How Being a Tourist in My Own City Helped Revitalize My Marriage
It's amazing what a change of scenery — even if only a few miles away — can do.
I’m sitting at the hotel bar eagerly waiting for my date. He’s late, but when he arrives, his smile and bright eyes light me up immediately. After a few drinks, we head up to the suite. But this isn’t a high-end first date or a one-night stand — it’s a staycation. Six years ago, we stayed at New York City's Park Lane hotel on our first night as a married couple. So much had changed since, including the property.
The dark paneled wood at Harry’s New York Bar — where I’d celebrated in 2017 — was gone and replaced by a modern vibe complete with neon and live plant walls. It looked great, and the place was packed. As a native New Yorker, I typically scoffed at tourists — but I secretly enjoyed pretending to be one on occasion. To me, going to a hotel located right on Central Park (although only four miles from my apartment) qualified as a mini getaway.
In fact, it was something I’d dreamt about as a young girl. In one of my favorite movies, "Barefoot in the Park," Jane Fonda and Robert Redford play honeymooners staying at the Plaza. At the end of their week-long staycation (spent entirely indoors), Paul (played by Redford) returns to work and they plan to meet at their new Upper East Side apartment.
The idea of staying somewhere like the Plaza as an adult — even though I lived in NYC — seemed exciting. But it became a forgotten memory from youth.
Now, 30 years later, I was finally getting to experience a version of that one time film fantasy.
During this staycation, we also went to the Plaza, which was decked out for the holidays. We wandered into Central Park, exploring nooks and crannies we had never seen before, like the streets of a foreign city being visited for the first time.
Initially, a staycation came purely from necessity. Since the pandemic began, my spouse and I were extremely cautious, and air travel was off the table. We were also reluctant to leave behind our goldendoodle. That meant finding ways to include our dog in our travels, whether driving to a rented house outside the city or finding pet-friendly hotels.
When I turned 40 in the fall of 2020, my husband took me to a high-end Brooklyn hotel for the weekend. It was one of the best gifts and became a family tradition I now cherish.
Travel plans and dreams faced more complicated obstacles. Two years of IVF treatments put our family in a literal standstill. All the endless appointments, scheduled retrievals, and requirements of the process meant planning something in advance was usually impossible.
A sense of control wasn’t the only thing that dissipated. Pleasure became purpose, which affected intimacy. We’d conceived naturally twice — though both ended in loss — but IVF rendered our physical connection technically unnecessary. Fertility trauma infiltrates the healthiest of mindsets and strongest of marriages.
It felt like there was no escape from the ongoing roller coaster — that is, until we took a staycation, and it unexpectedly brought a certain excitement back. It reinvigorated parts of our relationship that had become stagnant.
Vacations may carry presumptions and pressure to fill time wisely. If you've ever heard someone say, "I need a vacation from my vacation," you know what I mean.
But during a staycation, everything feels organic. There’s no pressure or expectation. It’s a short reprieve from reality — without actually being that far away from it.
For us, it’s a mental and physical departure from the ongoing grief of trying to have a baby. We’re a family of three, off on a little adventure, where nothing needs to be fixed or figured out.
It’s a time to be present — the cliched decadence of ordering room service in bed or enveloping yourself in a giant, soft blanket — the kind that feels like a cloud you can stay inside. It’s an invitation to lounge in a plush bathrobe — something you don’t own at home, and if you did, it’d likely be for drying only. But here, it’s a luxury — intended to be utilized and enjoyed.
The fact that you don’t have to stray far from home to have a transformation is thrilling, but also convenient. A short ride to a place where the stressors of daily life briefly don’t exist.
Recently, all three of us returned for a sleepover at The William Vale in Brooklyn — a sixth anniversary gift. Reality demanded a lot from us, but on a staycation, my worries stopped at the "Do Not Disturb" sign. For a moment, time — that thing I worried about — was of no consequence.
We relaxed and drank spiked ciders at Lucky Dog, the local bar for dog owners. Dinner was takeout from nearby Italian restaurant Antica Pesa. I ate my favorite — the cacio e pepe — on a tray on the hotel bed, and we watched a horror movie. Usually, this all included devices and the frequent movements of home life. But here, no distractions from each other were necessary. I felt a state of calm.
Ironically, right outside the balcony, our apartment building could be seen across the river. A body of water separated us, and yet it felt so far away. The next day, we grabbed coffee and walked home across the Williamsburg Bridge.
We have truly benefited from these mini staycations. They have tightened our bond and reminded me that, sometimes, you don’t have to do much to romanticize your life and relationship. All it takes is a few miles between you and home.
For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on Travel & Leisure.