By: Stephanie Reynolds

I like going just a little overboard with things. If life is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing, right?

But I don’t mean striving for perfection. I mean taking regular life and making it a little more fun. I mean picking specific candy to go with a TV series we’re watching. Having a playlist for going to town. Making cookies the first real snowfall of the season. Just little things that make daily life “extra.”

Is it necessary? No. Is it frivolous? I used to think so, but now I realize it isn’t. It’s embracing life. We know how to live in stress, we can now live in delight.

Y’all know I work in tourism. I love my job. I want visitors to come enjoy their stay. I know it brings revenue for y’all, and rest and delight for our guests.

But my heart isn’t just with the tourists. My heart is with YOU. I want your regular days to be happy and delightful too, even as you work or go to school.

So I think it’s time that we don’t limit our restful, engaged life to just two weeks out of the year. We can live life now.

Let’s start by thinking about why vacations are different (this IS a tourism article, after all).

Vacations aren’t about the destination or the travel (Did I really type that in my out-loud voice? Why yes, yes I did.) but are more about being in the moment, about tuning in, not out.

When we’re on vacation, we change our mindset, our intent, our deliberate excitement about having the same chicken sandwich. We let ourselves have a little fun. We give ourselves permission to breathe and think and sleep and do.

Honestly, we’re still the same person. We brush our same teeth, are still vaguely lactose intolerant, and still stay up way too late. It isn’t that food is free or the traffic is light or that airlines never lose tourist luggage.

But because we’re on vacation, we love it. We decide to enjoy ourselves. We decide to be deliberate. We act instead of react. We kiss on the beach, play family games, put our phones down, and watch the moon rise.

The thing is that we can do that at any time! Oh, we can’t fly off to Aruba any time, but we can take a moment to get a little excited about lunch, about bedtime, about the moon, about 5 minutes in the bathroom alone (unless you have cats like mine who like to stick their paws under the door like preschoolers saying “Mom! Mom! Mom! Can you see my fingers wiggle?”).

Just think…have you considered that your “quick meal while shuffling the kids home from practice” is the exact same food that the people at the next table are lingering over because they are “on vacation”? Same burger, different vibe. They’re excited to be doing exactly what you are doing.

One of my best friends, as a full grown adult, has “Scooby Doo” nights. She loves that show and instead of just flopping on the couch and bingeing it for hours, she takes the time to put on special pajamas, make cocoa and snacks, and truly enjoy herself. She turns television into an event. Every time she does that, she has a little mini vacation. She rests. She delights. She takes the time to be deliberate.

What if we could have that enjoyment in our daily lives? What if we delight in the “mundane miracles” of the life we are given? What if the hard times could also be times of peace? What if we don’t need to escape, we just need to adjust?

That’s what we at the Athens-Limestone County Tourism want to introduce in 2024. We want ‘vacation’ to mean everything from “Big tour bus coming in from some far-off city” to “I have an hour to kill before my haircut.”

We are starting a new campaign of “’Cations.” These are going to be mini-plans that you can use to be deliberate in your everyday life. They will based on theme and will have a few ideas to get you started.

These are also going to be excellent ideas for when you have visitors. Or if you want to have a girls’ night or a guys’ night. If you need some bonding time with a loved one, or just need an “excuse” to focus on something in your life.

So put your arm in mine and let’s stroll down the rest of our lives with intent. Let’s take a moment to look, to pause and enjoy, to rename our brief minutes from “have-to” to “GET-TO-AND-I-HAVE-THIS-AWESOME-PLAYLIST-AND-I-CAN’T-WAIT-TO-GET-STARTED!”

Stay tuned, your ‘cations are coming.

By: Stephanie Reynolds, Athens-Limestone Tourism Association