Coronavirus is on the tongue of every passerby. Gossip spreads faster than germs
and both are carriers of the disease.
We wash our hands raw
with soap and practicality
but can’t help inhaling the news.
Our map is full of pins
in places we’re not allowed to go
while vacations are both extended
At a time when human comfort
seems like the best medicine
we isolate, wave from afar,
blow kisses into our elbows
and pray to the gods of science.
Last year during spring break, I took my dog and ran away from home. (We came back.) This year, I decided not to go anywhere during my week off, but I still craved that feeling of escape. I wondered, Is it possible to have a low-key, stay-at-home spring break AND get away at the same time? The answer is yes. Here’s how to do it.
1. Indulge in Good Food
You don’t have to go on vacation to eat like you’re on vacation. Give in to your sweet tooth or make that favorite recipe you don’t have time to prepare when you’re working. Splurge on your taste buds.
2. Try a New Restaurant
Splurging on your taste buds doesn’t have to include cooking and clean-up. Find a few dining spot to check out. In Austin, there’s never a shortage of good places to eat.
3. Sleep Somewhere New
You don’t have to check in to a hotel to check out of the daily grind. Make a pallet on the couch and have a movie night. Build a blanket fort. Camp out in the backyard.
4. Be a Tourist in Your Own City
Take a walk through a neighborhood you’ve never been in, or finally take the time to do that thing that everyone does when they come to your town, or visit a museum. (Note: Museums are free in Austin on Thursdays.)
5. Buy a Souvenir
There’s a difference between regular shopping and souvenir shopping. You can go buy a new pair of jeans at Old Navy over spring break, and that’s fine, but it probably won’t feel like an escape. A souvenir is a strange or specific object that you wouldn’t have purchased if you hadn’t been in that place at that time. So get into get-away mode and search for a trinket to commemorate your staycation.
6. Send Postcards
You don’t have to travel to write a note to a loved one about your experience. Buy some postcards of your city or some random cards or pick up freebies where you can, and send notes far and wide. Describe your pancakes, your blanket fort, your trip to the vegan ice cream shop. People will love to hear from you regardless of where you are when you write to them.
At this point, you may be thinking, These are great ideas (thanks) but I’m broke and lacking transportation and don’t have a backyard or postage stamps. Fair point. These next four tips for escape are for you.
7. Escape into a Book
If you don’t have the means to travel or the courage for daring feats or the stomach for adventurous eating, read about someone who does. Pick up a novel set in a foreign land or a book of essays by someone who’s been around the world or any good book with a good story. Immerse yourself in it. Read for hours, and ignore the laundry.
8. Call a Faraway Friend
If you’re like me, you don’t pick up the phone often enough. I mean, yes, you pick up your mobile computer and your map and your texting device and your camera all the time, but the actual phone part of that thing? You probably don’t spend a lot of time with it. Spring break is a great time to reconnect with an old friend. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while, who lives in a different city. Then close your eyes and let their voice shrink the miles between you.
9. Keep Work Out of Sight and Out of Mind
I brought home a lot of grading over spring break. I know, I know, boo me all you want. Sometimes it’s inevitable. But even though I brought those essays home, I didn’t leave them laying around, staring at me and judging me all week. I took my time off first and saved the work for the last couple of days, making sure that I was managing the grading, and not the other way around. Do your best to compartmentalize work and play. Don’t check work emails at the museum and discuss work talk over your stack of pancakes. Enjoy yourself without guilt.
10. Say No
When you don’t go anywhere for spring break, that makes some people think you are free the whole week. You are, but that’s the point. You’re free, free on your own terms. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to every favor or invitation. There’s only so much fun you can fit into a week. Unfortunately, you may have to pick and choose where to spend your time and with whom. Escape sometimes means escaping from stress or exhaustion or obligation. Protect your time. Keep it free by saying no to some things.
This spring break, I never traveled more than twenty miles from home. But I made pancakes and visited a museum and bought strange objects and slept in a hammock and read books and mailed postcards and hung out with good friends and said no to things so I could stay in my pajamas and write all day, and that gave me the escape I needed. If I have to go back to work tomorrow (and both Austin ISD and my hubby tell me that I do), at least I’m going back rested and rejuvenated. Except for my right wrist, which still hurts from grading all those essays…
I rarely read on e-readers. I have an old Kindle and the Kindle app on my phone, and I use them once in awhile, but I still prefer to hold a real book in my hands. Even on vacation.
Packing for a trip is always hard. Even after I’ve figured out what to wear, counted out the right amount of underwear, and accepted the fact that I don’t need ALL those pairs of shoes, I still have to decide what books to bring.
One for the plane, and one in case I finish that one. One for the trip itself—something short like poems or short stories that I can read in small bursts. Local theme is a bonus. Then maybe something different for the plane home. Let’s see… how many books is that now?
It’s times like these—when I’m considering ditching my raincoat for one more volume of poetry—that I envy those friends who love their e-readers. So many books in such a small space. I get it, I do.
But I doubt I’ll ever convert, and here’s why: Physical books are sponges. They pick up sights and sounds and smells and tuck them away into their pages. Books remember things that we forget. Their bent corners and coffee stains tell stories that would be lost on a Nook or iPad.
Whenever I fly, I use my plane ticket as a bookmark. And when someone in a far-away state or foreign country is rattling off directions to me, I often jot them down in the back cover of whatever book happens to be in my hands.
I have journeys and adventures sitting on the shelves in my living room, just waiting for me to pick them up and relive them. There’s no way I’m giving that up.
Books, come with me. Let’s go see the world together.