|Photo Credit: Photorack|
Holidays can get so expensive, can't they? On top of the flight, the insurance, the hotel and all those lovely meals out, you also have the totally necessary pre-vacay beauty treatments: a little fake tan so you won't be the whitest person at the beach, a pedi so that nobody shrieks in horror at the sight of your cracked heels and neglected nail polish, and several sessions of wardrobe-shopping. (Although you will in fact spend the entire holiday wearing your bikini and flipflops, occasionally slinging on a kaftan or a pair of shorts if you're going somewhere "fancy" for dinner, ie anywhere with a "no shirt, no service" sign.)
(By the way, is it just me or is it impossible to find a pretty, vaguely supportive and reasonably priced bikini? So far this year I have only been able to find flimsy scraps of material which would feel about as secure as wrapping a ribbon around my chest. They might be OK if you sit ABSOLUTELY STILL on your sun lounger, but a swim would surely result in getting arrested for indecent exposure.)
When it comes to getting away from it all, there's also the time issue: maybe you NEED a break now but you don't have any paid leave due from your job, or you're self-employed and can't just go gallivanting off into the sunset. Why not have a short, FREE break at home? Those of you who've read "101 Ways to Feel like a Princess" in The Princess Guide to Life know that I'm a fan of the "staycation": treating your home town like a new tourist destination and switching off from your usual routine. Here's how you can have the perfect ONE day mini-break!
1) Choose your companions - a partner, a group of friends, your dog? (Everyone needs an occasional break from having to make conversation.)
2) If it's sunny and you have an outside space, set yourself up with everything you need: a comfortable sun lounger, a parasol for moments when the heat gets too intense, a makeshift table for your drinks, sunglasses etc (I find a cardboard box especially elegant). Of course, if the weather isn't good (when I travelled I was astonished to discover that England isn't the only country to have random cold days in the summer), you can build yourself a similar little den inside (duvet on the sofa, hot chocolate on demand). Watch cartoons, get stuck into the kind of novel you normally reject for being too trashy, and forget that work exists.
3) If it's sunny but you don't have a garden, head to the nearest park / beach / flat roof, and prepare for your day of soaking up vitamin D. As well as keeping a book / pile of magazines to hand, remember some spray-on sun protection lotion for top-ups (I'm assuming you slather yourself in a suitably high SPF before you come out in your swimsuit) and maybe some insect repellent if you attract friendly flies who like nothing better than cuddling up close to you.
4) Pour some cold water over yourself. Almost as good as a dip in the pool!
5) To get that authentic "Toto, we're not in Kansas (/ Liverpool / Yorkshire) anymore," feeling, mix up a jug of Sangria, or fix yourself a snack of baklava.
|Photo Credit: Evan Swigart|
(Pro tip: When you've finished drinking the Sangria, serve the booze-soaked fruit as a nifty and waste-free dessert.)
6) If you want to venture into the world at large, try to avoid your usual haunts. Instead of doing your food shopping in the big supermarket you usually go to, find a little grocery store that sells foreign food. My local newsagent sells South African's finest biltong, and I have at least three Polish supermarkets within walking distance, all creating a pleasingly convincing impression of being far from home.
7) Do all the things you normally only do when you're on vacation. Ignore your email inbox. Walk barefoot. Go into a shop that sells total rubbish and ponder whether your mum would like a plastic frog pencil-sharpener as a souvenir from your "holiday". Look at your town through the eyes of someone seeing it all for the first time – is it friendly? Trendy? Full of "characters"?
8) As the sun sets, string up some fairy lights around the back door or light some lanterns / candles. Invite your family / housemates / a stray cat to join you in a glorious al fresco meal like the ones you always see Italian people having (on commercials for spaghetti sauce).
You'll return to work on Monday feeling refreshed – and relaxed in the knowledge that your holiday cost you nothing, and if you so desire, you can do the same next weekend....