I’m sitting here watching the steam rise out of the coffee mug in my hand, trying not to look out my window. Everything out there is covered in snow.

Not the light fairy tale snow that dances down and coats the trees with powdery-white dazzle, transforming the world into a winter wonderland. Oh no. This is the half-slush, half-ice gray melty gunk that’s sticking resolutely to my windows despite the near-hurricane winds accompanying it. This is winter as only the Midwest can do it.

So why on earth am I here?!!

Empty Beach

Why am I not here…?

Well, partly because there’s this little American holiday we call Thanksgiving happening this week. Since I’m in the Continental US, I have no valid reason not to go mingle with distant relatives and try to explain how Charles Manson is getting married before I am while sneakily adding vodka to my coffee from a hip flask.

(Kidding, mom…)

Plus there’s all those unexpected expenses I occurred while traveling, like my car getting struck by lightning, that I have pledged to get on top of before hitting the road again.

So while it’s taking every bit of self-restraint in my body not to book a ticket to Punta Cana right now (wheeee, credit cards!) I’m here “enjoying” this blizzard from the middle of America’s giant proverbial cornfield.

Getting hit with the wanderlust bug when you can’t do anything about it happens to all of us. (Okay, most of us. To my friends living in Bali right now, I hate you. You’re dead to me.)

The good news is, even if you’re not one of those full-time globe-trotting folks, you can still scratch your travel itch without leaving the country. Or even your house. Travel is a state of refreshed curiosity in which we see the world in a new light. There are ways to duplicate that mindset right where you are, wherever that might be.

(No, none of these are a substitute for real, soul-expanding adventure, but think of them like a travel snack to hold you over.)


1. Try a new hobby

If you live in a town with a community center, sign up for a class. Sushi making, figure drawing, creative writing, hot yoga. It doesn’t have to lead to new career; just pick something that looks interesting and give it a whirl. Trying new things is one of the best parts of traveling, but you can really do it anywhere.

Low on funds? The internet is full of free tutorials. I learned how to code websites through internet tutorials just because I thought it was fun and now I earn a living doing it (okay, so sometimes it can lead to a new career).

Or you can learn to make an origami Yoda and give a bunch to your friends for Christmas. Trust me, it’s the perfect gift.

The point is that the break from your daily routine will engage your mind and give you that same little energy boost you get from travel.


2. Read a book.

I was traveling with books long before I ever set foot out of my door. Books can take you to worlds that only exist in your imagination. Reading, to me, is the ultimate form of travel. You’re not limited by reality. If you need ideas, check out this list of books recommended by travel bloggers.

(Personally, I would add I Grew My Boobs in China and The Geography of Bliss.)

Reading gives us someplace to go

If you’re not much of a reader, try an audiobook. Audiobooks are my favorite part of road trips. Currently I’m listening to Dan Brown’s Inferno. I love Dan Brown books because he describes architecture and historic monuments so vividly it feels like you’re actually running through the streets of Italy.


3. Write a book

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a writer; it doesn’t have to be any ‘good.’ Just write something! Create a world (check out Jaime Buckley’s epic Advanced Worldbuilding guide) and set your characters loose in it.

Laptop on Desk

Just write.

Although things have been a bit quiet over here on the blog front lately (sorry about that) I’ve been writing my heart out for the NaNoWriMo challenge, which is to write a 50,000 word novel by the end of November. My book has nothing to do with travel (unless you count traveling through different realms). It’s young adult fantasy that will most likely never be seen by another human.

I don’t even care. Working on this book has reminded me of the simple joy that comes from doing something I love.


4. Create a tour of your hometown

While living in Greece I got to know this fantastic, free-spirited couple from London. One night over beers they were telling me about how they had made up their own tour of the “real London.” Sadly, I missed them by the time I got there, so I never got to experience it, but it got me thinking of what a fun idea that would be.


Having a camera sort of gives you a free license to be a stalker.

