Blackberries and iPads, telecommuting and flex-time: they were all contrived with the idea of making our lives easier. Instead, they seem to tether us all the more tightly to work. The ever present call of the office makes quality vacation time more important, yet a still suffering economy and the rising cost of travel make getting away from it all harder to do.

It’s a conundrum Maureen Shade solved by building her own vacation getaway right in her own backyard. “We decided this would be our country home,” she says about her family’s plan to redesign their Toronto backyard. “I don’t feel like I’m in the city.”

The result has been a pool with cabana, a hot tub, a basketball court, as well a fire pit and eating area. “It gives a peaceful, tranquil feeling.” Shade says she often comes home after a stressful day and just steps outside for a moment to feel the atmosphere help release her tension.

“I love it. I love it. I even put a heater outside, she says, adding the outdoor spaces get used more than the indoor rooms. “My kids do homework out there. We’ve gotten to the point that they can watch television out there. It’s really like a home outside.”

The idea of creating that vacation atmosphere at home is one that’s really catching on says BonaVista Leisurescapes owner Jennifer Gannon. “Over the last few years we have seen noticeable growth in the number of requests for people who are seeking a backyard oasis as an alternative to a cottage.”

Whether’s it’s just a hot tub or a full redesign of the yard, people want to use their backyards in ways they haven’t in the past. “People are designing space outdoors with the same care and attention as they decorate their interiors,” says Gannon.

For her part, Nova Scotia mom Nancy Bossuyt was tired of taking the kids out to the lake after a busy week. “That was just way too much work.” Putting a pool in her yard has changed more than just the family gas bill; it has changed their whole lifestyle. “Last summer we took two weeks off and we just stayed at home.”

Bossuyt credits the change to her local pool and spa dealer Holland Home Leisure. Part owner Brad Sweet says he started promoting the idea of a vacation at home when his own family vacation became more work than fun. The cottage lawn had to be mowed more often than the family could get away, and the trips down south didn’t seem to have the staying power they hoped for.

“My wife works and I work. We have done the trips away and it’s a fantastic time but when you get home it’s done. What do you do for the rest of the 50 weeks?”

Instead Sweet opted for an inground pool and has never looked back. “Live life now is my theory. Everything is based on payments today. It’s affordable, whether you’re putting $200 away a month for a family vacation or $200 for a hot tub or pool.”

For her part, Maureen Shade says after three summers of having their new backyard, her three teenage kids don’t even ask to go away on vacation. “I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I would do it as opposed to a cottage.” Friends and neighbours refer to the yard as heaven and Shade agrees. You can almost hear the tension drain from her voice and she looks into her yard. “It’s our oasis, really it is.”

On May 6th, 2011, posted in: Outdoor Living, Summer by
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