I Used These Tricks To Transform My Lunch Hour Into Vacation Time

With just an hour a day -- your work lunch hour, specifically -- you can explore new places, try new things and have a variety of adventures.
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These days, we are always on the go, and trying to fit everything we can into our days doesn't leave many opportunities to do something for ourselves. Even if a vacation isn't in the cards for you this year, that doesn't mean you can't scratch your travel itch! With just an hour a day -- your work lunch hour, specifically -- you can explore new places, try new things and have a variety of adventures.

Here's how:

Buy a guidebook to your hometown. Reading how outsiders perceive your hometown is a great way to get to know it better. You might not have visited some of the most popular attractions since you were a child!

Gamify your sightseeing. Make a goal that you can reach over a period of time: Visit all of the top 10 sites your guidebook recommends, or venture to three different neighborhoods, or make it to five museums. Lunch at the top-rated restaurants or try to outdo your guidebook and find even better options!

Get a membership to your favorite museum. A year-long museum membership usually costs roughly as much as two to three visits and often comes with extra perks, like invitations to members-only events. Plus, at larger museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, it's practically impossible to see all of the collections within just one visit. A membership means you don't have to worry about seeing everything in the museum in one day; rather than cramming it all into one long visit, you can do several short visits on lunch breaks throughout the year.

Fill your calendar with local events. Find an online event calendar for your hometown and add everything that sounds interesting to your personal calendar. With all the information at your fingertips, you'll know when to squeeze a special event into your week.

Start a quest to find the best food in the city. Guidebooks are packed with recommendations, but crowdsourced sites and apps like Chowhound, Yelp and Foursquare are great for discovering local gems. Dive into foreign cuisines you've never tried and ask the server what his or her favorite item on the menu is!

Another option? Search for the best version of your hometown's signature dish. Live in New England? Go on a chowda hunt. Reside on the coast? Search for the freshest fish tacos. And down south you could eat your way through mountains of amazing soul food.

Break out your camera. Sure, you take photos of all things scenic when you go on vacation, but why not try it out at home, too? Uncover the beauty all around you by giving yourself a simple theme: photograph things that are blue. Or things made of metal. Or objects in groups of three.

Or you could grab selfies at your local landmarks. As a Seattleite, wouldn't it be great to have a photo of you in front of the Space Needle? And doesn't every Brooklynite need a photo in front of the Brooklyn Bridge? This is a great time to get those photos!

Choose a "beach read" that's close to home. Tuck into a history book on your hometown, or a biography or memoir of a notable local. Plan some lunch-hour strolls based on settings in the book, and soon you'll be seeing familiar places in a totally new light as layers of history come into view. (There's nothing like tracing Ben Franklin's storied steps through Philadelphia or walking through a Revolutionary War-era building in Portsmouth, N.H.)

Get active outside -- in a new way. You might not be used to working out or being active in the area by your office. But why not start now? To get exercise to feel like a vacation, just add the element of adventure. If you're lucky enough to live on a river, like in Austin, Texas, or Minneapolis, spend your lunch hour kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding!

But perhaps the best way to stay active while exploring your hometown is to hop on a bike. Within an hour you can cover a lot of distance in your community. Not only will you improve your health, you'll also return to work refreshed and ready to focus again.

Even if all you have is an hour a day, you can still feel like a traveler without ever leaving your town.

The best experiences pack a punch of flavor into your everyday life, just like in Odwalla smoothies, protein shakes and bars, where you can enjoy great-tasting nutrition through a wide variety of the season's most delicious bounty!