Gift Guide For Vacation at Home(town)

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

At the beginning of Oprah Winfrey’s highly acclaimed podcast, SuperSoul Sunday, she declares, “one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself is time.” I agree with her every Sunday.

If you’ve had a fabulous summer vacation already, save these ideas for September, when the fall from an exotic island to your cubicle seems too harsh. If you couldn’t afford the time or money for a trip, give yourself a weekend and indulge in one of these pleasures. After all, pretty things are pricey, but the best things in life are free.


1. Listen, sing along & dance

When was the last time you sang your favorite songs out loud? I’m not talking church choir or business karaoke. Get on Youtube or Spotify and make a playlist of songs you want to sing along to. Whether it’s a Disney classic or that too-sweet-to-admit K-pop ballad, the key is to not to be swayed by trends and opinions about the song. Once you have the list, sing and dance.

I’ve recently talked about the benefit of dancing in public, but you don’t a street or a club. Your living room is a good enough playground.

If you don’t know where to begin, try this: 7 Power Anthems by Asian Ladies

2. Volunteer

I believe that philanthropists are not selfless, but simply people who have found the joy of helping others. Yes, it feels good to help others, whether they are a minority community or mother earth. All the NGOs and projects helping the environment, refugees, or the victims of violence are one Google search away, and they always welcome helping hands.

Just don’t be a savior Barbie doing good for bragging rights. How to make sure you’re supporting the cause, not your social identity? Try not taking pictures at all, and don’t post it on any social media. You’ll realize that it doesn’t make much difference to the recipient, but changes the whole experience for you. Focus on the experience for the sake of it, and find the pure joy in your action.

3. Binge-watch

Dive into pleasure and shed your guilt for your summer fun. I’m a happily married woman in my 30s, but a good teenage rom-com still puts butterflies in my tummy (I’m talking to you, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before).

Thanks to Netflix, Hulu, Viki, and Dramafever (among many), you can now binge watch all the movies and dramas till your friends worry about your health. Don’t watch the news. The only reality you can take is reality shows like the Great British Bake Off or Terrace House.

4. Walk, don’t run

If your town is still cowering from the heatwave, go to a mall. If autumn is around the corner, choose a random town nearby and just walk there. You feel more when you travel because you open your senses out of fear (or excitement). You can absorb all the layers even in your hometown if you pretend you’re a traveler.

If you still need a reason for your walk, search for a meetup in your town.

5. Get Spa

You know those fancy all-day spas in fancy places that sound like urban legends? Some people travel abroad just for a famous spa, but you can save the travel budget and spend it on a spa. Many women, especially moms, feel guilty about the idea: sophisticated, but exotic, setting, soothing music, scented water (with petals) washing your feet, and relaxing massage with aroma oil for hours? What a waste, they say.

It’s like the flight safety rule, “Secure your own mask before helping others.” You need to make yourself happy before taking care of other’s emotions. Spas come in all price ranges, so you don’t need to break the bank—the best neck massage I’ve ever had was not at a five-star spa, but at a humble Korean jjimjilbang. Just go and pamper yourself for a day. If it helps, remember that guilt is a great incentive to working hard afterwards.

6. Reconnect

Reconnecting with your friends and relatives—isn’t that for the winter holidays? No, the winter holidays are ‘for’ your loved ones. It’s a season to bond with practical strangers by the cultural power of shared obligation.

In summer, out of nowhere, choose a person you really miss. They might be a distant relative, lost friend, high school teacher you secretly admired, or even a colleague from the company you used to work for. Why? Just because you want to meet. That’s the best kind of meeting.

The receiving party of invitation may react awkwardly, even if it’s just for a coffee or beer. But you’re doing them an unexpectedly huge favor (even if they reject). Who wouldn’t want to be cherished for just herself, not for the occasion, not for the merit. Just because.

7. Read analog

When was the last time you actually bought a paper magazine? Now magazines go digital or go quality paper. Some magazines are so good as stand-alone books that they may distract you from your mobile screen. Buy a magazine and read it cover to cover, analyze the ads, and check the profiles of contributors.

Buy summer beach reading material and read it at home, with prosecco or sangria. It’s actually better than reading at a beach (where you cannot concentrate and paper gets soggy), and will take you anywhere without the jetlag.

8. Play a video game

You don’t need to buy a Play Station or XBox (it’s ok if you have one already). You don’t have to spend 50 hours to see the ending or experience violent battles against real people in an online game world.

Go to the app store and buy a paid game. Unlike free games with all their ‘in-app purchases’ and tricks to get you hooked, it usually takes less than a day to finish. There are beautiful, story-driven indie games that will give you an incredibly immersive experience. Try To the Moon, Florence, Broken Age, and OPUS to begin with. If you prefer a PC game, my recommendation always starts with Stardew Valley.

9. Make something

Sophie Kinsella’s less-known novel, The Undomestic Goddess, portrays a workaholic attorney who involuntarily comes to learn the joy of domestic work. There was a time when I avoided cooking since it felt like society forcing me, a young woman, to cook. Only in my 30s have I found out cooking can be fun, just for myself. We cannot force a girl to wear pink, but a girl can like pink without shame.

Buy a cookbook, or scrape out that recipe you always wanted to try, and take time to make an ambitious meal. Or buy a knitting kit from an expert like Wool and the Gang, and make a knit while listening to a podcast. You can do carpentry, flower arrangements, candle making, or any other kind of craft in a one-day workshop.

10. Write for yourself

I’m not even pregnant, but I recently wrote a letter to my future child. It made me sob for a good two hours writing it. It naturally forced me to reflect on all my life choices and to appreciate my own parents. I won’t share it with anyone (possibly not even with my own future child), but it’s ok to write something just for yourself.

Today’s culture gives you the notion that your journal is something to be shared with the whole world. Your story (Facebook), your random observation (Twitter), or just what you see (Instagram) are, however, yours first. It’s ok to curate what you share with the world. It’s ok to be secretive. It’s ok to write an epic novel just for your perusal and burn it on your whim. And the remains of summer is the perfect season for it. You prefer to stay indoors anyway.

Youjin Lee

Youjin Lee

Youjin Lee is editor-in-chief of April Magazine and South Korean private attorney. She divides her time between Asia and Europe, dreaming of writing a cozy murder mystery someday.