20 November 2015

On that ugly word, ‘staycation’

I first heard the word “staycation” in 2011 when I wrote for a travel magazine. What came to mind was, during long weekends, holidays and summer breaks, instead of going out, one would simply stay at home and indulge in things like baking, movie marathons, hot baths, or engaging in the high art of doing nothing. Not until I read ads and articles about staycation deals and “Things to Do on a Staycation.” They obviously talked about leaving the house.

So what is a staycation?

In a 2008 article, Salon described the term as an “economy-based euphemism.” Times were (still are?) tough in the US economy-wise and people were “too broke to go anywhere.” The online magazine cited earlier use of the word, but underscored that it only became a buzzword that year. Another site, Skift, noted how staycation was picked up as an effective marketing idiom.

So what does one do on a staycation?

If you browse through “Staycation Ideas” listicles, a staycation may involve activities such as visiting a museum, going to an amusement park, watching a play, dining at a themed restaurant, reading a book, having a massage, and attending a festival. Pretty much anything you can do on any regular weekend — or weekday if you play hookey.

So what makes a staycation special?

There has to be an element of novelty, something you can’t do at home, or, if you choose to stay at home, something you don’t normally do there. Also, you have to do things at your leisure (I’m making up rules here, just so we’re clear). Of course, you shouldn’t spend a lot and where you’re having your staycation must be nearby (no need to board a plane would be a good standard).

A few weeks ago I was told I had a staycation. I stayed (hah, stayed) at InterContinental Manila and checked out the developments in Circuit Makati. The hotel, which is closing by the end of 2015, offers a holiday staycation package, so why not pamper myself within its walls one last time?

I’ve always been sold on the idea of checking in a hotel over the weekend as a form of vacation. The next person who can afford an overnight stay at the InterCon may find it pointless — all you’ll enjoy is a nice bed, a pool, bathtub and buffet breakfast. The money can be better spent elsewhere. But I like the thought of not cleaning up after yourself. Not having to wash the dishes, do the laundry, fold bedsheets. It’s a nice way to be spoiled.

The silence, cleanliness, and safety inside the executive room already relaxed me. The afternoon was spent appreciating the crisp linen, carpeted floor, warm lighting, and the carefully arranged water bottles, tea bags, glasses and coffee cups. It’s a nice way to live, however briefly, in your fantasy home.

At sundown, I saw some action and tried new stuff. Because I don’t have a car, I satisfied my driving appetite at City Kart Racing in Circuit Makati. There I realized I’m such a defensive driver that I let everyone else go ahead of me. But, surprise, I still managed to rank second to the last.

Other cravings satiated afterwards were gustatory and intellectual. I had dinner at Backyard Kitchen + Brew (my culinary vocabulary is limited, so you have to trust me when I say the food was delicious) before watching the entertaining No Filter 2.0 at Power Mac Center Spotlight, a black box theater.

I don’t know about you but coming home from an adventure is as exciting as the adventure itself. I was shuttled back to the hotel, where the rest of the night was spent downing a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates. The best part? There was more to do — and not do — the next day.

See, staycation is a beautiful thing with an ugly name. From an economic and introverted standpoint, staycations should allow you to recharge, soul-search, and have fun without going to Italy, India or Indonesia and going broke. With that definition, it deserves a better name. Like its relatives. Just hear the elegance of “travel,” the cool ruggedness of “trek,” the gallantry of “voyage,” the wisdom of “retreat.”

So yeah, what should we call it?

—Originally published on GIST.PH

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