Photo: Ani-Bee

Think the only qualities that make a vacation are foreign food and accents? Think again.

I was reading a magazine today that claimed (in large, bold script on the front cover no less) to offer ten tips on how to have a fabulous vacation without ever leaving your house.

Intrigued, as those crafty devils who wrote the byline intended no doubt, I opened the magazine to page 42 and skimmed the article.

The conclusion I reached at the end of the brave little piece, was this (and let’s skip the niceties and be brutally honest here): people simply don’t plan half-assed vacations.

People don’t scrimp and save and book time off work to sit around their apartments and pretend to be on holiday.

I’m all for appreciating where you are and what you have and no one knows better than me that nothing beats unplugging the phone and sitting around butt-naked eating goat cheese and drinking wine – but I don’t call that a vacation do I? No, I simply call it Sunday afternoon.

We vacation on the other hand, to leave the ordinary and the known, to experience new things and new people. We vacation to get away from it all, not simply pretend that we are. My point is, the end goal of a trip is to actually go somewhere, right?

Brilliant In Theory

I’ll give the writer credit though, she was excited about this idea or very skilled at pretending she was. Her words bounced off the page as she offered tips on buying plush “hotel-quality” robes and exotic bath oils to evoke a restful spa week “right in your own bathroom!”

Like communism, this is an idea that is brilliant in theory only. The thinking is, “Who doesn’t love bath oils and plush robes?” But come on, really?

Where’s the sleek receptionist and the cool slate tiled hallway? Where’s the darkened room and massage table, the masseur with strong capable hands? Where’s the joy in plush robes and an exotic oiled bath when you’re the one laundering the bathrobe and trying in vain to rinse the oil off the sides of the tub the next morning?

The article continues in the same vein for a page and a half with well meaning advice on: ordering in all week to substitute for that “expensive overseas cuisine” in Italy and Greece.

Foreign language film rentals are subbed in for being immersed in a different language and culture.

Taking in the art at a local gallery instead of the renowned Louvre in Paris; setting up a lounge chair in your backyard, margarita in hand, in lieu of relaxing on the beaches of Mexico; a page and a half of these cheap, half-assed ideas.

Quite frankly, it was irritating. Contrary to this woman’s opinion, I, like many of you, can tell the difference between a Greek salad ordered from the take-out joint down the street and one made in Greece.

I am well aware of the fact that real life does not occur within the frame of a 27″ television screen, nor does it have subtitles. Perhaps most importantly, nothing, nothing is better than real Mexican tequila.

So. Where does that leave a poor workhorse who longs for some time off?

Well I won’t write a page and I half on the subject but I will tell you this much, if you are broke and have no money for a vacation, you needn’t spend what little you do have on take-out and movie rentals.

The Real Budget Getaway

There are indeed other options and rest assured they don’t involve you leaving a cringe worthy message on your machine to the effect of “Sorry, I’m not in right now. I’m spending a week at the exclusive resort ‘Chez Moi’…”

In order to truly tackle a budget getaway you either choose an inexpensive vacation or you simply pool what funds you can, pop it into a higher interest bank account (ING has a great one offering 3.5% as opposed to the .05% most banks offer) and save until you can afford a proper trip – complete with actual air travel.

But if your cubicle is closing in on you and you think you might fatally injure your alarm clock tomorrow morning, consider the budget travel options.

Enlist your trusty car or a greyhound and visit the friends you’ve been promising you would since they moved three years ago. Accommodation is free, food is usually provided and all you have to shell out for is cash for drinks and a nice thank-you gift (being broke is no excuse for being rude!)

Alternately, pick a place about a day’s drive away and spend some time taking in the local colour. If you have a car and your seats fold down, you won’t need a hotel and if you’re taking the bus just splurge on a $50 pup tent and you’re set.

Speaking of tents, I’m not so much the outdoorsy type (I once brought stainless steel martini glasses on a camping trip) but I hear that some like it rough, so if you’re up to it, tackle a hike in the backwoods of your area.

You’ll be getting a great workout and I have a girlfriend who swears she never sleeps better than on the hard ground under the stars.

Whatever you do, for the love of vacations promise me it won’t involve turning up your thermostat to simulate a tropical climate or writing postcards to your family and friends from your living room.