Even if the town you’re in doesn’t have traditional tourist appeal, put together an imaginary tour that you’d take visitors on. Head out with a camera and a notebook and see your own city from a fresh perspective. Pretend that you’re describing it to someone on the other side of the world.

This is also a great tip for aspiring travel writers/photographers. Start locally and uncover the “hidden treasures” in your own neighborhood. Shoot some pictures of an old building from an interesting angle. Interview the owners of a mom & pop diner. I did this once and got free pie out of it (you guys…free pie!)


5. Play a video game

You might be surprised, but it turns out video games aren’t the giant waste of time your mom said they were. According to Psychology Today, people who play video games actually exhibit increased cognitive skills, social development, and emotional benefits.

Games can also take you through breathtaking, exotic scenery, and while it’s not the same as seeing something in person, it can allow you to escape into another world for a brief period of time. Personally, I love exploring new zones in World of Warcraft. It’s one of my favorite parts of every expansion.

Nagrand World of Warcraft

When is Richard Branson going to start building floating islands? I feel like that should happen.

It also stimulates my imagination and gives me a creative boost.


6. Have a staycation

I am the queen of staycations. Sometimes I think I get almost as excited to do nothing as I do to go somewhere.

Go out and try a local restaurant you’ve never been to. Hit up a cheesy Festival of Lights display. Bundle up and watch a holiday parade. Treat yourself to an afternoon at a day spa. Check out a children’s museum (even if you’re an adult.)


Or take a mid-day nap. This cat knows what’s up.

Do the things at home that you would do if you were out on the road. This can help break up the monotony and combat cabin fever.


7. Plan your next trip

Even if you can’t go anywhere for months, research has shown that the anticipation of planning a trip can actually be more satisfying than the trip itself. Pull out your bucket list, research the best time to visit the hobbit holes in Matamata, New Zealand (February!) and start planning.


Photo by Anup Shah

Go into all the details. Think about what you’re going to see, what you want to eat, and what you want to do. Check out a Lonely Planet guide, or reach out to a travel blogger who has written about your destination of choice for some ‘off the beaten path’ advice. We’re friendly. We only bite on occasion.


Note: I have also tried taking my laptop to the airport and hanging around with the hopes that a handsome stranger will come along and ask me to join him for a weekend in Tahiti. The only men this seems to attract so far are suspicious-looking TSA agents, but I’m not giving up.



Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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  1. Jaime Buckley    

    Well, I’m not in the Midwest–I get to see the bright, crisp, fluffy snow we’re world famous for here in Utah. That’s why everyone comes here to ski and snowboard.

    Annoys the crap out of me. Probably because I don’t ski…or snowboard.

    …but I do an amazing impression of an avalanche.

    You use a flask (sorry mom) while I’m here fermenting the last of the seasons apple juice into spiced cider….(alllllmost ready) and my first round of home made sauerkraut to add to the festivities on Thursday.

    Never been to Bali–but since I think I know who you’re talking about, let me add that I have created my own slice of heaven by multiplying the beauty of my Samoan wife (with a little plash of German/Irish) into 12 comical treats I call my kids. We even get to hear the amazing sounds of our son Nathan as he sings and plays the Ukulele.

    So to your friends in Bali I say, “Neener.”

    Ok, let’s go through this…because I always love to do as you suggest and try to stretch outside my U-Haul Box.

    I have been trying new hobbies. Not much success. Wanted to master playing dead, but the little kids just laugh and jump on dad. Macaroni sculptures is a no go–and I have to say, I’m SO impressed with the talent these preschoolers! No matter what I try, I can’t get my creations to stand up or stick.

    …are you supposed to add glue or something when you boil the noodles?

    Read a book? I was going to read The Hobbit to my kids, like my mom did every year with us, but you grabbed my attention with that “I Grew My Boobs In China” title. Gave me an idea for my own book. I’m a big guy, been down the road of no exercise and depression…I have some experience in these matters.

    How about “I Grew My Boobs With Pepsi and Laziness”??

