Bring travel closer to home

Julie Bielenberg

Whether we’re all still under the order to stay at home because of COVID-19, or we’re able to start venturing out again, here are a few ideas you and your family can do to experience the excitement of traveling without having to go very far.

Stay connected

A fun activity for families to stay connected is by doing puzzles together. To inspire your next vacation idea, why not put one together of your favorite or dream destination? In fact, Liberty Puzzles, in Boulder, has been creating handmade, wood jigsaw puzzles for decades. Their colorful artworks are made of plywood with screen prints, drawn by local artists. They have more 600 puzzles online, including a map category with more than a dozen cities and countries. You can also submit your own drawings and maps for them to print.

When life returns to normal, and it’s safe to go out again, Liberty Puzzles offers free weekday tours (M–F) of their factory from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. for groups of six or less. Tours are usually about 10 minutes long, then you can browse their inventory. They also have a retail location on Pearl Street Mall.

Get a little fresh air

Getting outside for a little exercise is necessary, and Colorado has more than 1,000 hikes from which to choose—whether it’s a trail through wooded pines, a loop around a lake, or just a trail through the neighborhood. The Colorado Trail Explorer app (COTREX) is a great resource to select a trail. Just determine your starting/ending points and the distance for your journey. Be aware of trail closures and always check the app before embarking. If we’re still practicing social distancing, be mindful of others, and select a time to avoid crowded/peak times to ensure your safety and that of others.

Map your next adventure

Do you have an old issue of EnCompass or other magazines around the house? If so, use them as to inspire your next adventure. Using colored paper or carboard to make a panorama background, or even a few sheets of paper taped together, and cut out pictures, words, and letters from the magazines to create a treasure map or a vacation inspiration board—both seem to look the same in our house. Then, use another color in the background to make images pop and stand out. You can get a little creative by adding in footprints, water to swim, and stickers to make a path.


Create your own cultural experience

We have had to take to our kitchens, pantries, and stock-piled freezers like never before. Cooking at home has taken on a new priority, and, in many cases, a new appreciation. For your next dinner idea, try choosing a theme and create a menu around a favorite place you’ve visited, a destination you want to experience, or a special cuisine that enlightens your soul.

Before you begin, make sure you have all the ingredients. Find an appetizer, salad or soup, main course, vegetable, starch, and even a cocktail or beverage that brings your destination together. Set the table to reflect your destination’s culture, even matching napkin colors, dishes, and glasses to tie in the theme. Don’t forget the music, too. With the ease of a streaming device, simply ask for your favorite selections. There are stations that will even help form a playlist for you for an eclectic evening. You can add even more enthusiasm for the experience by having everyone dress up for the dinner.

Capture magic in a bottle

While on vacation, we often collect sand, seashells, or rocks as sentimental tokens to commemorate our trip, but when we get home, they wind up hiding in a box or drawer. Dig them out, and find an empty jar, or other clear container, to create your own magical scene. Maybe it’s a scene of the South Carolina seashore you recreate with layers of sand, shells, and stones. You can even add some food dye to alter the color of the sand throughout the layers. Or perhaps choose to create a Pacific rain forest in your jar, using layers of stone, pine needles, fern leaves, and pinecones. No matter what memory you choose to capture, you can visit it anytime.

Julie Bielenberg is Colorado’s leading dude ranch and agritourism writer, and regular contributor to EnCompass.