The 24-hour vacation

Whether you’re looking for a quick escape or a walk on the wild side, see what a difference a day makes

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What can you do with 24 hours? You’d be surprised. Whether you’re overdue for a break or just need a boost, an overnight holiday can be the answer.

Imagine it: an entire day and night to do whatever you please. Short breaks are on the rise, and for good reason—trying to pack it all into two weeks a year just doesn’t cut it. You can’t cram relaxation, just as you can’t brush your teeth for eight hours straight to make up for a week without a toothbrush. Weaving rest into the fabric of our existence helps us stay healthy and vital. And, according to Nora Spinks, a Toronto work/life balance consultant, many women need to “pause and rejuvenate so that they can continue giving at the pace that they’re currently giving.” She says it’s like safety instructions for airline passengers—you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others around you.
And so we have dreamt up the following 24-hour escapes, yours for the taking.

The relaxer
The indulger
The adventurer

The relaxer

Breathing lessons
For just 24 hours, bring the frantic pace to a halt: no radio, TV, computer or telephones. “Catch your breath,” says Spinks. The first hour can be challenging, she says, “because the mind is rushing and rushing.” Spinks suggests unwinding by writing lists—”done,” “I’m grateful for” or personal achievement lists, not the to-do kind. And since the point is to treat yourself, consider booking a massage (covered by many health plans) or even pooling resources with a couple of friends and hiring a yoga teacher for some in-home instruction. The benefits are sure to extend beyond the lesson.

Film fest
Rent a series of movies you’ve always wanted to watch and view them all in one sitting: take the journey to Mount Doom with the halflings in Lord of the Rings or make it a Bergman or Hitchcock retrospective, watching three or four in a row. Don’t worry about what’s happening outside your door—except when the pizza guy rings the bell. For Cathrine Qua it was all about Scorsese, a favourite director of her husband’s. The pair watched Good-fellas, Bringing Out the Dead and Gangs of New York back to back, ignoring the phone and household chores in favour of in-depth conversations on the nature of directing. “It opened up a whole area of discussion that we wouldn’t normally have,” she says. “Usually we talk about work and groceries…we don’t get a chance to talk about art and life that way.”

One of the girls
Need a dose of friendship, love and laughter? Take your 24 hours to catch up with girlfriends at someone’s house or a cottage. Chat till late, eat junk food, sleep in. “What I crave is a complete break from the routine of cooking, bedtime and so on,” says Lisa Stuart, stay-at-home mom to Samantha, 7, and Edward, 5. While Stuart’s overnights are packed with shopping, exercise and good food, she says that the real attraction is intense connection with other women for 24 hours—no outside responsibilities allowed.

Book it
When was the last time you sat down with a book and read without interruption? There’s the obvious restorative value of reading, but consuming a book in one great gulp is also a vastly different experience from nibbling through, a few pages at a time. To enhance the experience, start the day with a trip to your favourite bookstore so that you can pick up something you’ve been dying to read. Then, that evening, get a group of like-minded friends together to discuss the book or go online and make some virtual connections. For chatting, visit Chatelaine.com’s book club forum. The Globe and Mail offers a book club with chats, reviews and recorded readings by bestselling authors. And at the CBC’s Writers & Company website, you can listen to recent shows online.

Water therapy
Don’t have the time or the budget for a pool membership? For a small fee, many hotels and spas offer day passes to their whirlpools, saunas and pools. Some even have poolside snacks and spectacular kid-friendly equipment such as multi-storey slides. Check with local hotel chains such as Hilton, Delta and Days Inn, pack a swimsuit and spend the day playing water polo, diving for pennies or perfecting your jackknife dive. Or simply relax and lie on your back and let the water carry your troubles away.

The indulger

The perfect party
If you love to stay out late but dread the next morning’s responsibilities, why not start your holiday at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night? You can take your time getting dressed, then dine, dance, hit the after-hours clubs and come home as the sun comes up. With the next day as your vacation, you can sleep in as long as you like and spend it recuperating in your pyjamas. And once your 24 hours are all used up, guess what? You’ll be just a couple of hours away from getting ready for bed again.

