it be great to spend the sweltering summer months in our own backyards, asked Anderson, oblivious to the sound of tens of thousands of North American travel agents jumping off bridges.
It’ll be a blast, she promised, as long as we all transport ourselves elsewhere in our imaginations through numerous purchases from Crate and Barrel. Why not pretend we’re in the wilds of Africa by erecting a tent and strewing its floor with animal print fabrics and monkey-face coffee mugs? Why not indeed, I found myself thinking, as I frequently do with lifestyle experts.
I briefly considered my neighbours’ possible reactions when I string up my dusty tent over the carport, lure my husband and teens inside to sleep, throw in a few creepy crawlies for authenticity, and crank up my “Sounds of a Safari” CD. Will they enjoy the trumpeting of mating elephants, the roar of lions mauling gazelles, and the thunderous splash of our family of four urinating over the edge of our “jungle tree-fort” in the wee, small hours? What about the bongo-playing, the grass skirts, the topless dancing – how will that wash with my fellow residents of North Vancouver? But then I thought, “Ah, who cares.”
I was starting to look forward to our Totally Out of Africa holistay, but expert Anderson wasn’t finished. An African staycation was a grand idea, she noted, but Indonesia was “hot, hot, hot.” She wasn’t talking about the temperature, either. It turns out Indonesia’s stylistic hotness, as opposed to its weather hotness, can be easily duplicated by any of us as long as we have a mosquito net tent. I guess you’ve figured out by now that tents are the “it” accessory of the staycation.
We’ll also have to buy exotic Indonesia-esque paraphernalia – Buddha heads and whatnot – to scatter around it. The lifestylist took us into her confidence. “Black and white depict spirituality and purity … which is so fabulous!” This wasn’t news, of course: I’ve always thought of purity as fabulous. And spirituality? Don’t get me started.
Another tropical option for the homebody: fuchsia Adirondack chairs and paper umbrellas for drinks. These two components, plus any ol’ reggae tape you can scrape together, are just as good as a hotel stay in the Caribbean, Anderson implied. I believe there’s another Caribbean accessory American TV would never mention, and it ain’t jerk seasonin’, mon. For a more authentic marriage of West Coast and West Indian culture, I suppose you ought to climb into your pink chair, crank up the Peter Tosh, inhale deeply and take a two-week trip, minus all those annoying Third Worlders hitting you up for cash.
Other positive thinkers have ideas for making the most of your stasis hiatus. One online proponent of the staycation advises copycats to kick off the holiday by declaring a “choratorium.” That means hiring cleaners at the start of the week to take care of all those tasks you’d otherwise waste your at-home holiday doing -- fumigating the piano, etcetera. With your house clean, tidy and fragrant, you’ll be ready to light the tiki torches, pour the umbrella drinks, and set the dog’s water dish in front of you so you can pretend it’s a pool.
Do try to position the pool so the sunset will hit it. At that point, be sure to have your camera with you. Experts advise taking lots of pictures during your staycation. Unlike real holidays, whose snapshots capture you standing beside tourist sites to prove you were there, these photos will prove you weren’t anywhere.
Snap! There’s Mummy, drunkenly cleaning the kitty litter box, topless, in her grass skirt. Snap! There’s Daddy, taking out the garbage in his lowland gorilla suit. Whir! There’s video of the family, getting hauled off the roof of the carport at 2 a.m. by the North Van RCMP.
Ah – holistay memories! Beautiful.