Nope, it doesn’t cost thousands (or even hundreds). You don’t need to fly, take a train or even drive. You don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe. Girlfriend, you don’t even need to leave your house!

You crazy, girl! (That’s what you’re thinking, right)?

Not at all! You can have a wonderful little retreat right in your own backyard, and you can do it throughout the year. Just take a page from the French, who know how to relax like it’s their business

How French vs Americans Relax:

The French take their off-time very seriously. Most of them get at least 3 weeks a year of vacation, not including holidays and government days (of which there are plenty)! They demand off-time because they realize how invaluable personal, spiritual and mental rejuvenation is to the ultimate happiness and production of the rest of the country overall. The very act of daily life is an art (from purchasing a fresh baguette in the morning to a glass of regional wine at night) and so any down-time is treated equally as special, and is experienced to the fullest amount of pleasure possible.

The rest of the world (and especially us Americans) value our vacations just as much, but on a different level. It’s almost like we dredge through the whole year in anticipation for 2 glorious weeks off. Sadly, I know many people who end up never even doing anything fun during their vacation time, nevertheless going someplace! Many of us just stay home and work on the house, stressing out over our home projects and complaining that we haven’t been on a real vacation in years.

Number one excuse: No time.

Number two excuse: No money.

The French Secret

Here’s the thing: you don’t need to spend lots of money to enjoy time off! Vacations don’t just happen in St Tropez or Hawaii, they can happen in your own backyard.

IMAGINATION!

You can enjoy yourself, exactly where you are, by using your imagination and making your life a work of art. If you stay home for the weekend, turn that dull stay into a fabulous, decadent mini-retreat! Treat every waking moment as treasure! Be conscious of everything you do, eat, watch and read. I promise you that when you’re more mindful, even a simple stay-at-home weekend can become a fabulous getaway.

If you have difficulty enjoying yourself at home, you need to change your mindset about what vacation means to you. When we hear our friends talk about traveling to beautiful countries, relaxing by a hotel pool, splashing in the clear ocean water at a tropical island, we either get inspired to find a way to do the same or get sad and envious that we can’t. Choose the former–the latter emotions are boring and old hat. Who wants to be boring and old hat anyway?

What you need:

1. A full weekend off.

2. No commitments to anyone or anything.

3. Complete your errands and chores BEFORE the weekend starts. This includes housecleaning, grocery shopping, and shopping for items you’ll need for your retreat.

4. Turn on your vacation auto-responder.

5. Create a relaxed and stress-free environment, as much as possible.

6. I-M-A-G-I-N-A-T-I-O-N

1. Pick a Country

Is there a country you’ve always wanted to visit? Picking and “living” a country is ideal for a weekend retreat from home.

The week before your “vacation,” find a new restaurant (one that you haven’t been to) and make a reservation to have dinner there the next Saturday. Plan it with friends, or solo. If your friends can’t make it or cancel at the last minute, commit to going to going by yourself. If you were in another country, and your girlfriend decided to hang out in her hotel room by herself, that wouldn’t stop you from going out to dinner, would it? Pretend you are a tourist and make friends with the other diners. This is easier to do when you are sitting in the bar area or at a circular table surrounding a chef. Go out and live!

For the rest of your meals, go online and research that country’s food and prepare those meals yourself. Eat breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner from that country.

If your country speaks a different language, rent some movies in that language. Don’t watch anything else. The secret here is to immerse yourself in that other language, as if you were really in that other country. Set a goal to learn a few phrases.

Visit the bookstore and buy a book on that country. Read it as if you were going to visit the next day. Immerse yourself as much as you possibly can!

Bonus points: Have a party at your home with this country as the theme. Ask your guests to bring a dish from this country and to dress in the appropriate style. Play that country’s music in the background, or watch a movie together. Make it festive, as if you were visiting a fabulous, popular nightclub.

2. Pick an Environment

Pick your favorite: desert, mountains or beach!

If you live near any of these environments, get out for a day and hike or lay out and get a tan!

Make your retreat as enjoyable as possible by creating a deluxe picnic basket, borrowing a beach read from the library, downloading new music onto your iPod and buying your favorite snacks. So often, we forget how available our favorite things to do in nature are because we’ve got so many errands, chores and busyness in life to take care of. This weekend, commit to no commitments and immerse yourself in your favorite environment.

Bonus points: Spend the entire weekend in your favorite, local environment. Buy a new bathing suit, hiking shoes, flip flops, hiking outfit and/or floppy hat. Try a new place that you haven’t been to and learn the history of that place.

3. Pick a Theme

What’s your favorite type of vacation: relaxed or more active?

Relax

If you enjoy spa retreats, create a spa environment at home. A few weeks before your “vacation,” clean your home. Get rid of clutter and have Goodwill pick up your donations. Create a calm, meditative environment.

If you can afford it, schedule a massage at your favorite spa or try a new place. If a full massage is out of your budget, indulge in a manicure and pedicure. Another option is to do your mani/pedi yourself. If you choose this, opt for a new color and nail system. My favorite is a Revlon battery-operated nail filing and buffing system. I also recommend choosing nail colors that are made without the “Toxic Trio,” toulene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde, the latest chemicals added to the list of known carcinogens. Remember, this is a relaxing, spa retreat! Treat yourself as best you can, and stay away from anything unhealthy.

For home, find a new bubble bath, bathtub pillow, thick, fluffy towels and therapeutic bathroom mat. If you can, invest in more luxurious brands. Imagine you are at a high-end spa and immerse yourself in abundance.

Download some relaxing spa music and add it to your mp3 player, or listen to a fun, light-read on audiobook.

Buy a fresh bouquet of your favorite flowers, and sip from sparkling, flavored water in a plastic champagne glass. Enjoy your warm bath!

Finally, clear out your fridge and pantry of any unhealthy food. Think of it this way: What would you be served at a spa retreat? Organic fruits and vegetables, skinless chicken, spicy quinoa and couscous, and lots and lots of fresh and sparkling water! There are tons of books on healthy “spa” foods, so check them out at your library or bookstore.

Active

If you prefer more active retreats, find a competition and schedule your retreat for that weekend.

Opt for smaller endeavors so this mini-vacation doesn’t turn into a full-on, months-long preparation. Ideas include 5 and 10ks, walks for causes, mini swimathons and long bike-rides.

If you prefer a more personal approach, find a new workout at the gym or a new bootcamp.

Buy a new outfit, and shoes if you need them, for this active retreat. Remember, it has to be special! You’re not just going to the gym as you normally would do. Commit to doing something new and different.

Finally, in all your mini vacations: TURN OFF THE SOCIAL MEDIA, EMAIL, PHONE and INTERNET! (Seriously, I cannot stress this enough)!

I would love to know what your favorite mini-vacation ideas are? If you take off the next two days (and I mean no chores, errands or social media) what special retreat can you create for yourself? Please comment and share below!

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