Create The Good Life - Simple and Slow Living by Design

Lessons from Staycations and Secular Sabbaths

Summertime and the livin' is easy. Sit back and enjoy Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald to get in the mood. Yes, it's okay to take a couple of minutes to just enjoy!

How many times have we returned from summer vacation asking ourselves, "How can I bring some of that vacation vibe and perspective into my life the rest of the year?" Well, staycations and secular sabbaths are two recent trends that offer great strategies to bring vacation time into our lives on a more regular basis.

In response to the economic downturn, staycations have emerged as a way to create low cost holidays at or close to home. Staycations range in time and elaborateness, from one day events to week long adventures in your community. They can include several planned fun activities, either at home, or involving people and places within a short drive or bike ride.

While staycations are a newly refurbished concept focused on play, the Sabbath is an ancient tradition of creating a day of rest that has been associated with various religious traditions. Secular sabbaths refer to creating a day of rest for non-religious reasons. Recently people have been turning to the idea of secular sabbaths as a model of how to take a break from the constant demands of phones, e-mail, computers, television, cars, and other "conveniences" that shape our day to day lives. The purpose of both staycations and secular sabbaths is to shift our focus to the here and now, and to get back in touch with a rhythm and pace that is restorative.

Creating an Island of Present Time

One reason we love vacations is because they give us permission to direct all our energy to enjoying the moment. They offer a way for us to commit to the here and now and in doing so shift our time perspective away from worries about the past and anticipation of the future and allow us to be, for awhile, fully present. One suggested practice for both staycations and secular sabbaths is to clearly define the period of time for them, be it one day each week, or longer times throughout the year. Another point is to schedule this time just as you do other events. For many of us, if it's not on the calendar, it won't happen. Note that the more you think you don't have time to do this, the more likely you will benefit from it!

Getting ready — for you

In order to create an abundance of time, we generally benefit from planning ahead. Taking care of chores and loose ends before our break means that there is less chance we will have (find?) a reason to shift our focus to work or distractions. Consider doing the same preparation you would if guests were coming over, only this time the guest is you! Having good food prepared ahead of time can further contribute to the sense of well being and allow you to sink even deeper into the activities, or non–activities, for that time.

A Few Shalt Nots

Whether this time is for you alone, or to be shared with family and friends, agreeing to some rules for behavior is important. As mentioned earlier, increasingly people are finding that unplugging from the myriad devices that pull their attention elsewhere is critical to feeling more relaxed and in the moment. Some families have declared internet–free Saturdays, for example. Beware that this may cause some anxiety and withdrawal symptoms! This is where deep breathing, mutual support, and a bit of discipline can be helpful.

Most people who have tried these practices are very happy with the results. They report enjoying the freedom from virtual connection, and having the time to connect in different ways. One parent reported that his son said that the slow Sunday where the family did almost nothing was his favorite family time ever!

Some rules may seem like various forms of denial at first, but what they actually do is help us experience our lives in ways we don't regularly. These can include being car–free, limiting monetary spending, and not talking about certain topics such as work. Again, the goal is not to load up on rules, rather it is to establish some parameters that will free us to relax and restore.

Slow Up and Experience More

Staycations and secular sabbaths are great examples of how less can be more. By imposing limits on our activities, we create the time and attention for those things that fulfill us in other ways. We can rediscover the joy of moving at a pace that is more in tune with ourselves and being with others. We may even have time to do some of those things that we are usually moving too quickly for, such as organizing the family photo album or replacing the hinge on the gate.

Whether you create a regular secular sabbath, schedule an occasional staycation, or bring some of these ideas into your weekend planning, it is likely that you will find the living much easier when you slow up from time to time.


Much has been written on staycations and variations on the secular sabbath.
Check out:


If you tend to be plugged in a lot, select a 24-hour period in which you will unplug from your phone, e-mail, texting, internet, etc. Yes, everything. (See the "nine steps" article above for suggested contingencies for emergency communications.) What do you experience at first, and how does this differ from how you feel at the end of the 24 hours?

Plan a one-day staycation. Treat your home and your community as if you were a visitor on holiday. Plan a few fun activities that you have never done, or you have not done in years. (Spa day is a personal favorite!) Prepare some good food ahead of time and refrain from as much work as possible. If this doesn't work perfectly, try it
again. Keep experimenting until you get really good at it.

Happy Summer!

Beth and Eric

This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.

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