Home > game night, general > the stay-at-home vacation: a holiday from modern life

the stay-at-home vacation: a holiday from modern life

February 25, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

What is a vacation?

Historically a vacation involved getting away, traveling to some different locale, seeing different sights, breaking out of one’s routine.  A vacation was an escape from the day-to-day, a time to get away from work, a time to take one’s family on a bit of new-to-you adventure.

And that’s still true today, in a way, but times have changed.

I think more generally a vacation is an escape, a conscious break in one’s routine, a deliberate choice to get out of one’s rut.  And in the modern, ultra-connected world, the best and most effective way to change one’s routine is to unplug, as it were, from the matrix.

Sure, you can still take the family to Yellowstone, but you’re not really escaping if you’re taking your mp3 player, your cell phone, your laptop, and your DVD player along.  You’re not changing your routine if you’re still surfing the web, texting, reading your email, and doing all the things you usually do at home.  You might not be working, but you haven’t really stepped out of your workaday reality.  You haven’t gotten out of your rut.

It’s different now.  Going physically to a new location isn’t a vacation anymore; shutting down the computer, unplugging the TV, and turning off your cell phone is.


A couple years ago the power went off for a couple hours one evening.  There was an ice storm, and a tree went down and took the power lines with it.

When it first happened, I remember being frustrated and disappointed that I couldn’t continue doing whatever it was I had been involved with — watching TV, maybe, or working on the computer.  I just sat there for a minute or two, waiting and wondering if the power was about to come back on.

It didn’t.

Eventually I got up, found the candles and the matches, and lit them.  Then I asked S, my wife, what she wanted to do.  “We could read out loud,” she said.  So we did.

We read P.G. Wodehouse, but I forget which one.  Maybe it was one of the ones with Jeeves, the butler, and his intellectually-challenged master, Bertie Wooster.  Or maybe it was one of the ones set in Blandings Castle.  Or maybe it was Uncle Fred Flits By.

Anyway, we took turns reading to one another for about an hour, and then we decided to make popcorn.  Our usual popcorn maker was an air-pop job, and that took electricity.  The microwave was out, too.  So we got a pot, put some oil in it, tossed some popcorn in, and set it on the stove.  To light the stove (we have a gas range), we turned the gas on and lit it with a match.  Simple.

To keep the popcorn from burning, we’d shake the pot every once in a while.  And when the corn stopped popping, we took the lid off (gotta have a lid!) and poured it into a bowl.  A little salt, and voilà!  It was delicious.

Better, in fact, than the popcorn we usually made. (We have since gotten rid of the air-pop job, and we only settle for popcorn in the microwave when we’re at work.)

But what to do while eating this delicious popcorn?  We decided to play a game, I think it was Ticket to Ride.  And it was lots of fun.


There were a couple of things we noticed when the power was off.

First, it was very quiet.  The furnace wasn’t running, the refrigerator wasn’t running, the lights weren’t humming, nothing was making noise.

Second, it was very relaxing.  Peaceful.  Gentle.  The candles helped with this, of course, but in general it felt very … nice.  It was soothing, in a way, a kind of throwback to a simpler time.

In the beginning, we kept hoping the lights would come back on so we could get back to whatever it was we were doing.  But as time passed, we started hoping that the lights wouldn’t come back on so we could keep enjoying the peace and quiet.  As I remember it, the power still hadn’t come on by the time we went to bed.  We went ’round the house and tried to make sure everything was turned off, since we didn’t want the TV to turn itself on at 3:00 in the morning.

It was one of the most pleasant evenings I can remember.

It was also one of the best vacations we’ve ever had, and we didn’t even leave the house.


I’m not suggesting that we all turn our clocks back to 1850 — instead, I’m suggesting that we occasionally take a break from modern life.  Maybe we leave the lights on but shut the computer off.  Maybe we leave our cell phones on but turn the TV off.  Maybe we put down Angry Birds and bring out a board game instead.

S and I periodically do this:  step away from our laptops, step back from all our technological gadgetry, step out of the modern world, and step into a quieter time.

We don’t turn our phones off, but we hardly ever use them, anyway.  We don’t shut the lights off, as they’re actually quite handy.  We don’t shut the TV off, since it’s hardly ever on.

We shut down our laptops, turn off the stereo, set down the newspaper, and breathe.

We don’t do chores, and we don’t run errands.  We might take a walk, or we might ride our bikes.  We don’t drive.

I might play guitar, S might knit, we might have folks over for dinner, we might bake bread or have a fire in the back yard.  We might read out loud, might take a nap, might pet our cats or play a game.

We do quiet things, physical things, things that don’t require power.  We disconnect from the web, and we connect instead with one another; we disconnect from the “news,” and we reconnect with our friends.


Why am I talking about all this in a blog about board games?

Board games are a great way to connect with family and friends in a physical, real, face-to-face kind of way.  Most games don’t require power, they don’t require batteries, they don’t involve glowing screens or blinking lights or annoying beeps and bangs and buzzes.  They’re delightfully, gloriously low-tech.

More importantly, though, they actively encourage people to interact with one another.  In an age where many families don’t even eat together anymore, setting aside an afternoon or an evening for playing board games together is a great way to both make time for and spend time with the people you love.

What could be better than that?

  1. April 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Hmm. Interesting point. Though to be honest, when I do go somewhere on vacation, I do sort of go off the grid. We were in Mexico last year and I didn’t bring my phone with me and couldn’t have cared less. We even went on a weekend trip a few hours away last month and still cut ourselves off. It was great.

    I have a week off coming up and I am not going anywhere, but I do plan on getting some board game nights going.

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