II was lying on my back on a vast concrete plateau jutting out into the sea – warmed by the sun and eerily beautiful in its brutality – while staring up at the sky. I don’t cry like that. God, no! So why are my cheeks wet? Um. Good. So maybe a couple tears somehow ran down my cheeks – just for the sheer beauty of it, you see. The dim June sun, obscured by a thin whispering cloud, rested against the faded denim sky; the sound of waves crashing against rocks, the only sound that broke the otherworldly silence.
It’s often like this when I travel: overwhelmed by the surreal beauty of far-flung destinations when I’m able to experience them to the fullest with all my senses, unencumbered by the constant distractions of work email and social media and “ping!”, “ping!”, “ping!” by Whatsapp. Only now I’m not in some exotic locale; Now, I am on vacation in my own hometown.
If you can, return your mind to a simpler time. Some time after the lock, but the traffic light system first. A time when pandemic restrictions mean the only possible travel for Britons is in the UK. And so, the moment when the most heated debate about travel suddenly became whether the term “staycation” refers only to a holiday taken in your own home or a holiday in your home country Generally speaking.
The former is the original meaning, the latter is what portmanteau has somehow evolved into. Unlike many travel journalists on Twitter, I can’t seem to muster enough emotional investment into either argument. If pressed, I might have said, “Well, if most people now think it means any domestic holiday, that’s clearly what it means.” Language changes, and we must change with it.
In the post-pandemic world, when travel has largely returned to normal, that seems even less important. I just brought it up because I recently had my first real, real “stay” in years. And when I say “staycation”, I mean in the purest sense of the word – I am not going anywhere. And it turned out to be one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever had.
The above concrete strip is part of Warren’s housean area of largely untamed wilderness (and a Place of Special Scientific Interest) consisting of verdant parks teeming with wildflowers, winding coastal roads, and rugged beaches off the tourist trails in the town of Folkestone.
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I’ve lived in this wonderful Kentish waterfront location since last September, but with the hectic schedule of building a life in a new place – making friends, signing up for all the local events, figuring out commuting and working from home routines – I haven’t had time to stop and just To be in the place I now call home. And so I did something travel editors rarely do, which is with a whole world of destinations to choose from: I booked a week off at the height of summer and planned it exactly to zero.
What follows is a frivolous, free week that’s only possible when you don’t have to keep track of reservations, hotel reservations, restaurant opening hours, or museum ticketing. In fact, that kind of idyllic vacation is only possible when you stand your ground.
At first, it takes some getting used to. On the first day, a feeling of panic rose in my throat as I stared at the barrel for seven days…nothing. What a crazy waste of annual holidays! I could be anywhere, doing anything: watching Flamenco dancers in Seville, kayaking in the brilliant blue waters of Austria’s Lake District, spinning pecorino-covered strands of hair. cheese and black pepper In Rome. What the hell was I thinking?
The wall-penetrating sunshine I had predicted didn’t show up either, and I set out for the town’s trendy redeveloped Harbor Arm on a colder-than-expected Monday under a white sky with a grim stoic feel. Well, I can just keep my expectations low and do my best. sail box, a new lunch and brunch spot that just opened, and I haven’t tried it yet. That could be a start. Half an hour later, I used my greasy fingers to scoop the battered fish cakes into my mouth; In between bites, my gaze kept leaving my book to look back at the sea, all its languid, ivory-colored waves, to Sunny Sands, with its tempting stretch of mustard sand. I sit outside – the sun even comes in occasionally – and relax over a two-hour lunch that I rarely, if ever, enjoy.
This was followed by the aforementioned Warren excursion, accompanied by a can of cold beer and some fizzy candies that I usually only allow myself for on long runs. Again, I continued to pick up my book and put it down; the scene is so wide, the kind that inspire dizzying thoughts (or, if you’re me, some mesmerizing singing in the wind). Hours passed in a matter of minutes, and as the sun went down, I finally took off my clothes and basked in the breathless cold of the English Channel while basking in the faint light of the sky.
The next days passed in similar splendor: there was a 10km run to Sandgate, the next town, rewarded with waffles and iced coffee from garden alley; Freshly baked banana bread and yoga classes at the newly opened studio and cafe yoke; meditation grounds after endless swimming in the sea; frozen margarine at cargo yard and beer at brewing brothers. I feel so rejuvenated that I even ignited the energy to finally repaint my bedroom, leading to the meditative process of rolling sage green onto bare walls.
The most adventurous thing I’ve done all week is drive with a friend for just 20 minutes to the countryside on the doorstep of Folkestone. We wandered through the Madams Wood, our hoods drenched in rain, before retreating to the rear. Five bells pub for cauliflower pakora burgers and too much Kentish Pip cider. I ended the week with a deep sense of contentment that I hadn’t experienced in a while.
Of course, it helps if you live in a seaside town, or any particularly attractive beautiful or rural location. But even that’s not all when it comes to the magic of a stay. First, it offers a less stressful version of vacation that’s non-renewable — unless you have a PA and endless cash reserves. Even then, the best-prepared plans are no guarantee: nothing can really prevent your flight from being delayed, your luggage lost, or your hotel being hit by a strange wave of norovirus infections.
But more importantly, it gives you a chance to step out of the constant, frantic pressures of normal life and see things around you in a new way; Honest experience where you live and enjoy it as a guest can. Indulging in a string of little pleasures – a flat white chair at the coffee shop you’ve always wanted to try, a stroll in the green you’ve seen on the map but never discovered, an afternoon in the interesting local museum you’ve passed by hundreds of times but never visited – add up to many, many more parts.
Maybe it’s time to get back to the original meaning of the phrase “staycation” this summer – I guarantee it will be the cheapest and possibly most relaxing vacation you will have all year.
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