Art and soul
Spend hours in a local art gallery, nose to nose with the masters or brilliant modernists. Stand close enough to a painting to see individual brush strokes. Run your fingers over a silken bone sculpture that could almost be living flesh (but only if the security guard lets you). On your way home, visit an art supply store for materials and return home newly inspired to paint, sculpt or draw your heart out, with your favourite music wafting through the house. If you’ve got school-aged kids, make it a family event and exhibit everyone’s work at the end of the day.

Suite dreams
Why stay in a hotel in your own city? To watch in-room movies, order room service, sleep in a different bed. To be away without going far and cocoon without looking at dirty laundry. “When I’m at home, even if no one else is, all I can see is the work to be done,” says Pamela Allan, a marketing consultant. “I wanted something to let me delay my obligations and avoid my responsibilities for just one night.” Allan’s energy-charging change of routine left her with a luxe feeling for the price of a week’s groceries. Better yet, get that Air Miles reservation clerk on the line.

Gourmet for a day
Sign up for a daylong cooking course and learn the secrets of chocolate truffles, perfect pastry or sensational French sauces. Let yourself muse on the nature of sweet French butter and dark Valrhona chocolate as memories of frozen entrees, hastily stuffed in the microwave, melt away. Or take an early-morning excursion to a local market, European-style. Treat yourself to exotic or obscure ingredients for the complicated recipe you’re yearning to try. If consuming is more your speed, pass the day letting someone else cook for you. Map out a culinary pilgrimage through town, visiting three favourites, must-tries, unknowns or one of each. Let your appetite be your guide.

The adventurer

Escape on two wheels
Rather than getting behind the wheel, get on two for a heart-pumping change of scenery. Most major cities have extended paths through and out of town; if you live in the country, you can go in any direction you choose. Pick up a guidebook of local bike routes (available at bicycle and book stores) or, if you’d like to make new friends and ride in a group, check the Internet for cycling clubs in your area. Remember, it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts, so stop and look at anything that catches your fancy. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch (or $20 to buy something delicious), lots of water, sunscreen, a bike lock and a magazine for reading under a big tree.

Same city, new look
How is it possible to live in a city boasting the world’s greatest suspension footbridge, yet not know the accompanying park from that vantage point? Or to live in a town famous for jazz clubs, but to have never soaked up the heady mix of stale air and racy riffs? Instead of seeing the city through a utilitarian lens—grocery store, doctor’s office, bank, school—look at it through fresh eyes. Visit a museum or planetarium, eat in a famous restaurant, wander around an aquarium, walk by the water. Remember why your hometown is such a great place to live.

Go back to school
Try skydiving, waterskiing, driving a race car, glass-blowing, sailing, horseback riding, rock climbing…. For a single day, immerse yourself in the pursuit of a new skill that is completely unrelated to your daily life. Contact local clubs or associations for how-to details. You may need a change more than you need a rest.

A ticket to ride
Wish fulfilment for the truly spontaneous, especially if you can stretch your 24 hours to 36 or 48: grab a credit card, hop in a cab and make for the nearest airport or train station. Step up to the counter and request a ride to whatever destination moves you. When you get to Mystery City, set yourself up with a toothbrush and start exploring. Don’t want to spend money on a hotel room? Combine romance, transportation and destination by booking yourself a sleeper car on an overnight train (check out www.viarail.ca for options). Or if you’re looking for a thrill on a budget, try air and rail web-savers, choosing the cheapest one-night journey…anywhere. It’s hard to beat the adrenalin rush of surrendering to fate.

Walk on the wild side
Roll up a sleeping bag, a pup tent, enough food for 24 hours and make for the nearest wilderness. “Your time is used up with simple details, your most fundamental needs and very basic pleasures, so your real world disappears very quickly,” says Brandi Zebrak. Because you’re only going for a day, the packing list can be uncomplicated. As Zebrak says, “Anything you forget to pack, you just live without.” Hike by day, cook over a campfire, soak up the majesty of a night sky unencumbered by electric lights. “There is no more peaceful feeling than sitting on a rock at sunset drinking a cup of fresh coffee,” she says. (If you’re going alone, let the park ranger and a friend know your co-ordinates and when you expect to return.)