    Kinda catchy. Maybe shock men into getting to the gym…Hmmm (could be a niche there).

    Oh, HEY! You recommended my Advanced Worldbuilding guide? Thank you, Mandie =) The funny thing is–since NaNoWriMo, I’ve had requests to expand on that book. Create modules for specific aspects people want to create and build in their worlds.

    I’m so happy you did the challenge. Just for the experience, because I can completely relate to the love and passion for writing. It’s the best…and I love crafting fantasy worlds for people to wander about. (BTW–if you like audiobooks, shoot me an email and I’ll send you Demoni Vankil if you don’t already have it).

    I LOVE the idea of creating a tour of your own town! Kathi and I have done this–and the twist we put on it came from my dad: We tour the food.

    In any town you go to, there is a food culture. The fantastic thing about food, is it binds people and opens doors to conversation. We live in a tiny town…but I found out that in one of the side streets, where the buildings are over 100 years old, when everything was surrounded by farms–there’s a small hole in the wall, with the most incredible soup and sandwiches…from rare meats.

    Just let your imagination simmer on that one.

    Video games is a given and I’m with you. I loved WoW for that reason. In fact, when I started playing EverQuest, people would laugh at me–because the half elf Ranger named Cork, would run across zones just to explore…even though all the creatures wanted to eat me.

    Staycations aren’t easy for me (us). It’s the head count. Sooooo, I try to do it late at night or over a weekend and involve everyone. Like now, when it snows…as long as I have food, fire and family, life truly is blissful. We live right on the county line and out our front door is an epic hill to sled down.

    >insert giddy laughter here<

    Plan a Trip–this is actually happening for me, unbeknownst (yet) to Kathilynn.

    Next year is our 25th Anniversary (December 5th). I want it to be special. I'll be saving and doing any extra job all next year to save…and I want it to be BIG. we have a family party…then we pack up and leave for a week. My hope is Northwest. Oregon and Washington. Cabin. Seafood. See a play, explore the countryside.

    Great article, Mandie. You always inspire me to get out of the office…and I need that.

    1. Mandie    

      I love fluffy snow!! But then, I do snowboard…badly. Okay, mostly I fall on my butt and throw snow at people, but that counts, right? I’ll come visit you and surround myself with your children…they’re soft and squishy if you fall on them right? Isn’t that how children work?

      I don’t actually have much success with hobbies either. I got really excited about jewelry-making for about 5 minutes – I have a whole box full of beads and crystals in the closet to show for it! I do love puzzles….so does my cat.

      I’ll see your “I Grew My Boobs With Pepsi and Laziness” and raise you “I’m Still Waiting for My Boobs to Show Up”…

      I love eating at hole-in-the-wall joints – they seriously have the best food ever. Ummm, rare meats though…I’m suddenly feeling very vegan.

      Being snowed in can lead to the best staycations ever! I remember when we were kids – only 5 of us, though – we used to get snowed in and make our own pizzas from scratch. We would each get to roll out the dough and put anything we wanted on ours. Then we played games and did logic competitions. Yeah, that last one is what happens when you grow up with a philosopher professor for a dad. But it was great!!

      Congrats on 25 years!! Wowzers. Oregon is perfect. I think you and I have very similar ideas of paradise (if you substitute cats for children, in my case).

      Thanks, buddy 🙂

  2. Jaime Buckley    

    Let just say I substituted cats with children.

    <——-DEATHLY allergic to cats.

    1. Mandie    

      I understand! I’m deathly allergic to children. 😉

  3. Jaime Buckley    

    “Noooooo, she’s just kidding! QUICK–Go give aunt Mandie a GREAT BIG HUG!!”

    > Twilight Zone music rising to a crescendo <

  4. Maha    

    UBER good’un, Mandie! Especially the flask!

    Flapping about in Imbabura…buenas noches!

    1. Mandie    

      Haven’t seen your face around here in a while. But I’ve been following all your adventures! 🙂

      Thanks for saying hi, my dear!

