by Macie Staheli, contributing writer
Travel advisories and bans in relation to Covid-19 have left many families dreaming of airline tickets to destinations, seafoam skies and taupe Hawaiian sand, and passport stamps leading to spoonfuls of sweet peach gelato in the streets of Vienna.
Mandy Douglass, a Utah County wife and mother of two boys, Bryson and Chad, is no exception. After weeks of quarantine, and spring break on the horizon, Mandy lay awake at night wondering how she was going to match last year’s Carribean Cruise, their first big family destination vacation. Her mind went to all the places she wanted her boys to experience. Even with airport closures and social distancing wearing thin, she still wanted them to experience the world together as a family.
Mandy decided to make their spring break a staycation. She made a list of places for her family to experience each day of the week. Tuesday became Italian themed with a travel itinerary of activities. A game of Jenga became the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Next, they’d toss a coin in a local fountain, and finish out the night making Italian cuisine: calzones with gelato for dessert.
The home travel vacation took off as a family collaboration, filling out the rest of the week.
“I wanted their [her kids] input. So the night before each day, I’d give them a list of ideas,” Mandy said. “They gave me their two cents and in the process we came up with many fun things together.” Even her husband got involved, sacrificing two days of work to be part of it all.
What their “trip” took in preparation time to plan, it made up for in the lack of shopping lists. “The whole idea really is that we aren’t supposed to be leaving home to go to Target everyday to find something for our kids to do,” Mandy said.
She thought of things that needed to be done around the house anyway, such as going through the boys LEGO bins. What better way to get a job done than to turn it into a California Legoland adventure and LA-style take-out from In-N-Out Burger?
Though a little hesitant to post pictures on social media of her family’s adventures, Mandy thought it was important to share with other families looking for ideas. What she didn’t expect was the outpour of messages and comments from families wanting to join.
“It’s been really eye opening for me to see how many families are in need of a positive experience during this time,” she said in regard to the photos of families in the community that started appearing on her Instagram feed. One mother took her kids to Japan for the day, folding origami. Another family set out on an art lesson in Paris, sketching the Mona Lisa with markers.
Mandy is a former product designer for American Crafts, a collaborator for Studio 5, and a lover of scrapbooking. Her creative nature is important both in her professional life and at home raising two boys. Growing up, Mandy’s mom was a watercolor artist, and her father used to say to Mandy, “There goes Martha!” when she’d let her creativity take over. Creativity has always been a part of Mandy’s authentic self.
This last year has been difficult for Mandy in a way she didn’t expect. Taking a step back from a creative lifestyle as a result of a move to St. George for her husband’s job, she found herself unhappy and discouraged. Up until that time, she had never struggled with depression. Feelings of anxiety replaced the lightness and determination Mandy had known her whole life.
The spark of creativity that brought her spring break travel was fueled by a movie she’d watched called “Where’d You Go Bernadette,” about a renowned architect in Los Angeles. When a project she’d been working on burned, Bernadette stopped drawing until a colleague said, “You are the type of person who will go crazy if you’re not creating.”
“That statement burned inside me,” Mandy said. Bernadette was me and this was what had gone wrong. I was unhappy because I stopped doing the things I loved.” With social distancing and more time home with her kids, Mandy’s life has forced her to be more creative. Allowing her to see the bigger picture has allowed her to once again find herself.
Sensitive to the effects Covid-19 has had on those with depression she said, “I don’t want to make light of the awfulness of this pandemic. I realize that quarantining has been hard for so many people. I’ve found when I get outside of the ‘me’ and ‘my’ and really focus my influence in my family: creating meals and enjoying time together — it creates happiness for me.”
There will be a time when airports become safe again, and memories of coastal countries can be made. But for now, for Mandy Douglass, maybe it’s not about the distances she travels with her family, but instead, the lengths she goes for the people she loves.
For more of Mandy’s cute and innovative ideas, check out her new instagram @joyincreativity. All are invited to check it out, even those who aren’t “the creative type.”