What can you do with 24 hours? You’d be surprised. Whether you’re overdue for a break or just need a boost, an overnight holiday can be the answer.

Imagine it: an entire day and night to do whatever you please.Short breaks are on the rise, and for good reason—trying to pack it all into two weeks a year just doesn’t cut it. You can’t cram relaxation, just as you can’t brush your teeth for eight hours straight to make up for a week without a toothbrush. Weaving rest into the fabric of our existence helps us stay healthy and vital. And, according to Nora Spinks, a Toronto work/life balance consultant, many women need to “pause and rejuvenate so that they can continue giving at the pace that they’re currently giving.” She says it’s like safety instructions for airline passengers—you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others around you.
And so we have dreamt up the following 24-hour escapes, yours for the taking.

the relaxer

Breathing lessons
For just 24 hours, bring the frantic pace to a halt: no radio, TV, computer or telephones. “Catch your breath,” says Spinks. The first hour can be challenging, she says, “because the mind is rushing and rushing.” Spinks suggests unwinding by writing lists—”done,” “I’m grateful for” or personal achievement lists, not the to-do kind. And since the point is to treat yourself, consider booking a massage (covered by many health plans) or even pooling resources with a couple of friends and hiring a yoga teacher for some in-home instruction. The benefits are sure to extend beyond the lesson.

Film fest
Rent a series of movies you’ve always wanted to watch and view them all in one sitting: take the journey to Mount Doom with the halflings in Lord of the Rings or make it a Bergman or Hitchcock retrospective, watching three or four in a row. Don’t worry about what’s happening outside your door—except when the pizza guy rings the bell. For Cathrine Qua it was all about Scorsese, a favourite director of her husband’s. The pair watched Good-fellas, Bringing Out the Dead and Gangs of New York back to back, ignoring the phone and household chores in favour of in-depth conversations on the nature of directing. “It opened up a whole area of discussion that we wouldn’t normally have,” she says. “Usually we talk about work and groceries…we don’t get a chance to talk about art and life that way.”

One of the girls
Need a dose of friendship, love and laughter? Take your 24 hours to catch up with girlfriends at someone’s house or a cottage. Chat till late, eat junk food, sleep in. “What I crave is a complete break from the routine of cooking, bedtime and so on,” says Lisa Stuart, stay-at-home mom to Samantha, 7, and Edward, 5. While Stuart’s overnights are packed with shopping, exercise and good food, she says that the real attraction is intense connection with other women for 24 hours—no outside responsibilities allowed.

Book it
When was the last time you sat down with a book and read without interruption? There’s the obvious restorative value of reading, but consuming a book in one great gulp is also a vastly different experience from nibbling through, a few pages at a time. To enhance the experience, start the day with a trip to your favourite bookstore so that you can pick up something you’ve been dying to read. Then, that evening, get a group of like-minded friends together to discuss the book or go online and make some virtual connections. For chatting, visit Chatelaine.com’s book club forum. The Globe and Mail offers a book club with chats, reviews and recorded readings by bestselling authors. And at the CBC’s Writers & Company website, you can listen to recent shows online.

Water therapy
Don’t have the time or the budget for a pool membership? For a small fee, many hotels and spas offer day passes to their whirlpools, saunas and pools. Some even have poolside snacks and spectacular kid-friendly equipment such as multi-storey slides. Check with local hotel chains such as Hilton, Delta and Days Inn, pack a swimsuit and spend the day playing water polo, diving for pennies or perfecting your jackknife dive. Or simply relax and lie on your back and let the water carry your troubles away.

the indulger

The perfect party
If you love to stay out late but dread the next morning’s responsibilities, why not start your holiday at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night? You can take your time getting dressed, then dine, dance, hit the after-hours clubs and come home as the sun comes up. With the next day as your vacation, you can sleep in as long as you like and spend it recuperating in your pyjamas. And once your 24 hours are all used up, guess what? You’ll be just a couple of hours away from getting ready for bed again.

