For a lot of young workers today, the concept of a vacation can seem quite literally foreign – like particular clothing stores they only have in Europe. With youth unemployment hovering around 15 percent, and a lot of those jobs being of the precarious or contract variety, the only vacations many 20-somethings are familiar with are when they're jobless. And since anxiously sending out applications isn't exactly relaxing, so-called "funemployment" ends up involving a lot of unpaid work. So what is a vacation to us?
I want suggest a different interpretation, one that's more compatible with the idea of staycations than the stereotypical hammock-in-the-tropics getaway. There's not that big a difference between sitting in a hotel watching tv and sitting in your living room and watching tv; vacations can't just be about going somewhere. If young contract workers like myself wait for a paid two weeks off before taking vacations, then we may never get the chance. Instead, I propose vacation as a kind of disposition, a willingness to experience the novel and unexpected. "We're on vacation!" is an excuse more than anything, and I don't see why it shouldn't work in one-night stretches.
The absolute limiting factor for a vacation is time. It is possible to take a vacation that doesn't cost a dime without troubling the definition, but if you're constantly checking your phone or refreshing Google Analytics, it doesn't count. (Note: alcohol alone does not a vacation make, drunk emailing is still work.) For freelancers and other workers without offices, it's hard to distinguish free time from work time. Vacation is a time to draw a thick line between the two, whether it's for a month, a week, or a day.
Once you've blocked off the time, think of ways to feel wealthy (if not rich) even in poverty. My favorite part of vacation is feeling extraordinarily generous; it's a also a great way to welcome the unexpected. Sharing undemandingly with others is a quick way to turn strangers to friends, which is as good a use of vacation time as anything I can think of. It's easy to pick up the bar's whole tab if you've got a Wall Street job, but this isn't for them. For the rest of us, it's a matter of context.
The old adage "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" is useful here. For example, in a movie theatre where candy prices are significantly inflated, the person who thinks ahead and smuggles in a cheap tub of Red Vines can feel generous with the whole audience.
A one-night vacation I recently enjoyed involves getting some friends together and going to a BYOB (bring your own bottle) restaurant with a large amount of (in our case) whiskey. Since alcohol is a lot cheaper in liquor stores than in restaurants, you can put the extra money toward a fancier dinner (or, you know, rent.) And since walking to the subway home with a half-empty bottle risks an open container ticket, you can't take it with you. This means sharing with fellow patrons and waitstaff alike, especially since people often forget to bring their own alcohol to places that don't serve. A little foresight goes a long way, we ended up hanging out late with the owners and chefs, finishing the whiskey, and sampling cheeses from the restaurant's suppliers.
It's not just about buying things, blocking off a Sunday and cooking a giant brunch and inviting friends is a good way to get everyone to ditch their phones and laptops for an afteroon. Just put food in front of them. For people who work in traditional offices, vacations are about getting away, but as someone who works alone or at anonymous coffeeshops, they're more about getting together. It's about delineating time and space away from working, and going on vacation.
This is from the Shareable staycation series, for more staycation ideas, click here.