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Travel with Alicia Underlee Nelson, Baseball, Movies and the News

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Alicia Underlee Nelson
Alicia Underlee Nelson

Today's Segments:

  • Alicia Underlee Nelson - Travel and Staycations
  • The Potato Ball Caper
  • Matt Olien reviews the movie "Immaculate," and reflects on the Fargo Film Festival.
  • News Director Dave Thompson talks about his newsletter, reviews the news and chooses his own "walk-up" music on this opening day of major league baseball.

Alicia Underlee Nelson:
It's too late for spring break.It's too soon for summer travel. What can be done when you are still in a vacation kind of mind? Alicia Underlee Nelson is a travel writer and you can read all about her at PrairieStyleFile.com. What would be some elements for you for a staycation?

Transcript of Interview:

Alicia Underlee Nelson

Well, I think the first thing that we need to remind ourselves is that even places that are familiar to us, the place that we live or the place that we visit, maybe every weekend to go shopping or to visit family, that is still a vacation destination for someone else. So what is familiar to us is exotic to someone else. So you don't have to go very far to find a place that can be a little bit of an adventure.

So I like to think about the kind of experiences that I like to have on vacation and think about how I can recreate that close to home. Now, and I think this is really exciting too because I have heard so many reports of people like coming from Bismarck and spending time in Fargo and like really living it up, like getting a bunch of girlfriends together or couples or having a kind of a romantic staycation closer to home. And I think that's really exciting because you don't have to go far, you don't have to spend a lot of money, but you still feel when you kind of treat yourself to these kinds of experiences that maybe you wouldn't have a special dinner or getting manicures and pedicures with your friends or maybe a spa day, the kind of thing that maybe you only splurge on if you're in a different city or a different state. You give yourself permission to do that on a random Saturday, everything seems a little bit more exciting. And I think the biggest thing for a staycation for me is make sure that you're doing those really indulgent things, those things that feel like a treat.

So kind of make a list of what feels like, oh, I couldn't do that on a weekday because I have to be responsible and go to work. Okay, what is that thing that you would love to do? Go to movies all day in the afternoon, take off on a Friday and go sit at the Fargo Theater and watch movies all day?

Yeah, why not? You can do that if you live here. I think really leaning into what you enjoy or making a dent in that list of restaurants that you wanted to try for weeks and months and it keeps growing, that can feel amazing.

And the other thing that I think is really important, if you're doing a staycation, whether you're doing it in your home city or your home state, or you're going maybe a short day trip away, is to pay more attention to the lodging option than you normally would. Now, normally, for me personally, I'm kind of a location, location, location person, right? So I want the best value, but the understanding that maybe I'm not going to be in my hotel room or my Airbnb very much.

But with a staycation, I think it's kind of okay to splurge a little bit to maybe if you're in a hotel loyalty program to use those points. They go a long way toward properties in the Midwest, so you can get upgraded a little bit. A lot of hotel properties around the region are also, if you have like a boutique hotel that you follow, they have really great weekend stay options where they're going to upgrade you, or they're going to give you some cocktails, or they're going to give you something to make it an experience you don't have to work so hard.

I think that's really important because I have had some really epic staycations. One of them under duress, my husband had a non-refundable hotel room for a concert he was supposed to go to during the pandemic. It was a great hotel.

It was actually Hotel Emory in Minneapolis downtown, and he really wanted to go there, but it was like, well, it's paid for, and it's non-refundable. So we went, and we wore our masks, and we got food delivered, and we splurged a little bit, upgraded our room so that the two of us and our son could like really relax. We watched a bunch of Las Vegas, which is my husband's favorite comfort TV show.

We watched a Las Vegas marathon, saw these beautiful views, went walking in downtown Minneapolis, got a bunch of food. There's Spy House coffee right on the premises. So anything that kind of has a lot of built-in entertainment is going to be a good option for you.

So splurge on the place with the great gym. Splurge on the place that has a steam shower or, you know, an upgraded bathtub or the hot tub in the room. Like, now is the time.

Treat yourself. You don't even have to leave the hotel room if you don't want to. This is your permission.

And actually, I have a long history of staycations. When I was growing up, I grew up about 30 miles north of Moorhead, and we didn't have a lot of money, but my parents loved to get away. And so we lived in a really small town.

So if you're from a small town, you know there's maybe one place to eat in town. If you're real lucky, there's two and a gas station perhaps. So for us, it was incredible to be able to go to a hotel room.

And we would get nothing fancy at all. We'd get something like a Super 8, right? We'd roll up, my mom, my dad, my brother and sister and myself, and we would order pizza every night if we wanted.

