Stretch your shrinking dollar by enjoying a ‘staycation’ at home

Genevieve Rauma and Anneke Steneker enjoy a “staycation” in the Rauma backyard. - Mary Kay Rauma/staff photo
Genevieve Rauma and Anneke Steneker enjoy a “staycation” in the Rauma backyard.
— image credit: Mary Kay Rauma/staff photo

summer suggestions

I predict the next edition of Webster’s Dictionary will contain a word born from this economic period: ‘staycation.’ You’ve likely heard this new word beat to death by the media as the answer to the cost-prohibitive summer vacation of 2008. Instead of paying skyrocketing fuel costs to jet or drive off to get away from it all, many of us are planning to hunker down in our own domains for a long staycation.

Pitch a tent out the back door, cook weenies over the grill, take a hike in the nearest forest, go on a beach walk, use the outdoor furniture (as opposed to looking at it), enjoy the garden (as opposed to working in it), play croquet on the lawn (as opposed to mowing it), etc.

The trouble with this plan for my family, and I would imagine many Vashon families, is that this is how we already spend a good deal of our time off. Yes, we put in our yard and house maintenance time, but we spend equal amounts of time enjoying the fruits of our labor. A Friday night bonfire is a frequent event at our house, as long as it isn’t pouring down rain or snowing outside. And there have been many summers when the tent went up on Memorial Day and stayed up until Labor Day.

Years ago the tent went up for a sleepover birthday party for my son. Since a night in a tent isn’t a novelty for most Vashon kids, I decided to spice things up by way of an extension cord, VCR and TV. It was my version of a drive-in theater experience and turned out to be a big hit.

A month later, I looked out the window at 10 p.m. to see a glowing orb and realized the monster I created. I had managed to turn the great outdoors into a TV room. The extension cord and electronic parasites were removed the next morning, but the tent was never as popular after that.

So, what do you do during an oil crisis when every weekend is already a staycation? My husband suggested that we dust off our mountain bikes and ride the big “Vashon loop.” A list of other ideas followed: We can circumnavigate the Island in our putt-putt boat; we can swim across Quartermaster Harbor; we can hike the public lands; we can take really long jogs; we can throw a big party.

“Whoa there!” I stopped him. “I want a vacation, not an Ironman competition.”

We may fit a couple of those items into our staycation, but what I really dream of doing is takingtime to truly appreciate my home unencumbered by schedules or obligations.

Waking when my body says so and staying in bed to listen to the birds. Letting the dogs take me for a walk, not the other way around. Laying in the hammock and watching the dance of light and wind off the leaves above. Tending my vegetable garden while marveling at what a tiny seed can do with a little light and water. Visiting my neighbors and having the luxury of time to catch up on their lives and news. I’d like to let each of my kids plan a day and follow their lead.

I suppose my ideal staycation is about simplification. In a world that seems to move more fast and furiously with each day, simplicity is something I crave.

A staycation forces us to get to the core of a true vacation without the distractions of being somewhere new and different and “away from it all.” Perhaps what recharges the human battery isn’t so much what we do or where we go, but the quality of how we spend that time and who we spend it with. I suppose I’ll find out in short order.

In the meantime, it’s late June, and I have yet to set up the tent. I’ve got some work to do.

— Mary Kay Rauma is The Beachcomber’s advertising representative.

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