Staycations: A Trend That's Here to Stay

Cycling a series of pretty trail bridges to St. Peter's Bay | Guy Wilkinson
Cycling a series of pretty trail bridges to St. Peter's Bay | Guy Wilkinson

By Robin Esrock

Backpacking along Vancouver Island's beautiful coast

The upheaval of Covid is doing its part to evolve, adapt and birth new trends, with destinations and certain types of activities becoming more popular in its wake. Consider the trend towards glamping – glamorous camping that offers the comforts of a hotel room in an outdoor environment. There’s a trend towards quality experience over quantity; sustainable responsible travel; to spend more time being active, outdoors, and immersed in nature. Perhaps above all else, there is a trend to discover the little-known wonders of our own backyard.

The famous Grotto, Bruce Peninsula National Park |  <i>Elise Arsenault</i>

International tourism has been plagued by confusion, uncertainty, and shifting goal posts. As of writing, double vaccinated travellers need a negative test to board a plane, a negative test to arrive, a negative test to depart, a negative test to get home. Is that a PCR or antigen test? Depends where you go. All these considerations cost money and time, and it might count for nothing depending on next week or next month’s official health guidelines. Determined travellers will always jump through hoops of fire, while others will simply cast their eyes, interest and dollars to far more accessible adventures. This brings us to the trend that has become rather popular since the beginning of the pandemic, and one that likely stays long after it ends: the staycation.

Vineyard in the Okanagan Valley |  <i>Nathalie Gauthier</i>

Keeping it local – whether that means sticking around your town, city, province, or country - comes with many obvious advantages. Experiences are easier to access, are more affordable, and are significantly lighter on the administrative headaches. Time saved on transit translates into time spent on your vacation. Beyond these benefits, you’re also supporting your battered local economy, from hotels and restaurants to attractions and shops. Of course, it’s not all apples to apples. Nobody should be claiming that a Canadian art gallery is the Louvre or substitute Toronto for Paris. However, when it comes to outdoor adventure, the lines can get a little blurrier. Cycling, hiking, kayaking are physical pursuits wherever you choose to do them, and hiking the stunning coastline of New Brunswick or BC is as stunning as hiking a beach anywhere. In my experience, cycling through beautiful wine country holds the same appeal in Niagara or the Okanagan as it does in Napa Valley or Tuscany. The wines measure up, it’s a lot easier to get to, more affordable, and you get to bring home more bottles when you avoid duties and restrictions at international borders.

'The Cribbies' on Newfoundland's East Coast Trail |  <i>Barrett & MacKay Photo</i>

I often hear: why should I visit Newfoundland when I can fly to Ireland for the same price? Many Canadians have a habit of assigning more value to experiences that are far away than those that are closer to home. Yet Newfoundland and Ireland, I can assure you, are not the same place. Only one will give you a much better sense of Canadian place and culture. Only one will make you feel more at home, so that the next time you hear of news from St John’s, you will have a frame of reference. Still, flying to Newfoundland from Ontario or Alberta is not exactly a staycation; it’s more of a Canadi-cation (a word I just made up, shortly to become a trend of its own!) Geographically, a staycation is typically close to home, but fortunately for those enthusiastic or curious about outdoor adventure, Canadian options are limitless. Unlike parts of Europe where simply finding wilderness is an adventure unto itself, Canadians rarely have to drive more than an hour or two to find untapped, pristine natural beauty. This holds true whether you’re on the West Coast, in the Prairies, the Maritimes or Central Canada. We have access to a bountiful network of outstanding provincial and national parks, not to mention hiking trails, bike tracks, lakes, rivers, mountains and forests. Whether you’re new to the outdoors or not, a Great Canadian staycation can easily be an adventure of a lifetime. As tourism recovers, more people than ever will be content to keep it local. If that includes you, rest assured that when it comes to the great Canadian outdoors, there’s always somewhere to go, and definitely something to do.

Robin Esrock is a renowned travel journalist and the bestselling author of the Great Canadian Bucket List.

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