Just before her vacation last year, Joye Marino hired a housecleaning service to wash all her windows, scrub and wax the floors, dust the baseboards and woodwork and polish the furniture. She had her car detailed inside and out, and paid a couple of neighborhood kids to pull weeds, mow the lawn and mulch the flower beds outside her Baltimore bungalow.
Then she settled in for a week at home.
"When I came home on my last day of work, this place was just gleaming. It was so delicious," says Marino, 69, owner of Joye's Hair Salon. She poured herself a glass of wine and repaired to the backyard hammock to celebrate her upcoming holiday.
"When I tell people what I did, their reaction is, 'What a fantastic idea, I haven't had clean windows for years.' "
For about $600 worth of services, Marino fashioned a vacation with time aplenty to luxuriate in the house she works hard to maintain the rest of the year. She made definite plans to see friends and pursue hobbies. And because cooking is not her idea of a vacation, she loaded up on "indulgent" goodies, including crab cakes, shrimp and chocolate and pistachio ice cream.
She also, happily, sidestepped the hassles of modern travel: booking affordable transportation and lodging; packing; schlepping to catch a plane; fighting traffic; fretting about schedules; then rushing to take in every cathedral, theme park and discount mall within 20 miles. She has no regrets about forgoing the option of spending 24 hours flying to Australia (not long after knee surgery) then running around trying to catch up with old friends there.
Others might find the Marino model worth considering.
The key here, she says, was deciding just how she wanted to spend her precious downtime - starting with taking care of household chores in advance.
"If I hadn't gotten all this done while I was working, I would have come home and said, 'Boy, I have the week off. I'm going to wash the windows and really clean the house.' ... I would have gone back to work just as exhausted, if not more so, than when I left," she says. "I didn't want to waste vacation time having things done while I was home. What I needed was downtime."
She made time for the crafting she loves to pursue in her highly organized basement workshop. The main vacation project was making a stained-glass window for the kitchen of the house she calls "an ongoing art project."
After nine days spent at what essentially was Joye's Gourmet Art Camp, she returned to her salon more refreshed, she believes, than had she taken a conventional vacation.
"I just wanted to lay back and enjoy my sparkling house. I'd get up every morning and fill all the birdfeeders, make crunchy peanut butter sandwiches for the squirrels," she recalls with a throaty laugh. "I'd sit out here with my coffee and say, 'Damn, isn't this lovely?' "