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Are you feeling stranded in the wake of COVID? Did your vacation plans fall through and your hope for a glorious summer fizzle? You are not alone. But there is a silver lining. I know you don’t want to hear about a silver lining; you want to hop on a plane to your magical destination. But let’s imagine that your magical destination doesn’t need a lengthy plane ride; let’s imagine that your destination is around the corner. You can have a wonderful vacation by getting outside of your normal routine and surroundings. Not to mention, during hard times, our focus should be to put money back into the local economy. So, let us rethink vacations in 2020.

Exploring Locally

We have been living in Europe for almost 3 years; in this time we have not taken a vacation together. You think when you move to the EU you can travel around often. That may be true when visiting or have an established residency, but when trying to build a life, you have little time for travel. I decided for Jake’s birthday; we deserved a get-away. While affordable to fly to other EU countries, travel is uncertain and being on a crowded plane does not interest me in the least. We looked for a location near home to explore what is around us and spend a few days acting like tourists.

I open my Airbnb app and begin my search. BAM! I found the perfect spot. The location is in the mountains, surrounded by nature, equipped with a pool and only a 45 minute drive.

We arrived in the late afternoon; the daughter greeted us with a smile and gave us a full tour of the land and welcomed us to explore wherever we like. I was pleased to see so many animals on the property, from dogs and cats to farm animals. I knew immediately we would enjoy our stay.

Jake and I, being the introverts we are, opt to have an entire house to ourselves. This allows for privacy and a full kitchen so I can cook. Cooking our own meals while on vacation also saves money. We are both frugal minded and prefer cooking our own meals. After unloading the car, our next order of business is to buy groceries. I Google the nearest Continente and giggle when I find it is the one we go to regularly.

After buying ourselves all those indulgent foods we don’t buy on normal shopping trips, we returned to have dinner poolside. Tired from work, packing, driving and shopping, I didn’t want to cook a full meal. Instead, I made a platter of fruit, bread, cheese and meat with two glasses of wine. Just enough to fill our bellies and relax by the pool. Time to nestle into our comfortable bed for a restful night’s sleep… in AC! Oh yes; I forgot to mention we had AC. AWWW YES!

A Day in Coimbra

We arrived in Alvaiazere just at the proverbial excrement hits the fan, and the lock downs began. We didn’t mind so much. We are both introverted and enjoy our time at home. It is normal for us to social distance. However, the restrictions kept us from exploring our new hometown and surrounding areas. Now that restrictions are easing up, it’s time to explore.

We drove to Coimbra, only 20 kms away. Between the heat and Jake’s bum toe, we would not spend a full day in the city. We picked two places that would circle us back to the car; it seemed like a sensible route. The first stop, an old church. I love visiting old churches. It’s like walking back in time; when you stand in a building with hundreds of years of history. That, and I love the architecture.

By this time, both our tummies were growling. Time for lunch and an ice cold beverage. I had not eaten in a restaurant since giving up animal products. To my delight, they had a vegetarian menu, albeit small it existed and that is all that mattered.

Portobello Hamburger – the mushroom caps replaced the bread, inside were tomatoes, zucchini, onions and cheese, surrounded by leafy greens.

Our next stop, the botanical gardens. Although, Jakes exceptional navigation skills (ahem) took us on a large circle. He did find a short cut… directly up a dizzying flight of stairs. You know that scene in Cinderella where Gus Gus looks up at the stairs to bring the key to Cinderella? That was me! Thank goodness for all those days of glute work during yoga, and my WWAPing. I credit my WWAPing to the absence of sore muscles the next day. I can’t say the same for Jake. Ha! Score for the WWAPer.

Finally, we arrived back where we started, which also happened to the entrance to the botanical gardens. We were right next to it from the start. Laugh at these moments, the alternative is less fun; I assure you! Let’s just say we took the scenic route, which we did. We walked through a nice wooded area that provided shade and an escape from the heat. Apart from the stairs, I enjoyed the detour.

Coimbra proved to be a lovely city. We will return when Jake’s toe heals, and the heat subsides. But for this trip, we enjoyed the two places we visited. Tired from walking, it would be an early night. The next day we plan to spend the day feeding our faces and catching some rays by the pool. We considered going on an outing, but decided relaxing sounded far better.

Pool Days

The next morning I got up early as usual, although I missed my morning Sam Sam kisses. And Laika enjoyed the AC so much she didn’t wake up early to eat. Instead, we snuggled with her in bed a little longer. I rose to the rising sun and blue skies emerging. I grabbed my brand new yoga mat and headed to the pool for a nice yoga sesh outside. When you do yoga outside it enhances the experience. I also enjoyed the mild chatter of all the farm animals. I followed yoga with meditation and a walk with Laika. With Jake still a snooze in bed, I whipped up my smoothie and sat by the pool, smoothie in hand and a smile on my face.

We spent the day enjoying the sun, pool, frozen tropical drinks and lots of delicious snacks. Later, I whipped up some ribs for Jake as a special treat. Jake, a. k. a. “saucy boy” loves ribs, especially when slathered in BBQ sauce. We spent the evening walking around the nature trails and the property to take it all in one last time.

While walking, we visited the ponies. Laika and one pony were both curious about one another. They looked at each other, walked closer, and touched noses. My heart melted! Then, my heart went from melting to dropping when Laika jumps the barricade to chase the pony! All is well that ends well; Laika quickly returned when called. Crisis averted.

We returned to the property to sit and watch the sun go down on the beautiful patio they newly constructed that gave unobstructed views of sunset. As we sat, a beautiful cat came to greet us. He was very vocal and demanded attention; it reminded me of our Sam Sam. He gladly let me take his photo as he circled around us, coming in closer here and there for some pets. And I can’t forget to mention the cute, but shy dog that came to visit us. Although more cautious, he let me give him some loving.

As the night ended we sat in silence as we admired the setting sun, taking in every second. While our get-away only lasted 3 days, it rejuvenated my mind and body. Us not having to travel far only added to the amount of relaxation.

This pandemic has impacted each of us in some capacity, bringing postponements or cancellations to our travel plans. I encourage you to look around your area. Going on vacation doesn’t have to mean traveling far. For many of us, we live close to places that are beautiful, fun and relaxing, and probably starving for business. This is a time we can invest into our local communities and support small business owners.

We choose our Airbnb because a local hosted it. When we spoke with the owner on our first night we found that since COVID he has experienced many cancellations and far fewer foreign visitors. But he is seeing many more locals coming to stay. Perspective is everything. You can find a silver lining in every situation if you look. For me; being forced to explore more of our local area is the silver lining. So often we seek that far off destination and miss out on what our home town has to offer.

So get out and explore your community, fall in love with your hometown again, act like a tourist, and enjoy a new style of vacation. I promise this is more fun than ranting about your canceled plans on social media and sulking about what you can’t do.

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