Everyday aesthetics on staycation as a pathway to restoration

Anu Marjaana Besson


This multidisciplinary study enforces a suggested link between everyday aesthetic experiences and restoration. The studied phenomenon is staycation, a short-term holiday spent at home or at one’s home region, to identify how people use a (culturally) familiar environment for everyday aesthetic enjoyment and how that influences restoration. This focus minimises the potential effect of long-distance travel, novelty and escapism to restoration. Staycation has not been studied before from the perspective of everyday aesthetics and restoration. I explore staycation through a lens of qualitative media analysis; history and empirical research of holiday-making; and theories in everyday aesthetics.


staycation; everyday aesthetics; restoration; subjective well-being; aesthesis

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In the order of referencing:

Sebastien Filep & Philip Pearce (edit.), Tourist Experience and Fulfilment: Insights from Positive Psychology, (New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 203.

Sarah Pykea et al., “Exploring well-being as a tourism product resource”, Tourism Management, Volume 55, August 2016, pp. 94–105, Section 1.

Stephen Kaplan, “The Restorative Environment: Nature and Human Experience”, The Role of Horticulture in Human Well-Being and Social Development (Diane Relf, edit.), (Portland: Timber Press, 1992). pp. 134-135. Mental fatigue follows from directed attention (cognitive effort e.g. work and studies). Mental fatigue causes irritability, inability to focus and make decisions, and decreased overall health.

Pauline von Bonsdorff, The Human Habitat - Aesthetic and Axiological Perspectives, (Jyväskylä: International Institute of Applied Aesthetics Series Vol. 5, 1998), pp. 81-89.

Gian Carlo Garfagnini, Medieval Aesthetics, Key Thinkers: Aesthetics (Alessandro Giovanelli, edit.), (India: Continuum, 2012) pp. 34-35.

David Hume 1740, p. 299, quoted by Crispin Sartwell, "Beauty", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), (Edward Zalta, edit.), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/beauty/, Section 2.4.

Sartwell (2016), Section 1.

Arnold Berleant, Sensibility and Sense: The Aesthetic Transformation of the Human World, (Imprint Academic, 2010), p 32.

Yuriko Saito, “Aesthetics of the Everyday”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2015 Edition), (Edward Zalta, edit.), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2015/entries/aesthetics-of-everyday/, Section 2.

Previous empirical research includes for example Pauliina Rautio’s “On Hanging Laundry: The Place of Beauty in Managing Everyday Life”, Contemporary Aesthetics (2009), vol. 9.

Katya Mandoki, Prosaics, The Play of Culture and Social Identities (Great Britain: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 25-26.

For example: Kaplan (1992), pp. 137-138.

Ipsos Mori: “People and places: Public attitudes to beauty”, (2010), pp. 4, 9-10, 20, 23-24. http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/people-and-places.pdf.

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Lauren Davidson, “The rise of the staycation: more Brits holidaying at home”, The Telegraph, 7 February 2015.

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Photographs were sourced with the keyword “staycation” in two counts on 3 October 2016: 100 photographs at 9am and a further 100 at 3pm. During the interval, the number of “staycation” photos on Instagram increased by 717 photos, totalling 1,075,464.

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Eudaimonia or eudemonia is comprehensively discussed in Chapter 1 of Felicia Huppert and Cary Cooper (edit.), Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide, Volume VI, Interventions and Policies to Enhance Wellbeing, (UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2014).

This point is also made by Damien Freeman, “Aesthetic Experience as Transformation of Pleasure,” the Harvard Review of Philosophy (2010), vol. 17, pp. 56-75.

By way of example, the number of everyday aesthetics themed blogs indicates that many find undertaking, discussing and viewing everyday aesthetic activities meaningful and rewarding. A Google search on 12 June 2017 with keywords “home design blog” produced 388 million hits; “photography blog” 309 million hits; “fashion blog” 152 million hits; “cooking blog” 23 million hits; and “crafts blog” 14.6 million hits.

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Ipsos Mori (2010), p. 57.

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The other high-ranking motivators were the cost of alcohol in the location (24%) and chances for personal development (22.6%). Rachel Hosie, “‘Instagrammability': Most Important Factor for Millennials on Choosing Holiday Destination,” The Independent, 24 March 2017.

