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Home-made tourism

“Enough fine weather and money and a few memorable meals make any place desirable.” Elizabeth McCracken, The Giant's House

So we can't go further than 5km away. All the cafés and restaurants and quirky shops are closed as are the shopping malls. We can't meet our friends and family. We haven't had a holiday for over a year, so how can we get that holiday feeling?

Well before I start on this I will say that I am writing as an immensely privileged person who lives on a large block of land in a very middle-class and beautiful part of outer Melbourne. I don't have to go to work and I don't have to entertain children, just a mildly grumpy - occasionally - husband. But I do think some of the strategies that I am going to report can, even so, possibly be applied to those living in rather more dire circumstances. But then again, maybe not. They certainly don't need money, but they do need a bit of time and a bit of imagination perhaps. The scenery might be different, but the adventure is the same.

My husband is a home body, and has obviously found the answer. That's him sunbathing by the washing line! After all our last two holidays have consisted of going to Port Douglas and basically lying around the pool. Here he doesn't have to go through all the hassle of getting there or the expense of it all. He can just sunbathe in the garden. Even in winter! No pool but a rather battered tennis court and plenty of space. So just find yourself a nice spot and a good book and you are set. In his case you don't even need the book. And your wife will cook you a high level meal too. Well that's what he said last night anyway. Having worked hard all of his life, his current life is basically a holiday. And he doesn't like travelling much - the process of getting there I mean and then moving around a lot when you are there. And if the weather doesn't co-operate then you can snuggle up somewhere warm - even in bed and read that book.

This morning I read a few articles with suggestions on how to be on holiday whilst still at home, some of which were a bit obvious but still worth thinking about and some which were actually quite intriguing. I also decided to think about what I want out of a holiday, and how I can achieve that in our current restricted environment.

So first define what you want out of a holiday. Well it's different for all of us isn't it? We all like different kinds of holidays - luxury, living off the land, culture, the beach, mountains, history, new experiences, new people, new places, adventure ... But probably all of them come down to doing something different to the day to day.

“The basis of tourism is perception of otherness, of something being different from the usual.” Lucy M. Long, Culinary Tourism

For me, yes I do like to go to a foreign country, preferably one where I can speak the language and engage with the people at least at a basic level. I confess I find Asia totally daunting, if fascinating, because not only do I not speak the language, but I also do not know how to behave. I like to go to a foreign country - yes France or Italy - even England is a bit of a foreign country to me now - because 'they do things differently there'. There is history, there is beautiful countryside and there is wonderful food. Moreover I'm not cooking it. For me Port Douglas is all about being waited on and not having to do a thing, and just to soak up the beauty of the surroundings and yes - enjoy the food.

I guess there is a little bit of cultural difference as well, and a chance to engage with people in a different way. I have spoken before about talking to waiters and discovering little bits of their life story. Do we do that at home? One of those articles I read today, suggested that one way of reprising the feeling of being on holiday is to behave a bit like a tourist and engage with the local population as you would when on holiday - like David here, chatting up a tourist guide in Assisi. I suppose he does a bit of that here too, but not nearly as much.

What else do we do on holiday? We take photos. We take lots of photos. So one thing you can do is take photos - every day.

"Carry your camera and you’ll immediately feel more like a tourist, plus you’ll end up with a collection of great photographic souvenirs." Jayne Gorman - Girl Tweets World

I tested this out today when I went for a walk. No need these days to take an actual camera of course. The phone is always there, and that's what I did today, but really I think I should take my actual camera, as this is a much more touristy thing and I do believe it takes better pictures - or is easier to use anyway. When I'm on holiday I take pictures of places, of details on buildings and in the streets, of people, of my friends, of meals. So today I tried to follow the same pattern - and you know this is indeed possible. Here are a few I took today:

The muddy little child's toy was next door in the street - my neighbour has her daughter and family living with her at the moment so this must have been left there by one of the children. I put it back on the letterbox so that it would be found. The stone birds are on a letterbox near here. Now I wonder why they chose to decorate their letter box in this way? The telegraph poles in a line are just so Australian, as is the bark peeling off the tree, and the spikey plant in front of one those beautiful eucalyptus barks. And that water tank belongs next door but one and is gradually falling down. It hasn't been used for years of course, but it's a little bit of Australian history, that we really ought to investigate. And within our regulation 5km there is lots of other early Australian history - colonial Australian that is.