Art and soul
Spend hours in a local art gallery, nose to nose with the masters or brilliant modernists. Stand close enough to a painting to see individual brush strokes. Run your fingers over a silken bone sculpture that could almost be living flesh (but only if the security guard lets you). On your way home, visit an art supply store for materials and return home newly inspired to paint, sculpt or draw your heart out, with your favourite music wafting through the house. If you’ve got school-aged kids, make it a family event and exhibit everyone’s work at the end of the day.

Suite dreams
Why stay in a hotel in your own city? To watch in-room movies, order room service, sleep in a different bed. To be away without going far and cocoon without looking at dirty laundry. “When I’m at home, even if no one else is, all I can see is the work to be done,” says Pamela Allan, a marketing consultant. “I wanted something to let me delay my obligations and avoid my responsibilities for just one night.” Allan’s energy-charging change of routine left her with a luxe feeling for the price of a week’s groceries. Better yet, get that Air Miles reservation clerk on the line.

Gourmet for a day
Sign up for a daylong cooking course and learn the secrets of chocolate truffles, perfect pastry or sensational French sauces. Let yourself muse on the nature of sweet French butter and dark Valrhona chocolate as memories of frozen entrees, hastily stuffed in the microwave, melt away. Or take an early-morning excursion to a local market, European-style. Treat yourself to exotic or obscure ingredients for the complicated recipe you’re yearning to try. If consuming is more your speed, pass the day letting someone else cook for you. Map out a culinary pilgrimage through town, visiting three favourites, must-tries, unknowns or one of each. Let your appetite be your guide.

the adventurer

Escape on two wheels
Rather than getting behind the wheel, get on two for a heart-pumping change of scenery. Most major cities have extended paths through and out of town; if you live in the country, you can go in any direction you choose. Pick up a guidebook of local bike routes (available at bicycle and book stores) or, if you’d like to make new friends and ride in a group, check the Internet for cycling clubs in your area. Remember, it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts, so stop and look at anything that catches your fancy. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch (or $20 to buy something delicious), lots of water, sunscreen, a bike lock and a magazine for reading under a big tree.

Same city, new look
How is it possible to live in a city boasting the world’s greatest suspension footbridge, yet not know the accompanying park from that vantage point? Or to live in a town famous for jazz clubs, but to have never soaked up the heady mix of stale air and racy riffs? Instead of seeing the city through a utilitarian lens—grocery store, doctor’s office, bank, school—look at it through fresh eyes. Visit a museum or planetarium, eat in a famous res-taurant, wander around an aquarium, walk by the water. Remember why your hometown is such a great place to live.

Go back to school
Try skydiving, waterskiing, driving a race car, glass-blowing, sailing, horseback riding, rock climbing…. For a single day, immerse yourself in the pursuit of a new skill that is completely unrelated to your daily life. Contact local clubs or associations for how-to details. You may need a change more than you need a rest.

A ticket to ride
Wish fulfilment for the truly spontaneous, especially if you can stretch your 24 hours to 36 or 48: grab a credit card, hop in a cab and make for the nearest airport or train station. Step up to the counter and request a ride to whatever destination moves you. When you get to Mystery City, set yourself up with a toothbrush and start exploring. Don’t want to spend money on a hotel room? Combine romance, transportation and destination by booking yourself a sleeper car on an overnight train (check out www.viarail.ca for options). Or if you’re looking for a thrill on a budget, try air and rail web-savers, choosing the cheapest one-night journey…anywhere. It’s hard to beat the adrenalin rush of surrendering to fate.

Walk on the wild side
Roll up a sleeping bag, a pup tent, enough food for 24 hours and make for the nearest wilderness. “Your time is used up with simple details, your most fundamental needs and very basic pleasures, so your real world disappears very quickly,” says Brandi Zebrak. Because you’re only going for a day, the packing list can be uncomplicated. As Zebrak says, “Anything you forget to pack, you just live without.” Hike by day, cook over a campfire, soak up the majesty of a night sky unencumbered by electric lights. “There is no more peaceful feeling than sitting on a rock at sunset drinking a cup of fresh coffee,” she says. (If you’re going alone, let the park ranger and a friend know your co-ordinates and when you expect to return.)