Not everyone has the time this summer to go on a long, lovely beach journey or an exciting mountain hiking adventure. Instead, you may be considering taking just a few days of time off, doing some work around your home, and snuggling up with a good book. A staycation is especially good for reading, since you aren’t really paying anything to do it.
However, a staycation can be more than the sum of its parts. Read the following books to make your staycation a little more meaningful, and maybe learn something new about your area of the world.
Love Your Town More
This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick was the first book to make me realize that creative place-making was a thing. It’s simple, really: rather than expecting your town or city to provide you with entertainment, creative place-making involves making your town or city into the kind of place you want to live. Warnick went through a journey of turning a new place into a home, and I enjoyed noting as she went the many creative ways that people have found to turn their homes into places they loved.
Warnick’s book operates from a fairly privileged position—ample free time, the ability to choose a place to live based on its benefits—but in most cases the lessons apply in some way to anyone who might have the time for a staycation. See if you’d find it meaningful to shop local, have neighbors over for dinner, or attend a city or town event while you are home this summer.
Get to Know Local History and education systems
Many communities may seem organic, when they really were carefully curated. Segregation, for example, is one of those true aspects of many towns that surprises the residents when they read about it. While you may want to look at the example of your own town, I’d recommend reading up on desegregation in the public schools in Desegregating Chicago’s Public Schools by Dionne Danns. This books shows just how much work it takes to get people to work together across difference and in spite of prejudice. In your community, your staycation might need to cross a border into a nearby area where people who are different from you live: is there a way for you to be a part of speaking and learning across difference, whether or not you are involved in education? If you want to impact your school system, try talking to administrators at schools that receive fewer resources than most: they know a lot about what could help to move the needle for equality and diversity.
Stand for something good
Do it Anyway by Courtney Martin is a book on activism that tries to avoid the old “go save the world” generality and instead focus on how people are really making activism work. If you care about an issue in your town or county, read this book to get inspired and go out and make a change. This might be a march or protest, but it also might be joining a volunteer board, donating to a worthy cause, or attending awareness events. Your staycation will be enriched by even the smallest amount of time devoted to a cause you consider important.
Analyze your sidewalks
Reading The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces by William Whyte will take you deep into the ways that your urban neighborhood is organized to both promote, in some cases, and discourage social activity. Really thinking about the design of your local area can make it less dismal to live in a small space or walk on slightly stinky streets: when you see how these factors allow you to share life with a wide variety of people, you may celebrate it more. Your staycation may be enriched by exploring nearby green space, trying a new restaurant, or just going for a walk that includes new streets you’ve never explored before.
Regardless of how you choose to spend your staycation, hopefully a book that makes you get to know your local community better is on the list. After you read, though, don’t forget to go outside your door and see what you can do about making this community of yours the best it can possibly be.