And we would get to watch cable TV, which we did not have. And there was a pool, okay? And now anybody that's traveled with kids knows that even the most so-so hotel pool is going to feel kind of epic when you're in the right mood.

And you know we'd do that, and we'd go to West Acres. And it wasn't like we didn't go to West Acres on the weekends when we came to town anyway. We did.

But this was different because I got to rent. This is back in the renting movies days. So yes, I'm aging myself.

I got to rent a gym in the holograms, and eat takeout pizza, and stay up as late as we wanted. And it felt so indulgent, and it felt so fun. And I have a friend who for milestone birthdays will ask me recommendations for great hotels around town, and do much the same thing.

You know, she'll log in. She has her Netflix and her Hulu passwords, and she'll watch shows. She'll eat everything that she wants to eat.

She'll hang out. She'll take long showers, and she doesn't have to clean up afterward. It's fun, right?

So like, you can do that alone, solo if you want. Or you can do something similar with a bunch of friends. It feels really indulgent, but we're Midwesterners.

We need permission to do that. And this is your permission.

Ashley Thornberg

Okay, that is the fourth time now that you've said the word permission. So let's talk about that because there is something, you know, I would never go out to eat three times a day normally, but that's kind of the norm on vacation. Sometimes we'll book a place so we can make breakfast and pack a lunch or what have you.

But this idea that you can cultivate that wherever you are, what do you think it is about maybe specifically the Midwestern stoicism that we grapple so much with this idea of permission?

Alicia Underlee Nelson

I think we feel guilty. We feel guilty having too much fun. We feel guilty spending too much money.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, I don't need to do that. No, of course not. We don't need to look at art either.

We don't need to listen to music either. We don't need it to live except when you talk about mental health. But I think we need it.

That's the difference. See, we don't need it physically immediately to stay alive from moment to moment, but we need it for our souls to feel connected to people around us, to feel a deeper sense of purpose, to feel wonder. These things are so important.

I was helping a friend of mine plan a birthday trip. She wanted to go back to Minneapolis-St. Paul. She said, well, I'll just go one night so I can be back.

I said, why? You have all this time off. Why not stay another night?

Well, I don't need to stay another night. No, of course not. But why don't you?

She stopped a moment. She said, you know what? I don't know.

I don't know why, but that's our gut reaction. I mean, I think her reaction is very typical. We say, I don't need that.

I don't need to go out every day. Oh, I don't need to spend that kind of money. Except if we are lucky enough to have it, none of us is getting out of this life alive and we're not taking any of that with us.

So I'm not encouraging people to live beyond their means. I'm not encouraging people to go in debt to travel out of the country or even to travel in your own town. But if you have a little bit to spare, I think you can find great dining out experiences for about the same as you spend for fast food.

And that's a different experience that you're having. It's something that feels special. It's something that you'll remember.

And we can do that. You know, we're not bad people if we treat ourselves every now and again. And I think getting in the habit of doing that is really transformative.

I believe very strongly that bring out the good in China, buy yourself flowers, sit on the deck and enjoy the sunshine a little extra time. Your kid wants to go to a movie, take them out. Why not?

Make it a double feature because we only get a limited amount of time to enjoy the things that we love and to spend time with the people that we love and to explore the interests that make us want to get up in the morning. And I think so much of the time we put our heads down, we work hard and there's almost a culture of martyrdom around people that like to, I haven't used my vacation in 15 years. That makes me so sad because we have that for a reason.

It's necessary for our mental health, for balance, to help pour into our families and our friendships and our own mental well-being. It's there for a reason. And sometimes things happen.

I get it. Sometimes money's tight. Sometimes we don't have a lot of time.

Sometimes we want to use that time and energy for different things and those funds. But I think if we get out of the habit of not treating ourselves well, whether we're traveling far away or we're doing something fun close to home, I think it becomes harder and harder to give ourselves permission, there's that word again, to do that. And that's part of the human experience is being out and enjoying life and being together.

And you and I, before we started recording this, we're just talking about the Caribbean. And I think when I traveled in that region, I'm especially thinking about time in Puerto Rico. The things that we did there were just what the locals were doing.

And it wasn't anything fancy. We just would bring a cooler to the beach and buy some stuff from the vendors. And we got to listen to everybody else, listening to their music and picnicking and hanging out.

And I just like, it was so cool to listen to people chatting about how they did this every weekend. They did it every Thursday after work. There are things that we can build into our own lives here.

We don't have to wait for summer. We don't have to wait for our designated vacation week if we don't want to. We can take a weekend right now and do it.

You can do something indulgent and take a Wednesday off in the middle of the week if you want. Like there's so many ways to live kind of outside of those responsible, respectable Midwestern boxes that we put ourselves into. It's fun to be thrifty.

