My parents invented the staycation. It was the 1970s, and my father hated to travel (I’m right there with you, Dad), but it was summer and my parents were both in education, so it really seemed like vacation was the thing to do. My mother suggested that perhaps we could do everything we usually do on a vacation, except for the travel part. Dad was down with that. And the staycation was born.

Before I can get into the details, I need to explain the house where I grew up. Because it. was. weird.

Right around 1970, my folks bought a big hunk of land with forests and ponds and cabins on it. Well, not cabins exactly. But really tiny houses. And they set about turning it into this magical oasis, which took years. But they totally did, and it’s now an absolutely amazing place. Anyway, the cabins were much too small for our family of 6, so they built a new house between two of the cabins, and connected everything together. But there was actually a pretty big elevation difference between the two cabins, so my house had three levels and the square footage of a typical 5 bedroom house. Instead of it being three floors stacked on top of each other, they formed a long line. With stairs. And more stairs. And then more stairs.

Each cabin was a complete house to begin with, so we kind of had two of everything. Two kitchens. Two master bedrooms. Two living rooms. This was actually pretty awesome for my parents, because their end of the house was so fucking far away that we never bothered to go bug them. Seriously, the walk from our living room to their bedroom was like half an hour. (Although it was downhill, so that was nice.)

Alright, so back to the staycation. We packed. There was no going to your room during staycation. We slept in the playroom, which was what we called the messy living room that us kids used on the higher-elevation end of the house. Pretty sure we didn’t watch TV, since we were on vacation, and we watched TV pretty much non-stop during regular life.

Wood paneling, because nature.

Wood paneling, because nature.

We piled into the Ford LTD II main battle tank and rode into town for breakfast and dinner. Not sure what we did for lunch. Probably made due on whatever we could scrounge in the woods, like sassafras leaves and poison sumac berries and dirt.

But since we were on vacation, there were activities! My folks asked, “what would people do if they were coming here on vacation?” This was before Yelp. So “just keep on driving, don’t slow down, full steam ahead” wasn’t the obvious answer then that it is now. We did those things that they thought they might find entertaining if we visited our hometown. This included piling onto a train (!) and going to Battle Creek Michigan (!!) to take a tour of the Kellogg’s Cereal Factory (!!!) at the end of which we all got a six-pack of the mini-cereals that you can cut just so and pour milk right into the box(!!!!). So that solved the lunch problem, anyway.

This vehicle would have been so much cooler with wood paneling.

This vehicle would have been so much cooler with wood paneling.

I think we also maybe went to the movies. Probably saw Escape to Witch Mountain, or Return from Witch Mountain, or some other movie about Witch Mountain. True fact: all movies in the 1970s were about Witch Mountain.

I’m not sure what else we did. We might have gone to Boblo Island, which was this half-assed amusement park in the middle of the Detroit River. It was the place you went when your parents just weren’t up for the drive to Cedar Point, which was all the way down in Ohio, and was fucking awesome. The highlight of a trip to Boblo island was driving by the giant tire with a nail in it on I-94. That tire was cool, and unlike everything else from my youth, it has not gotten smaller as I’ve gotten older. It’s still ridiculously, awesomely huge. I think that getting to see that tire now and then is pretty much the only  reason there are still people living in Michigan.

So that’s how one is supposed to do a staycation. Remember the key rules: no going to your room, no eating at home, no TV, find stuff to fill the days like you would have to if you were on a real vacation. A staycation, if done properly, will be just as exhausting and expensive as a real vacation. However, you will not have to drive anywhere new, so that makes it infintely better.


6 thoughts on “Staycation

  1. This brought back some childhood memories! My dad hating traveling too! It really was no picnic being stuck in the backseat with my smelly brothers! I did the staycation a lot with my kids when they were younger. All the local attractions! ( My 4 kids, now young adults & teens still talk about those fun “trips”!

  2. Love this post. My parents hated to travel too, but on occasion we’d stay at Waldenwoods, which was a 3 minute drive from our home. At the time, it featured a small beach covered with duck poop, and… that’s about it. Perfect description of Boblo vs Cedar Point.

  3. The Big Tire was one of the first things I was exposed to on my first trip to Michigan. I also thought it was incredible. I have never been to any of your other places, even Cedar Point, sadly. Still brings back a ton of memories of my childhood though.

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