Why travel when you can vacation at home?

Good News

While there's absolutely no statistical evidence to back the claim, it seems to me that August is the most unproductive month of the year.

Think about it. You're in the office while the sun is shining outside, only, unlike June and July, you know summer's sweet days are numbered. Each tick of the clock reverberates in your head, bringing you ever closer to the inevitable death knell of patio season.

Suddenly, all you can think about is lounging outside with a cold drink and a magazine, because pretty soon it will be another year before you can leave the house without a parka. Plus, doesn't it seem like everyone you've ever met is on vacation this month? That's because they are. You are literally the only person left in the city.

Don't despair. Even if you can't get away on holiday, there are plenty of ways to make the most of being homebound. This weekend, why not pack a bag with snacks, a water bottle, a guidebook and a camera and try being a tourist in your own town.

"You tend to get into a rut when you live in the same city. You go to the same places, you travel the same route to work or to your leisure activities, but when you cast that aside and try to think how a tourist would think, you can discover corners of your world that you didn't know existed," says Jantine Van Kregten, Director of Communications for Ottawa Tourism.

The idea of re-treading the same territory you've passed a thousand times may not inspire the same excitement as a trip to Hawaii, but that's just because you're not thinking about it the right way.

For starters, no matter how many days of the week you walk, cycle or commute up a particular street, chances are you don't know much about the history behind the familiar storefronts.

"People tend to take their cities for granted," says Bruce Bell, a popular Toronto-based tour guide. "I love people to walk away from my tours with that knowledge [of our history], so when they go down a particular street the next time, they know they're going up where battles were once fought during the rebellion of 1837."

No matter what part of town you're from, chances are there's a stack of ready material detailing the fascinating history of the spot you're standing on right now. Check your library or bookstore's local history section, or run a quick web search and see what comes up. Then put on your sneakers and go check it out with new eyes — and appreciation.

While you're already there, why not visit a neighbourhood you rarely venture past? A simple five-block detour can open up a world of new adventures.

"In a normal day why would you ever go into a park in another neighbourhood?" asks Van Kregten. "But if you're treating your city like you're on vacation you can discover some really cool places to have a picnic, or splash pads for your kids, or play areas that you didn't know existed before."

If you're looking for something livelier, take advantage of the activities and festivals your city has to offer. You may not think your local museum is as interesting as the museums in, say, Paris or New York, but imagine it this way: there are people who actually travel from their home countries to come see your museum. So why wouldn't you?

"I shouldn't even admit this because it's embarrassing, but my husband has never taken the tour of Parliament and he's lived in [Ottawa] for 25 years," says Van Kregten with a laugh. "It's shocking and yet I can see how it happens. We keep saying we'll do it someday but whatever the city's big attraction there are always people who haven't been there. And you kind of shake your head, how can that be?"

Even if you're armed with a catalogue of brilliant excuses not to check out an art show during the work week, you're on vacation now. And what do people do on vacation? They go to museums. See how simple that was?

Plus, there's an added advantage to your new-found expertise: "I think it makes you a better tour guide when you have visitors from out of town," she adds. "It's always great to bring them to your old standbys, but it's better to have more options in your arsenal."

If you're still not convinced, try this on for size: Touring your own city can actually make you a more interesting person.

"Canada is such a diverse place. There are stories, there are moments and experiences to treasure everywhere. I think opening your mind to these experiences makes you a better citizen. And that's really what a vacation is."

Hear that? All you need is to redefine your definition of holiday to make a vacation happen anywhere. Now grab your sunglasses, hit the pavement and have a fantastic trip.

(Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press