By ena ganguly
I don’t know about you, but I’m a hopeless romantic. I love giving and receiving cutesy notes, chocolates, flowers, candles, and sweet surprises! I’ve felt this way ever since I was a child and fully grasped the reason why my classmates were giving each other those chalky heart shaped ‘candies’ labeled ‘I love you’ and ‘Won’t you be mine?’.
When I was in school, I thought Valentine’s Day was about finding that one true love in the 7th grade and carnations from a secret admirer delivered to you during homeroom period. This idea of Valentine’s Day kept shifting though, especially because my friends and I would give each other gifts and flowers platonically, as a gesture of love and gratitude. One year, my mom even took me out of school as we spent the whole day doing things we loved, like going to the movies and getting our nails done, and spending quality time together.
Since then, I’ve treated February 14th as a time dedicated to fill myself and others with joy and communicate to them, in whatever way, that I hold them close to my heart. I also believe this day can be dedicated to loving on the self and indulging one’s sense in what is pleasing and positive.
Valentine’s Day is gimmicky, for sure, and most likely, one of the biggest money makers for chocolates and red roses. There is definitely pressure to do something extravagant for your partner or lover, but I also think it is a day where we can celebrate and express our love for those near and dear to us, romantically or not. That being said, the day to celebrate love is almost near! Here are some fun and affordable ways to celebrate for yourself or with those you love:
If you know this person loves to ‘do it for the ‘gram’, take them somewhere scenic, like an art gallery, museum or to some iconic Austin murals. You only need a camera to get the photo shoot started, whether it’s a professional Nikon or a phone camera. This is low budget enough, with maximum costs being for transportation and if you decide to print some of the photos out to frame and present as a gift!
Throw it back!
If you know this person is really into video games, the 80s or just plain old competitive, take them to the arcade! Play your favorite childhood games or try something new. Nowadays, there are new kinds of arcades called ‘barcades’, the child of an arcade and a bar. There are a few in downtown Austin that are worth checking out. Remember to have some cash and/or change with you so y’all can have the time of your lives!
Food truck tour!
Food truck culture is very prevalent here in Austin, so take advantage of that! Plan out a food truck tour where you and your loved one tastes different cuisines or go on a mission to decide which taco is the best in the city. This is also a great opportunity to support queer and/or people of color owned businesses. Here are some places that I’ve been to and really enjoyed:
- Sassy’s: Black owned vegan/vegetarian soul food truck. Try out their staple, Chicon & Waffle!
- Cool Beans: Latinx owned vegan food truck. Their loaded nachos are filling enough for two!
- Abo Youssef: Great for all lifestyles, this food truck serves up delicious Mediterranean food. I’m not sure of the owner’s exact heritage (most Middle Eastern owned restaurants label themselves under the banner of ‘Mediterranean’ rather than pin their cuisine to one region or place), but they are a person of color.
I think this is a great adventure you can also take yourself on, without necessarily needing the company of others!
Rock climbing or hiking!
If y’all want to do something more active, more romantic or just something more scenic, try hiking to see the 360 bridge from the hill. It’s a great beginner hike, super short, and parking is usually available. It’s tried and true! I’ve been there with my boo a few times and it’s a really serene and calming trip. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes that can protect your feet as you make the climb up! If you and your loved one(s) are more experienced hikers and/or climbers, take them to the more challenging trails in Austin where you all can explore together! And if you don’t want to engage with the elements, try indoor rock climbing. No matter what activity you choose, remember that these things can be experienced by yourself too!
Staying home to chill!
A great alternative to going out is staying in! I know this is one of my favorite ways to take time out for myself and decompress. I know inviting someone into my home is a very intimate act in and of itself, so if you are inviting someone over, I would recommend doing so when a loved one is just now beginning to play a dear role in your life or someone who you have been staying in with to cuddle and watch scary movies for years! You can have a movie marathon, cook together, bake together, or play board games! The options are endless.
In my humble opinion, Valentine’s Day is a day of love, and everybody deserves to have love in their life. I hope February 14th is full of love and indulgence for you and those you love, including yourself!