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The M Dash

Live with purpose.

How to Fake a Vacation from Home

You only need to pack three things: A drink, an awareness for the life around you, and a willingness to experiment.

By Sofia Rainaldi

Out-of-office adventures used to lie on the other side of a raft of interstitial tasks—a long set of procedures that forced a sense of space from our normal lives, even when tedious. Putting bags in a car (then onto a plane), getting your ticket, busying yourself through security, napping with your forehead scrunched in an odd way against the window, taking a bleary taxi ride, arriving at a strange hotel, and then! Vacation.

That’s not really in the cards these days. And when you spend your vacation days in the same place as your working days, how do you reset your brain? In lieu of the elaborate pre-travel routine, we just have a little mental fortitude and the contents of our cabinets.

Luckily, vacations aren’t defined by plane tickets, security lines, or packed bags. I would argue that they’re defined by their total ability to get you to do wonderful things at incorrect times. Maybe you’re lost because you don’t know the town, so you have lunch at four. Or you’re jetlagged and up early, so you start walking to meet the sun when it comes up over a new skyline. There’s something a little delicious about doing things at the wrong hour, a holdover from school days when you snuck out with a friend instead of going to study hall with some dreaded proctor*.

I’ve created a simple formula that plunges me right into vacation mode. First, I start my disregard for the clock by having a drink—and  have it at the wrong (but right) time. I’d recommend a glass of champagne with breakfast or a toddy in the early afternoon. Instead of pairing wine with food, pair it with a particular light in your apartment. Brew the most decadent cocoa you can think of, get back in bed at 3pm, and drink it there. Make wildly strong espresso, put a dollop of whipped cream on it, then drink it at midnight. Sip whatever you want, just make sure it’s not the normal time to consume said thing.

Me? I have some bourbon, pungent bitters, and an orange**. I’m going to make an Old Fashioned and sip it indulgently while the porch warms up. That’s my plan for the morning. Let’s check in again at noon.

Next, I become aware of the strange and wonderful facts of my life. Traveling, no matter where or when, is an exercise in gratitude. You’re  forced by your unfamiliarity with your new reality to be both observant and curious. Everything has some charm, and everything has the potential to become a great story. For a successful home-cation, engulf yourself in that mindset.

Sink deeper into your couch with your glass of something and observe. Tell yourself the story of something near you that makes your life better. Is it your coffee pot, given to you by that Aunt you always admired? How is she? You could call her. You could write her a postcard, telling her how perfect the coffee has been since she gave it to you. Or you could just appreciate that you’re thankful for your aunt and how she always knows what a well-stocked kitchen needs.

Me? I’m reminding myself of my gratitude for the woman sitting on the couch next to me. We met during a brief moment at a too-loud party a few years ago. I needed a roommate, and she needed a room. There were no discussions of trivialities like “Do we go to sleep at the same time?” (No), “Do you snore?” (I did), “How do you handle pandemics?” (Not very well, it turns out). Yet the world I now live in is one in which I get my news read aloud as soon as her Economist arrives. We go on long hikes and trade good books back and forth. It’s lovely. There are things about your life that are fundamentally odd and uniquely wonderful to you. To usher in that feeling of vacation, you’re looking for them.

Finally, I engage my willingness to experiment. One thing I miss from my travels is the sensation of possibility—the feeling that I was outside the normal confines of my life, that things were malleable and open for interpretation. When you’re traveling, there’s not much structure around who you’re supposed to be, and you can try on different stories.

So I’m going to fake it. Today, I’ll play dress-up.

The same way that pulling wool socks over leggings triggers my brain to prepare for a hike or zipping up a coat beckons a frigid snow day, a silk dress is the precursor to an undefined evening far from home. For optimal vacationing, put on something that is outside your day-to-day, that feels excellent on your skin, that moves with you as you walk.

You don’t have to stick to clothing. Try on a different persona. Be a person who only listens to Thelonious Monk, or has a French accent, or knows how to temper chocolate—whatever sounds intriguing. Luckily, you can’t get it wrong—that’s one of the joys, that anonymity. Let yourself play.

What would dinner be like if you picnicked on the floor instead of setting the table? Could you ask your favorite delivery spot to come up with a tasting menu of those tacos you love? Could you go on a walk through your neighborhood in those heels that hurt too much to walk to a restaurant, but can definitely make it around the block? Is that still too much time in those shoes? What about only dancing to one song***?

Me? I’m pulling on this skirt, or maybe this dress, and lighting tea candles inside jam jars. I’m putting on perfume for the first time in three months and brushing my hair. I’m doing this all deliberately and slowly, like a woman whose final appearance will be watched by many. I’m remembering how to apply eyeliner, realizing I’ve forgotten, and going with a smoky eye. I’m making a mimosa, because it’s nighttime and today we’re doing things at the wrong times, remember?

*The proctor would hiss if you spoke! Not a good way to spend an hour.
**Yesterday, my co-conspirator left to pick up groceries and returned with only bourbon. The grocery store was closed! A pivot was needed! Anyway.
***The song is “Dancing Queen,” by ABBA. I don’t make the rules.

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Sofia Rainaldi

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