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Ibid, 79-80.

Kristin Diehl et al., (2016).

Thomas Leddy, “Everyday Aesthetics and Photography”, Aisthesis (2014), vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 45-62.

Yuriko Saito, Everyday Aesthetics, (Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 2007), Chapter 4.

First published in the Critique of Judgement (1790) and since discussed extensively in the field of aesthetics.

I prefer to use the term aesthetic instead of beautiful to not limit the association to visual perception.

Arnold Berleant, “What is Aesthetic Engagement?”, Contemporary Aesthetics, (2013), vol. 11.

VisitEngland reports on staycation, https://www.visitbritain.org/economic-downturn-and-holiday-taking-behaviour. Accessed 8 June 2017

According to Tuan (1995), paradise island appears in many ancient myths across cultures and eras; and the South Pacific Islands with hula skirts, flower garlands and palm beaches gained a mythical reputation as “the paradise” from mid-1800s, promoted by Western artists and writers.

It is not conclusive what causes the restoration effect of green spaces: aesthetic experience, physical exercise, physical and mental relaxation, something else, or all of these combined? Research in this field includes for example Stephen & Rachel Kaplan (1989), Roger Ulrich (1991), Terry Hartig (1991), and Anette Kjellegren & Hanne Buhrkall (2010). For an overview, see Anna Dale & Yuill Herbert, “Community Vitality and Green Spaces,” CRC Research, accessed 6 December 2016. https://crcresearch.org/sites/default/files/u641/vitality_-_green_spaces.pdf

Semir Zeki has found that aesthetic experiences with art can increase the release of dopamine. For an overview of neuro-aesthetic studies, including critique, see Mengfei Huan, “The Neuroscience of Art”, Standford Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 2, 2009, pp. 24-26.

Statista, “If you could take only one holiday, what type of holiday would you prefer?”, Preferred types of holidays in the United States 2012, https://www.statista.com/statistics/249577/preferred-holiday-types-in-the-us/, accessed 8 June 2017; and Peter Woodman, “Beach breaks are the most popular holiday type say survey,” The Independent, 24 May 2012, http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/beach-breaks-are-most-popular-holiday-type-says-survey-7784549.html, accessed 8 June 2017.

John Walton, “The seaside resort: a British cultural export”, website History in Focus (2005), Department of Humanities, University of Central Lancashire, https://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/Sea/articles/walton.html, accessed 29 May 2017. In 2013 in the UK, city breaks and beach holidays were the two most popular holiday types. ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agencies), “City breaks now as popular as beach holidays”, August 2013, https://abta.com/about-us/press/city-breaks-now-as-popular-as-beach-holidays, accessed 29 May 2017.

Daniel Nutsforda et al., “Residential exposure to visible blue space (but not green space) associated with lower psychological distress in a capital city,” Health & Place (2016), Vol. 39, pp. 70-78. This study did not establish what is the required exposure time or the size of the water body: hence, it is not conclusive whether people are drawn to water bodies due to the “blue space effect” or for other reasons.

Yi-Fu Tuan, Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values, (USA: Columbia University Press, 1974/1990 edition), p. 96. Also, Tuan has noted that places that offer diverse tactile experiences are seen as more appealing overall than monotonic places. Passing Strange and Wonderful. Aesthetics, Nature and Culture, (New York: Kodansha America Inc., 1995), p. 44.

For example Richard Ryan et al., “Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature,” Journal of Environmental Psychology (2010), Vol. 30, Issue 2, pp. 159–168.

Tuan (1995), p. 72. Also Tuan (1974/1990 edit.), pp. 116-119.

Boy and Uitermark (2016) note that social media users typically do not report on their everyday chores: instead, shared images are part of strategies of identity-building and distinction-making.

Mandoki (2007), pp. 75-77.

Mandoki’s (2007) theory about prosaics parallels with Leddy’s suggestion about the existence of aura in an object that transforms ordinary to extraordinary. I understand Leddy to mean that aura is product of a shift in one’s attitude, to be open or curious to look at the object like an artist. Thomas Leddy, The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: The Aesthetics of Everyday Life, (Broadview Press, 2012), pp. 128-130, 244.

Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens. A Study of the Play-Element in Culture, (Great Britain: Routledge & Paul Kegan, 1949), pp. 8, 21-22.

Mandoki (2007), 94.

For conducting a GT analysis, see for example Carla Willig, Introducing Qualitative Research in Psychology, (London: City University London, 2013), pp. 69-75. The analysis process for the articles was as follows: each article, sentence by sentence, was reviewed and each separate statement assigned an identifying label. Similar labels were grouped into categories (i.e. “adventure”, “sense of fun”, etc.), as presented in Figure 1. The analysis process for the images was similar: the primary and secondary themes of the photos were identified, labelled and categorised (e.g. “people”, “food”, “waterfront”, “urban greenery”, “decorative focus point”, etc.). The labels were summed up for statistical presentation from most common to least common. Concurrently, the themes were examined against their semantic and cultural meaning (e.g. was a food market photographed for curiosity, documenting or aesthetic purposes or all of the above).

Jorge Ruiz Ruiz, “Sociological Discourse Analysis: Methods and Logic”, FQS Forum: Qualitative Social Research, May 2009, Volume 10, No. 2, Art. 26. http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1298/2882, accessed 6 June 2017.

See for example Kathy Charmaz, Constructing Grounded Theory. A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis, (UK: SAGE Publications, 2006). Normalisation of ideas and practices was first discussed by Michael Foucault.

The articles were sourced with the keyword “staycation” on 20 June 2016 by selecting the first 20 non-advertisement articles on Google. Most of the articles were published during 2015-16. More than half (12) were from the US, three were from Canada, three were from the UK and two were from Australia. Adverts were excluded from the data, but all of the articles can be considered as promotional. All except one article portrayed staycation positively and did not discuss its potential downsides, such as promotion of consumerism, or financial and social performance stress.

Rebecca Fishbein, “Some Charming Manhattanites Are Buying Second 'Staycation' Homes in Manhattan for 'A Change of Scenery’”, Gothamist, June 3, 2016. http://gothamist.com/2016/06/03/always_buy_a_burner_apartment.php

The other relatively common source countries were Philippines, Indonesia, China and the United Arab Emirates. Rarer countries with more than one photo were Canada, Malaysia, Australia, the UK, Singapore, Ireland and Qatar. The remaining ~4% of the photos were individual shots from all around the globe, from Mexico to Czech Republic.

The assessment of the aesthetic intention/reaction was informed by Carolyn Korsmeier’s discussion of taste, Berys Gaut & Dominic McIver Lopes (edit.), The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, (Taylor & Francis Books, 2013), pp. 259-262: in summary, aesthetic qualities are debatable and depend on the adopted viewpoint and philosophy, but objects have properties that make them worth appreciation or criticism, such as colour, composition, elegance, rhythm etc. and the value of these qualities is understood fairly similarly within a culture or among a class of objects (paintings, photographs, furniture etc.).

Unity in (visual) variety means the harmony or union of cooperating elements or the balance of contrasting or conflicting elements. Aesthetic harmony exists when some identical quality or form or purpose is embodied in various elements of a whole – sameness in difference. Aesthetic balance is the unity between elements which, while they oppose or conflict with one another, nevertheless need or supplement each other. Dewitt H. Parker, Chapter V, “The Analysis of the Aesthetic Experience: The Structure of the Experience”, The Principles Of Aesthetics, (1920), E-book, Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/6366/pg6366-images.html, accessed 15 June 2016.

Appropriate to the narrative of a holiday, half of the images displayed a sunny summer day. One quarter of the photos was taken indoors, and the remaining pictures depicted an overcast weather, night or indiscernible weather. Only one image showed sleet and a half a dozen pictured rain.

The socio-economic background of staycationers was not revealed by this data, but the portrayed staycation (eating in restaurants etc.) requires some disposable income.

See for example Melanie Rudd et al., “Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being”, Psychological Science (2012), 23(10), p. 1135.

Dacher Keltner, “Why Do We Feel Awe?” Greater Good, Berkeley University of California, 10 May 2016. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_do_we_feel_awe, accessed 14 December 2016.


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