‘It would be nice for everyone to appreciate what we are losing; the beauty of the commonplace, the beauty you stumble across in the everyday.’ – Warren Kirk.

On another day in another street I might have seen something else, a different flower, some new decoration on a house - a friendly dog - who knows. I am not a great photographer, but even so with a little bit of judicious cropping I can come up with something acceptable. And if I chose I could make photo books of my adventures - or a slideshow. So next time you go for a walk take a camera. It will make the walk seem more like a tourist trip than a bit of daily exercise.

"It’s amazing what you can discover when you take the time to walk past it." Jayne Gorman - Girl Tweets World

When we are on holiday abroad we walk a lot. We visit the main tourist sites, and the nearby towns, we village hop every village that is near to our rented house and we take photos of this and that. There is always something of note. Of course all of these places are new to us but then you really don't have to go far to see something new. I have been a bit boring with my walking. I have two or three walks and I don't vary them very much. Even so, every time I walk the same familiar route I seem something new. Today I ventured along a slightly different track and although I did not in fact see much of extraordinary interest, there was always the chance that there would be. A heightened anticipation, akin to the feeling of potential discovery one has when on holiday. I must find myself a scaled up map of my environs and explore a little more, as I'm sure there is lots more to discover.

"Those little things you usually do? Make them touristy.

Your daily stroll around the block could turn into a walk around a new-to-you neighborhood. Friday pizza night at home? Why not make it a mission to test out the newest pizzeria in town. You'll be surprised how simple shifts in everyday strategies can widen your window for adventure." Heather Greenwood Davis - National Geographic

Yes it's food really that we miss isn't it? And I'm not sure how one gets around that one. Very difficult in the current circumstances and at this time of year. Here I am about to enjoy what is probably my very last meal in France - and how could we not have had a really nice bottle of wine, a special bottle, rather than the house wine? Although in another sense perhaps the house wine was the right thing to do - it was very nice - as was the food and the setting - a small family run hotel an hour away from Nice. So how do we replicate that?

We've done the Mercer's special meal thing twice - and it was a really different thing to do. And yes, maybe we should try more take-away treats. I imagine that most of our local restaurants are doing take-way. Besides we never do take-away so that's an adventure in itself.

My David's special meals are a good false holiday kind of thing, because although we are not eating in a different place, we are indeed eating something we have never eaten before. Even if it is I who has made it. And as soon as the weather warms up we shall be able to eat outside, and I have to say that that always gives me a holiday feeling.

As for food shopping which is one of the highlights of my foreign adventures for me - well I guess I could pretend I am in a foreign country when I visit the local supermarket, and really look at all those shelves that I generally ignore. Find out what other people are buying, what new and interesting things there are - all those weird things in the Asian section, or the frozen food section - which I never look at. Buy something new that I would never have thought of buying before. It's all just a matter of opening your mind a bit isn't it? That after all is what we hope that travel will do for us. Open our eyes to how other people live. Change us in some way, although it probably doesn't.

I also found some not so usual advice from a lady called Amber Guetebier on a website called Red Tricycle. She has lots of good ideas - mostly aimed at people with children but adaptable to all.

"Look up, look down. Send a postcard.

Gather souvenirs: you don’t have to load up on magnets and shotglasses. Save a receipt from a meal you loved, a penny you found on the ground, even a wayward pinecone your kid insisting on picking up. Put all these items in a mason jar with a label for the day, or press them into a scrapbook." Amber Guetebier - Red Tricycle

I think the postcard is a really good idea, although it may be difficult to find one at the moment. But if you could it would be a really good way of connecting with a friend or a distant family member in a different way would it not? I suppose you could probably devise a postcard somehow from a photo that you have taken. It's such a touristy thing - a postcard. Ditto for the souvenirs.

Or start a journal. We shall be looking back at this period later in our lives and it would be a really good thing to document it in some way.

One of those websites suggested looking at your local council's website to find out all the things you can do in your area. So I did, and indeed there are a lot of things, some not possible at the present time, but many are. And now that I am allowed to drive 5k to get exercise, I could at least look at some of the local walking trails that I have never tried. Or I could just go down all the local streets that I have never ventured into.

And if all else fails we can root out all our old photos, make slideshows and watch them to remind ourselves of all the wonderful places we have been, with all the wonderful people we have known. And it's all free!

"When you spend money on a holiday you are essentially purchasing happiness: if you don't enjoy yourself you will feel defrauded.” Alison Lurie,The Last Resort


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