For many years, I didn’t have paid time off from my job. And when I did, it was usually one I had to wrangle to get in order to attend a professional conference. But now that my life is far more stable than it was in my 20s, both professionally and personally, I have more time to take breaks and I’ve found breaks are necessary for my mental and physical well-being.
So I did something wild recently: I took a vacation and did nothing but read.
I didn’t leave my house, except for some groceries and to donate a bag of clothes to Goodwill. I didn’t plan to go anywhere with my time off except to the library (twice). I dedicated more than one paid day off work to do little more than make a dent into my to-be-read list. This wasn’t a reader’s retreat — though that dream will happen in the future — but rather, it was a staycation with books. A readcation.
My readcation was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I highly suggest scheduling one for yourself as soon as possible.
Not sure how to do it? Not sure what you’d do with yourself for three or four days in your house with your books? Here’s a handy guide to making yourself a readcation.
Pick time that works for you
This one is obvious, but pick a time when the conditions for staying in and getting to reading business will best for you. For me, that’s when I know I’m going to have the house to myself for a period of time. My readcation happened when my husband decided he was going to our alma mater’s homecoming celebrations, meaning I’d have two solid days by myself in the house. I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone, and I wouldn’t feel compelled to socialize with someone unless I wanted to.
What’s nice about a readcation is that you can work it in any time you want to. Tough to get time off during the summer from your job? Take a readcation when you are able to take a chunk of time off. Do it in the middle of the week. Do it over a weekend. Do a little bit of both. You’ll want at least two days for readcation benefit, so work it in when you know you’ve got the time to do it — and won’t be asked to pay attention to your day job or other obligations.
Stock the pantry
You’re not going to work out during your readcation and you’re certainly not going to be following a diet. Let yourself enjoy this vacation and buy yourself that bag of candy and that bag of chips and also that pizza at the store. Pick up your favorite beverage or and make sure your coffee or tea supplies are well-stocked.
Aim for a mix of all the taste sensations. Get yourself sweet, salty, savory, and sour. You’ll start to crave whatever you don’t have around book 4 or 5, so just have it on hand so you don’t need to interrupt your reading to run to the store for what it is you didn’t know you needed. You know.
Hit the library
About a week before your readcation arrives, put books on hold at the library. I recommend putting a few titles from your to-be-read list on hold, and enjoy when they all come in the Thursday before your long-weekend readcation. Try to pick up books in a variety of formats from across different genres and age ranges.
But don’t stop there.
When you get to the library to pick up your pile of books, make sure you browse, too. Gravitate to your favorite sections and pick up a book or two or seven that catch your eye. You want to go into a readcation with some planning, as well as some freedom to discover new books.
If you prefer buying your books, you can use this same method. Buy a title or two off your to-read list, then pick up a book or two while browsing. There are few reader pleasures more delightful than stumbling across a great read by happenstance.
There’s also a great opportunity here to try out your library’s ebook system or to pick up an audiobook or two. Maybe you’ll get sick of sitting down or need to do some pesky house errand like vacuuming or dishes (snacks can get messy!). Plug in your headphones and listen to a book. Likewise, sometimes you get tired of print books and want to switch up to an ebook. Variety is key.
This might be the hardest part for many, but it’s also the most rewarding: unplug. Turn off your computer, turn off your smart phone, turn off the television. If it’s nice enough, open up your windows and listen to nature while you read. Do not answer your email, your Facebook notifications, your Tweets, or anything else where people can reach you. This readcation is all about you, baby, and anyone who needs something can wait.
Even if you’re meticulous about things like updating Goodreads, force yourself not to do that. Let the books you read accumulate in one spot, then at the end of your readcation, do one large update. You aren’t going to forget the things that matter about those books.
I love the internet, but I also recognize how valuable unplugging is for my reading life. I find myself sinking deeper into story, immersing myself in an entire experience, when I answer to no one. You’ll survive, as will anyone who depends on you reaching out to you electronically.
Pull the snuggie or slanket out of the closet. Find your most comfortable leggings or flannel pants. Dig out the awesome socks and slippers you own. Grab as many pillows as you can handle.
If you’re going to read outside, you’ll also want to grab a good blanket or two to do that, if you don’t plan on lounging in a hammock or other outdoor furniture. I’m a fan of the blanket on the grass method, but you do you.
One of the best things about a readcation? There’s no a dress code. So you can begin it the second you roll out of bed . . . or when you’re still in bed . . . and keep on reading until you fall asleep. Maybe still in bed. In your jim jams and slanket.
Feeling wild? You can also read from the comforts of your bathtub. Just have a towel nearby so when you get your hands wet, you can dry them off before turning the page. Though this might be a perfect time to try an ebook.
Host a reading party
This is an optional step, but it’s one I found a lot of great pleasure in: throw a casual reading party. Invite the people in your life who are big readers and who will use a day to do nothing but read with you. Tell them to bring a tote or two full of books, lay out snacks and drinks, then get to it.
During my reading party, we did a show and tell of what books we had with us, why we brought them, and then periodically, we’d talk about what was/wasn’t good about what we were reading. It was a fantastic, laid back bonding opportunity over books and reading, with no need to feel like we had to engage with one another in any way while we were nose-deep.
Those who are really adventurous can host a reading slumber party, too. That might be a great time to break up your reading with a film or two based on a book. If, you know, you want to stop reading.
Dedicating a chunk of time to reading and nothing else is a gift you give to yourself. Let yourself have it, and have fun while you’re doing it. Sure, you might not be on a beach or in a ski lodge or hiking a mountain on your vacation, but who cares? It’s your vacation and you’re using it exactly how you want to. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than buying plane tickets, paying for a hotel room, and eating out for every meal.
Remember, too, it’s quality, not quantity that counts. If you’re not enjoying the book at hand, put it aside and pick up another. Change formats. Change genres. Pick up a massive tome and read it for four days or pick up 15 tiny books and read them in one.
Choosing the gift of uninterrupted time to read is truly that — a gift.