  5. kelli    

    Hey Mandie
    This was a really great post, and it is a nice reminder that we can have fun no matter where we are, even if we would perhaps rather be doing something else. That urge to travel and not being able to indulge right that second is something I am familiar with, and it can be kind of sucky, but you gave some great tips for giving that energy another outlet.

    That is awesome you are writing that book and even if you don’t do anything with that, spending time doing something you love is allowing you to bank some great energy and positive momentum towards manifesting some great stuff that can show up in any area of your life. I’ll bet it is pretty great.

    I perhaps may be one of the Bali people you are referring to, and if it makes you feel better, I’ll be back in NJ by the end of the week, suffering through winter with everyone else! Have a happy holiday and hopefully your family won’t annoy you too much!

    1. Mandie    

      Haha, Kelli…you guys MIGHT have been some of the Bali-dwellers I was referring to. 😉 (I was totally being facetious, though!)

      Yes, it does make me feel much better to know you’ll have to suffer through winter, at least for a little bit, with the rest of us shmucks. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving as well, and thanks for popping over!!

  6. Charles McCool    

    How about these?

    – eat a new ethnic restaurant
    – go to a local ethnic festival (Greek festivals are awesome!)
    – listen to foreign language radio / TV stations
    – watch a travel show
    – visit your local library
    – teach someone English (learn about their country)
    – armchair travel through blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, Travel Channel shows, etc.

    1. Mandie    

      Greek festivals are the best!! Unfortunately, we’re a little past festival season here now. 🙁

      I don’t own a tv, but I would love to volunteer to help someone learn English. I’m not sure if the town I’m in right now has any options like that (it’s pretty small) but I’d certainly be open if the opportunity arose.

      As for armchair travel…I’m gonna have to disagree with you there. Reading other travel blogs tends to make my wanderlust a lot WORSE! Haha

      Good tips, though – thanks for adding some great ideas!! 🙂

  7. Patricia Anderson    

    Hi Mandie,

    I can relate to this post as I am not much of a traveler but I read books and I love staycation! Sipping a cup of coffee… in a flask 😉 while reading a book is heaven for me. I believe that happiness is a choice, wherever I am, I can find happiness because I want to. I believe that it is because joy is not a feeling but a flow of energy that emerges from your inner Core. And even although people, situations, objects or events may evoke joy, they are not the source. It is our choice!

    Thanks for this great post!

  8. Krystal    

    Great post! It’s a perfect time to find this article too. I was just bemoaning the fact that I never have time to travel anymore, and then I had to kick myself in the butt for overlooking the fact that I live in Tokyo. I don’t know at which point it stopped feeling like I was traveling, but it happened. Thank you for reminding me that there are tons of small, hidden places that I can go and discover. I think when I go back home to FL for Christmas I’ll try out your interviewing tip. I may be shy, but if there’s potential for free pie, I’m in!

  9. Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom    

    I love every single one of your suggestions! That origami Yoda – coolest thing ever!!!

    Staycations can be so much fun! I occasionally make an itinerary and act like a tourist in my own city. I’m often amazed at the stuff I discover when I start digging around and planning for things to do.

    Video games – YES! If I didn’t have kids I could go days on end immersed in a game!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Wishing you a lovely weekend.

  10. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)    

    hehehe, I loved that last part about walking around with the laptop hoping you’ll find someone to take you to Tahiti!! There are some great tips here. I feel like I’ve “travelled” an insane amount just from the journey of blogging itself and like you say, taking up any kind of new hobby can have that effect. A friend told me about nanowrimo a few years ago and I always was tempted – maybe I should give it a go one year and challenge myself!

  11. Alize Camp    

    The easy way to travel without going anywhere that sit down and view gallery somewhere on the internet, via the Facebook, other social networking or even some travel blog. It’s a good way to travel, right ?

  12. Agness of aTukTuk    

    Great tips, especially when you cannot afford to spend money traveling. Keep up the good work, Mandie!

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