See the Big Picture, but Catch the Details

“I am not much an advocate for traveling, and I observe that men run away to other countries because they are not good in their own, and run back to their own because the pass for nothing in the new places. For the most part, only the light characters travel. Who are you that have no task to keep you at home?”   — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Simple Beauty
Simple Beauty

Usually, when we think of holiday travel, we imagine exotic, far away places. However, if you have a small, demanding family, or are a bit strapped for finances, this is not always  possible. There are alternatives. Close to home adventures can be just as memorial and enjoyable as distant places: it all depends on how you plan your holidays. Here’s one of my former art assignments that can serve as an example:

Several years ago I had enrolled in a fine arts course and one of the assignments was to go into my back yard, and there find a simple object, something that would be overlooked by passers by as not worth attention, and make a sketch of it (I was into charcoal at the time). I was to arrange that simple object into an interesting one, one that could easily attract the attention of an art lover. I picked a lone dandelion that had, in order to survive, grown tall over a stand of half-dried prairie grass that had encircled an aging fence post.

The idea of that assignment was to demonstrate that one needn’t travel far and wide and sketch dramatic mountain scenes or rushing waterfalls in order to make an interesting painting, and the same principle can be applied when making holiday travel plans. Sure, it’s nice if we have the money and time to book a grand travel package that can leisurely take you by boat from British Columbia to the Yukon and there, at midnight, June 21st, watch the sun never–but, of course, we don’t have time nor money for such luxury this year, so, let’s think local.

A little creative planning, the town park, one’s own back yard and a family tent, are all that is required for an economical and very satisfying get-away-from-it-all experience for everyone: for  dad, mom and the kids, especially if your kids are still small. Start your morning out by planning a ‘field trip’ to your community park. Bring with you a self-help book that includes pictures of birds and plants in your area, binoculars, a camera, a magnifying glass and a bag of popcorn. By using a bit of creative planning, you’ll soon discover that there’s more than just grassy lawns, walkways and pigeons in a park!

  • The “I Spy” game is popular and fun to play with small children: I spy with my eagle eye a pink flower. That pink flower could be part of a flower box arrangement of petunias near a picnic bench. I spy with my eagle eye a white bird. That bird could be part of a flock of nearby pigeons–which could be an excellent segue to stop the I Spy game, bring out the popcorn, and start feeding the pigeons. Pigeons, knowing that they are safe in a park, can become quite bold when food is around, and come almost up to you, offering an opportunity for  your children to see these beautiful birds up  close, something usually not available outside of the park.
  • Do your children know the history of your park? Many city parks have a statue of some famous person to whom the park was dedicated. What is the name of the person that the statue represents? Is the statue made of bronze, or of stone, and why did the city chose to go with bronze rather than stone–or, vice-versa.  What does the inscription say? Does that statue pique your interest with too many questions and not enough answers? Oh, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures. They’ll come in handy at your kid’s next school ‘show and tell.
  •  Kids love libraries. If you nor your children aren’t familiar enough with the park’s history, now would be a good time to visit the library and learn more about your park and your town.

Where has the day gone? By the time you’re through at the library, the sun is probably sinking lazily close to the western horizon. It’s time to go home and plan the overnight camp-out in your back yard. If you’re plans include having a small camp fire, check your town’s fire regulations. Some small rural towns will allow  controlled fires in back yards, otherwise, you may have to settle for a propane ‘camp stove’ fire place.

In no time, the tent is pitched, the camp stove lit, and the kids are singing some of their favorite camp songs. Throw in some sleeping bags, an electric camper’s lantern, a good supply of hot dogs or hamburgers, cookie treats made specially for the occasion by mom, and you have the creative recipe for a memorial sleep-out!

Hot dog, anyone? Where’s the mustard? Your kid’s singing has attracted the neighbors and they want to join you. Here’s where your extra hot dogs and hamburgers can make your neighbor’s visit more welcome.

Who said holidaying on the cheap can’t be fun?

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