I love it too. But it's still a bargain to go and have a staycation in Grand Forks or Bismarck or Fargo or even Minneapolis or pop up to Manitoba. It's still affordable.

So we can still feel good and virtuous about that, but have a little fun too.

Ashley Thornberg

What about the idea of being very literal with this term staycation? Maybe it's even a blizzard and you literally can't get out your door.

Alicia Underlee Nelson

Oh, I love this.

Ashley Thornberg

Chocolate chip pancakes?

Alicia Underlee Nelson

What are we doing here? Absolutely. If the pandemic taught me anything, it was how many interesting ways that I could find to amuse myself.

And I know it might be too soon to bring that up for many of our listeners today. But think of the things that we really dove into, whether that was baking or fun. Everyone made sourdough bread all the same.

Ashley Thornberg


Alicia Underlee Nelson

It blizzarded this weekend and I made two loaves of pumpkin bread and about 7,000 pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. So like that instinct is strong. So I think do something that you enjoy.

Pull out those art projects. Get a stack of library books. Oh man, you don't have to spend any money at all.

You don't have to go anywhere. I just, I put a bunch of books on hold and magazines and bring them back and have some nice coffee and then switch to tea later in the afternoon and read and watch the snowfall.

Ashley Thornberg

I've been giving myself permission to go to bed at eight.

Alicia Underlee Nelson

Oh, that's wonderful. We need that. We don't have to use every single hour of the day.

Sleep is super important. Yeah. Yeah.

Sleep in, take naps if you want. I mean, there's so many amazing things that we can, and I say do, but what I kind of mean is like not do. I read an article and I wish I could remember where it was now, but they talked about rotting in bed.

And I thought that is like such a disturbing image, but they're like, no, that is the level of activity that I aspire to. And by activity, I mean no activity. And I thought that is really hard for me as a person.

So I've been trying to do like my version of that, which is just ease.

Ashley Thornberg

Being cozy.

Alicia Underlee Nelson

And quiet and rest, you know, lighting candles, using the good China, ordering food in if you want to, getting that pizza delivered, just telling yourself I'm taking a Saturday maybe or a Sunday of rest, that old fashioned thing that, I mean, many religions from the dawn of time have told us that a day of rest is important. A time of rest, a time to disconnect and be still matters. So we know this in our bones, but we resist it just as hard.

Ashley Thornberg

You know, NPR had an interesting series years ago on bored but brilliant and the kinds of things that happen in your brain when you do rest. And we're seeing this happen with workplaces shifting over to a four-day work week and seeing retention rates higher, employee happier, and productivity increase.

Alicia Underlee Nelson

Rest, balance. And our brains think differently when there's room and time and space to dream and to sort of sit in soft focus, to do something with our hands that doesn't necessarily require our brains. The science of the human brain is that's how we've evolved through most of our history.

So we're at peace with that. So if you're kneading sourdough bread, like we were talking about, or maybe you bust out some watercolor paints, or you start, it's almost time to start planting seeds for the garden and putting those in the windowsill, the perfect time to do that. You can make a staycation of doing these nice little tasks.

I like to put on, you know, the radio or put on podcasts that I like, put on some music, an interesting playlist, and just see what happens. Just putter around. I think we've really lost the ability to do that.

And I think at the heart, the staycation is sort of like the vacation version of puttering, you know? Because it's a place that you know, you've removed that pressure of, I must see everything, I must do everything. Because if you miss something, guess what?

You live nearby, you can do it again. And that's kind of a huge relief that I try to bring a little bit of that everywhere that I travel. Because there's always this human desire that I'm going to see everything, I'm going to fully understand this place before I go.

And of course, that's not possible. It's not even possible for places that we lived in our whole lives, if that's our situation. Places are always evolving, we're always evolving.

So I think if you remove that pressure, and just let yourself lean into what you enjoy, and you know, putter around, wander around, whether that's your own house, or your own city, or a place in your own state, and you will find things that surprise you. And I think that's what we really crave from those mental health days when we take them. That's what we crave from vacations, when we take them.

The challenge is starting, taking that first step, clocking out, turning off the notifications to your phone, if you can dare to do it, and giving yourself time to just be, and to see what occurs to you in the silence, and then that next step, to see where you want to go next. And to be okay with not knowing, be okay with if somebody says, what did you do on your weekend away? Or what did you do on your Sunday off?

Just say nothing, because you know what you did, you rested, and that's enough. If that's all you do, that's enough.

Ashley Thornberg

Travel writer Alicia Underlee Nelson on staycations, and for your next staycation, I wish you non-voyage.

Alicia Underlee Nelson

Oh, beautiful. Same, same.