Take a vacation from financial stress: Get away in your own backyard

everett in the gardenI'm trying to live a slower life, and years ago I cancelled all my family's credit cards and we've now gone for almost two years without a car. A big problem with this sort of lifestyle is that it's truly hard to take a vacation -- it turns out that all of our vacations had been financed through credit.

When I saw Zac Bissonnette's post on a bank offering "vacation loans," I shook my head right along with him. (And no, vacation loans are not a solution for a family living without credit cards!) My solution has been something far more practical and with both financial and psychological benefits: I vacation in my own backyard.

Last year, I took a week off in early April to slay blackberry vines that had taken over my yard and dig up the dirt, make raised beds, and build a big sandbox for my boys. This year, my week's spring break will feature the transplanting of several varieties of tomato and pepper, the aggressive creation of an herb garden, the planting of an experiment with four new types of beans, and the digging out of a garden on the other side of my yard, to be used as a several-years rotation.

I've recently become enamored with gardening, so my upfront cost for my vacation this year is about $400 in various gardening books, fencing, plants, and a splurge on some very expensive fertilizer (kelp meal, recommended by a favorite local author; I plan to share with my neighbors). Instead of researching attractions and finding the best price for a hotel, I'll be building a pergola and trying to figure out which are the best grapes for our soil. Instead of expensive dinners at roadside restaurants, I'll go all out and buy two new blueberry bushes.

It may seem entirely backward, but in my mind, vegetable gardening is the new luxury. While you all are cursing traffic this summer, I'll be picking "golden nugget" cherry tomatoes off the vine and making salad after salad with my "deer's tongue" and "flashy trout's back" lettuces. I'll be working hard during my vacation, but just think! It's work that will improve the planet, my own finances (it'll save me money both in vacation spending and groceries), my family's health, and my sense of the serenity of my life. I'll disconnect for a week, just as if I'd been in Aruba or the Oregon coast, and I'll be thusly rejuvenated.

If you've already got a garden, or don't have room to put one in, you can still vacation at home. Experiment with making your own cheese. Start a new knitting project. Read all the books by a newly-discovered author. Try every single kind of tea at your local health foods store. Study up on medicinal herbs. Build your own bicycle. Do something completely unlike whatever it is you do for work -- at home. Luxuriate in your free time, and save money, too.
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