What's Your Hundred Mile Holiday?

Staying close to home can save cash, energy, sanity. Share with us, please, your favourite local pastime.

By Nick Smith 31 Jul 2009 |

When he's not on summer holiday, Nick Smith is a public school teacher on the Sunshine Coast. His reader-funded series on Teaching that Inspires ran on The Tyee in September.

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Relax, you're not going far.

The current recession, combined with new regulations at the U.S. border, will mean that a lot more of us are going to be sticking around this summer. Whether this is good or bad is a matter of perspective.

As much as we may list the benefits of staying put -- no passport applications, airport waits, unexpected hotel service charges or illnesses contracted in foreign lands -- try convincing your friends that your "tourist in your own city" plans are exciting after they have emailed you pictures of their house exchange in Europe. Or break it to your kids that you are going to Playland instead of Disneyland and see if they jump for joy.

It is an undeniable fact that what is out there to see in the world amounts to so much more than what we have within a morning's jaunt from our own abode. No matter how we pretend, Victoria's museums will never compete with the Louvre and the fish and chips at Second Beach will never measure up to the fish tacos washed down with cold cerveza on the Baja.

The other side of this, as many of you know, is that there is more to see and to experience within a short radius of where we live than we will ever get to in a lifetime. To paraphrase Proust, we need to start looking with new eyes rather than searching for new landscapes.

This is where I will look to you, the resourceful and creative readers of The Tyee. I am asking for you to share your plans and past experiences with the rest of us readers.

Redrawing the vacation map

Perhaps, together, we can begin to reframe local travels in the same way that The Hundred Mile Diet and the Slow Food Movement recast our assumptions regarding local cuisine. In less than a generation we have learned that B.C. producers can craft chevre and pinot gris that rival those produced abroad. More importantly though, we have discovered arugul and mizuna, chanterelles and pine mushrooms, mussles and albacore tuna -- that chefs and producers have begun to promote specifically because they do well in this environment.

So what we are getting at here is rethinking our vacation plans in the way that many have rethought their diets, so that they reflect sustainability while fostering knowledge of place.

This will give us a chance to sit down and think about what holidays are for anyways. We look forward to spending time with friends and family without the distractions of our busy lives. Getting away from home allows us to escape the phone, email, errands and tasks to be done around the house. We need a break. We want to have fun. We don't want to change this.

Yet, what we get from a great holiday is often what we hadn't planned. Removed from the ordinary, we open ourselves to experiences normally outside of our reach. We cast a gaze sideways to take in what would remain in our periphery. In doing so, we learn something about other people and the way that they see the world.

Perhaps we can reap the benefits of a great holiday and lessen the cost, both financial and mental, if we are willing to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Far flung memories...

My wife and I spent our twenties exploring the world. Back then, a few weeks of work between university terms would allow us to backpack Mexico for a couple of months. A few thousand dollars was more than enough to drive through the US, taking in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Athens, Georgia; the Outer Banks of North Carolina then New York City, before hurling ourselves back across the continent in time for the fall term.

For our honeymoon, we loaded our bikes on a plane to Britain, eventually wending our way across the channel then around the continent before trading panniers for backpacks to explore Prague, trek the Italian Alps, climb steep bluffs to a score of monasteries in Greece's Meteora, poke around the chapels and hermitages carved into the hoodoos of the Cappadocia Valley in Turkey, flying back home seven months later. University degrees then increased our earning power, which translated into a year of work for a year of travel.

We pedaled up a Balinese volcano then through the Hindu ruins of Prambanan on Java, spent a month in a Thai monastery, took Vietnamese classes in Saigon, and saw bodies burn on the edge of the Ganges. We travelled to a Himalayan retreat so that she could practice yoga and I could study the tabla under an Indian master. We tubed down a warm river while visiting an orangutan sanctuary in Sumatra before returning to Vancouver, unable to adequately describe the world's diversity to friends.

...Local adventures

Having kids and buying a house may have tethered us closer to the hearth, yet our curious dispositions have remained unbridled. When friends with acreage on Saltspring Island would ask us to housesit, we would drop everything in order to tend their garden, seek out trails to walk Buddy, their frisky lab, and to paddle to nearby shores.

In order to bring a bit of island sweetness home, we once dialed a number on their bucket of honey, which led us to Dave Harris, an ex-math teacher, local historian and lay philosopher whose family has called Fulford Harbour home for five generations. We dug up a bagful of potatoes together, then picked a box of plums, both of which he threw in with our bucket of honey. This gave us reason to return with freshly-jarred plum chutney the next day to solidify the friendship. Months later, an envelope showed up in our mailbox, containing a snapshot of us in front of Dave's barn, along with highlighted newspaper clippings augmented with Dave's opinionated responses.

With our children, we have continued to probe our corner of the world, delving into its boundless curiosities, from the nurse logs that flourish under the hulking timbers of Carmanah Valley, to the sunning turtles that plunk into Klein Lake as our canoe approaches. We have settled ourselves onto benches to take in the bocce players who pass paper-wrapped libations in a park off of Victoria Drive and pulled the little guys in a bicycle trailer through the cool, echoing darkness of the Quintette Tunnels on a hot sunny day. For a fraction of the cost of an all-inclusive week in Acapulco, we rented a cabin on the sandy shores of Savary Island for a month, where we made regular strolls to The Mint Tea House, unleashing our kids to its forested grounds tricked out with games the expatriate German proprietor has constructed from salvaged flotsam.

Share your favourite 100 Mile Holiday

I know that there is so much more right here in B.C., if we are willing to look, so I invite you to share with the rest of us by posting a comment. Where is your B.C. community? What is your favourite way to take time off within 100 miles of your home? Tell us the local holiday experiences you've savoured and perhaps let us know, as well, where you are planning to go next, within 100 miles, that you've never visited before.  [Tyee]

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