What staying home can teach you about a vacation

What are the benefits of staying home this summer?

Staying home may not be your idea of a vacation, but more people are reportedly considering a “staycation” this year than any time since the Great Recession.

To which I say: Go for it! Staying home can teach you so much about having a better vacation.

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Nonsense? No. Being home teaches you to appreciate the little things, like the importance of a good night’s sleep. But it also helps you appreciate everything around you, especially the possibility for adventures big and small.

Before I get to all that, I wanted to clarify a thing or two. Technically, our home is in the mountains of northern Arizona. Well, it’s not really our home. It’s where my parents retired a few years ago. When we’re not on the road, we return to the Grand Canyon state to recharge our batteries.

The benefits of staycations are plenty.
Iden Elliott wears his virtual reality goggles in bed.

Sleep tight: the importance of a bed you love

You don’t have to travel anywhere to understand the importance of a good night’s sleep. But it’s something you only notice when you’re on the road and then return home. There’s nothing like being in your own bed.

It isn’t just the familiarity of your room, the feel of your favorite sheets or the down comforter or fuzzy blanket. It’s the way your bed contours to the shape of your body and the assurance that once you’re in it, you’ll rest well.

Being home makes me carefully consider the sleeping experience the next time I’m on the road. I love Hilton’s beds and, in a previous life, even bought one for my home. But my best sleep experience ever came in one of the most unlikely places — a vacation rental in Salt Lake City with a small twin bed that had a memory foam mattress. I don’t think it was just the mattress. It was the 100-year-old home, the way it smelled and felt, and the clang-clang-clang of the TRAX streetcar at oh dark thirty, which made me feel like I was back in my old hometown of Vienna, Austria, that lulled me to sleep.

A staycation underscores the importance of sleep. Are the beds long enough? Serious question. My 16-year-old is more than six feet tall. We’ve stayed in places where there are only three beds. “Sleeps six” is a lie — it means there are three queen or king beds, and you can’t expect two teenage kids to share a bed. You’re guaranteed a sleepless night.

Sometimes staying home is better than a vacation.
Aren Elliott on our daily hike through the granite dells of Prescott. Every day is an adventure.

Every day is an adventure, even when you’re staying home

You don’t have to travel far for an adventure. Sometimes, you can find it right in your own backyard. For us, the Prescott Peavine Trail, an abandoned railroad turned into a hiking trail, is an endless source of fascination. It cuts through some of the most unbelievable rock formations in the American West. It is also wonderfully unpredictable. You never know what you’ll see, whether it’s a coyote or a mountain lion. These Dells are truly special, and best of all, we don’t have to board a plane and book a hotel to see them.

The Dells have made me pay closer attention to what’s nearby when we travel. You really don’t have to look far — or spend lots of money — to find an adventure. That was true when we lived in Studio City, Calif., and walked along the Los Angeles River every day. It was true in Hawaii when we found another railroad line to hike along. Chances are, it’s true for your neighborhood, too.

The benefits of a staycation
Julie Elliott and Erysse Elliott making polish Babkas for Easter.

Staying home is what you make of it

Sometimes, a vacation isn’t a place — it’s an experience. That’s another lesson that being home has taught me. People say they want a change of scenery when they are actually just looking for an internal change. Maybe they want to do something different to break the monotony.

We always come home for Easter, and when we do, it feels as if we are in a different place. The smells of babka fill the kitchen. My mother, born in Poland, bakes nonstop. Then we color the eggs. And then the relatives start to show up — my sister, my uncle, and my brother.

I’m not sure if being home for Easter is a vacation, but our house feels like a hotel, and for me, that’s a reminder that vacation isn’t necessarily about a place.

I like staycations, and I think this summer is a good time to take one. Maybe we’ve traveled too much in the last few years and need a rest. But maybe, just maybe, being home will teach us how to be better travelers.

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