Authentic travel opens us up to fuller travel experiences through several approaches.  These include avoiding deserts of the real, enjoying cultural experiences that resonate with people of that culture and finding ways to be present in the moment.  So an authentic staycation is actually possible.  Here are five ideas for creating one for yourself.

1. See a place in your town through a child’s eyes.

This is especially refreshing when you enlist a child not in your daily life.  We don’t have children, but when we host friends or family with kids, it’s fun to anticipate,and explore, what will interest them.  And if you do have children or grandchildren, the perspective of another child might offer new insights and experiences.

It always surprises me how much fun adults have in places geared to the young.  And from a city planning perspective, playgrounds and other child-friendly locales are critical to livable cities. If your staycation planning reveals a shortage of these in your town, consider what might be done differently and  bring it to the attention of your city council.  Other child-friendly spots include beaches, lakes and rivers with child-friendly facilities; local pettting zoos or other places to encounter domestic animals; and local museums with child-friendly exhibits.

2.  Attend a Fall fair and/or local farmer’s market

Make it a fresh experience by choosing one in a neighbourhood or adjacent community where you seldom visit.  Not long ago we attended a local fair in Cobble Hill, a community an hour north from our home.  It’s also in the Cowichan Valley, a region becoming known further afield for its great produce and wines.

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Cobble Hill Fall Fair

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Farming district, Salt Spring Island

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Turkeys at Ruckle Park Historic Farm

More recently we were back on Saltspring Island, which was Canada’s number one exporting region for apples 100 years ago, and still grows beautiful heirloom varieties. It also produces wonderful goat and other milder cheeses popular outside the region. The link to authenticity?  As urban scholar Sharon Zukin notes, authentic culture includes a distinct terroir, or regional food culture with its own traditions.  Wherever you live, consider voting with your wallet by rubbing shoulders with, and buying directly from, local food producers.

3. Volunteer at an historic site in your town.

I’m a big Downton Abbey fan and I work from home, which means I need to get out more.  Eventually, I figured out how to meet both needs: volunteering at an historic site.  For me, this was a mansion designed like a castle, built in 1890.  This type of volunteering allows you to spend time in a beautiful destination, and to meet other people with shared interests.  Plus it exposes new layers of your city’s history with each shift you work.  As a local you are less likely to view historic sites through rose-coloured glasses.  And understanding the past can help clarify certain aspects of the present. For the record, I volunteer at Craigdarroch Castle, owned and run by a non-profit preservation society.  I highly recommend it to visitors and locals alike.

4.  Google your town and find out what are the biggest tourist attractions.

Choose an activity tourists seem to like and which you consider inauthentic. Do it yourself -and see if you still feel the same way. If you don’t, why not?  In our case, this would involve a tour on the local Hippo bus (an amphibious vehicle that lets you tour on land and from shallow waters at sea). I feel a bit like a hypocrite (pun intended) in admitting that we have not yet done this -but we will!

5. Spend the day at a spa in a local hotel.

Okay, this isn’t really an authentic travel experience.  But if you’ve followed the other four suggestions, you’ve earned the right to some R & R.  Look for local hotels that you consider attractive and have sparked your curiosity.  Many hotels also let you use their pools with a spa service purchase.

This post has suggested five ideas for creating your own authentic staycation.  They are also a great way to deepen your own community connections.  There are other ideas for autentic staycations out there, just waiting to be discovered. I would love to hear yours.

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