Imagination and a Martini.
With the economy in the tank, I’m suddenly hearing more and more about the “staycation.“ As in, Honey, let’s stay at home this summer, instead of popping off to the Algarve, or driving to the Oregon coast. Or, in fact, driving our Land Rover to the beach, because that now costs about ninety bucks for the fifteen minutes it’ll take to get there.
Sure, Honey, let’s stay home this summer. Again. We’ll call it a “staycation,” and pretend we planned it like this.
This whole staycation idea is nothing new to those of us who live on the arty and often financially unstable side of the economic divide. In fact, I wrote a chapter about it in my second book. Recession or no recession, we can’t always afford the kind of vacations that involve hotels, even if we could spring for the gas/plane fare/gas/restaurants/gas. Even if we hadn‘t spent any possible vacation money on a frighteningly necessary new roof. Which no one will notice anyway.
But then again, what about all this house-trading I keep hearing about? Can there really be people who live in exotic climes that want nothing more than to swap houses with people who live in the U.S. for a few weeks? It’s possible, considering that our borderline-third-world economy is a veritable consumer’s playground for your average European. Those beefed up Euros send our weakling American dollars crying home to their mommas. And yet, I can’t believe some nice family in the south of France would be that eager to trade their beach-front chateau for a small house with a view of the La Cienega Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in mid-city Los Angeles. I cannot imagine even an adventure-minded Italian family is going to be happy swapping their coastal villa for just any old crack-house in a smoggy urban center.
I mean, it’s your home, it’s comfy. And it certainly would be an interesting taste of urban living for the intrepid tourist looking for a little local color. So it faces a depressing backyard full of weeds. But they’re your weeds, dammit. And yes, you could stay home and pretend to be on vacation, and roast weenies on the little plot of scrubgrass next to the sagging garage. But wouldn’t it be better to convince some itinerant foreigner that you’ve got exactly the kind of urban oasis he’s been looking for? Wouldn’t it be nice to make the guy with the converted fifteenth-century farmhouse think he’s getting the better end of the deal?
But how? I know! Be your own travel writer.
Extol the virtues of your house and neighborhood. You’ll surprise yourself with what a paradise you actually inhabit, once you make yourself see it through the eyes of an enthusiastic travel scribe. You’ll almost want to stay in it yourself, once you really see its hidden beauty and subtle charms. And if you are able to suddenly imagine the heretofore undiscovered allure of your own house, imagine how many hopeful travelers will be eager to pack their bags and leave you the keys to their stone farmhouses in Provence.
For instance, this is how I might describe my own little slice of urban paradise on Whitworth Street in Los Angeles: