Two years ago at a conference I had the great pleasure of meeting a well known travel editor and managed to separate him from one of his business cards. Later when I read through the business cards I had collected I noticed that on the back of his card was a quote: “Staycation is a four letter word.” That sentence said a lot, particularly during the worst economic downturn to ever affect the world economy. I agree with the sentiment, but I also think it’s very possible to enjoy a great break from daily life without going very far away, otherwise known as the Nearcation.
Yeah, yeah I know I hate the arbitrary addition of –cation to any word to denote a travel experience, but in this case it’s appropriate. To state the obvious, a nearcation is a trip that’s close to home, but just far enough away so that you feel you can relax and decompress. The main benefit is of course saving money on a cheaper trip in comparison to taking an all-out, no holds barred vacation. I recently had the opportunity to test out the nearcation concept and I was really surprised with the results.
We live in Maryland, snug in one of the many suburbs of Washington, DC. Even though I’ve lived in Maryland for nine years, I still haven’t explored much of my adopted state. So when an opportunity to spend a weekend in nearby Annapolis came up I jumped at the offer. We don’t live very far from the capital of Maryland and despite all the great things I’ve heard about it, we’ve somehow managed to never spend any time in this great city. Our nearcation was a chance to explore the historic core of one of the often-overlooked colonial capitals of the United States.
As we drove along the narrow, centuries old streets of Annapolis, past the Naval Academy and the state capital building I began to wonder how I had missed this great town. I hate the word, but it just oozes charm. Little shops, restaurants and B&Bs line the cobble stone streets that lead down to the water. Annapolis has always been a water town and today instead of tall ships the luxury yachts fill the slips in what locals call Ego Alley.
I’m always a little hesitant before staying in a bed and breakfast, although I’m not sure why. I’ve always had great experiences at these privately owned luxury abodes, and the Academy B&B in the heart of Annapolis continued this great trend. The owner, John, greeted us at the front door with a smile and hearty handshake. When he bought the house a few years ago, it was in a state of ruin. He meticulously restored the house, keeping as many of the original, 19th century fittings as he could. Our room was beautiful, much larger than I thought any B&B room would be and the location was perfect. Just a few paces away was the amazing historic core of old Annapolis.
Annapolis was first founded by early settlers in the 1600s. Since then, I was surprised to learn that the city has played many important roles in the history of the country, including serving as the temporary capital of the United States from 1783–1784. This long and auspicious history has resulted in a lot of stories, a lot of cool sites and a fierce pride in the history of the town by local residents. I couldn’t believe I’ve been living 30 minutes away and hadn’t heard about any of this.
We spent the weekend as true tourists, walking along the Chesapeake Bay imagining merchants offloading their wares on that very spot centuries ago, and up to the state capital, a true architectural gem. For a unique way of exploring the town we took a ghost tour and learned about the paranormal history of the city, which is pretty substantial. We had great food at restaurants like Ristorante Piccola Roma and just took it easy. It was a brief, but amazingly restorative short break away.
So what did I learn from my Nearcation experience? Well, it opened my eyes to the fact that I really need to explore the area around me a little bit more and I think this probably holds true for all of us. It’s human nature really, when we think about taking a vacation our minds automatically go to far-flung locales, tropical destinations that are as different from our daily lives as possible. I learned though that it is possible to have a fun, relaxing time away from home without buying tickets to Bora-Bora or Fiji. Sure, those places are great, but so are the ones close to home.
Have you explored the areas close to home or are you guilty of ignoring the Nearcation like I am?