You already know that I am addicted to travel. I don’t feel complete unless I have a trip looming on the horizon and one I’m planning after that! It’s a disease, I know, but one with pleasant symptoms. Each place allows me the chance to get out of my comfort zone, learn about a different culture, sample new foods, and meet local folks, whose stories I carry home with me like precious souvenirs. I like to think I’m doing my part to make the world a smaller, cozier place when I travel—for isn’t it true that animosity and hostility are foreign concepts when you sit at a table with someone who smiles, chews, scratches, and yawns—just like you.
Sometimes, however, it’s nice to plan a low-key vacation, one that takes you back to a familiar place and doesn’t require reading maps or navigating strange streets and customs. I just read an excellent essay about a group of friends who gathers in a seaside Maine cottage every summer and spends a week hanging out doing a lot of nothing: a morning swim, perhaps followed by a picnic lunch, a nap, and then another swim. Later everyone helps prepare a gourmet dinner, then plays silly games around a campfire before falling blissfully into bed. Each day blends into the next, and the end result is a feeling of relaxation so deep you wonder how you will ever return to the hectic real world. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
My son, Ross, and I enjoyed such a vacation last month. As a child, I spent summers in the Thousand Islands in Canada. Sprinkled like emeralds on the St. Lawrence River, the Islands are an ideal getaway for nature lovers who want to slow down and smell the pine resin. My oldest brother bought my dad’s home and summers there now, and I was excited to visit after an absence of eight years. In fact, the last time I went—a year after my dad died—turned out to be disappointing: too busy, too noisy, too many people. Now I realize I was missing my dad. It wasn’t the place that was influencing me. I was influencing the place.
This was a good lesson for me to learn. We carry our neuroses with us, don’t we? It’s easy to blame other things for our own dissatisfaction, but the root problem actually lies within. Even vacations can be unpleasant if we’re carrying a grudge or a have an unresolved issue that’s gnawing at our insides. The goal is to recognize that we’re a mixed-up bag of emotions and then find a healthy outlet for them: maybe confiding to a friend how you’re feeling, writing your thoughts in a journal, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, or even taking an invigorating hike.
Thankfully, this summer visit to the Islands was free of any angst. Ross and I, along with my brother, sister-in-law, and island friends, hiked every morning through the deep woods. The rest of the day might include swimming, boating, reading, and plenty of relaxing. Ross caught a lovely bass one afternoon, which we cooked up for lunch the next day. Its flavors tipped the scale, stunningly sweet and good. Another night my brother brought out venison steaks, savory and tender, from a deer he’d hunted. On the Fourth of July, we invited my aunt and uncle and friends to enjoy burgers and brats on the grill. Food somehow tastes better when you’re on vacation, doesn’t it?
The trip to Canada reminded me there’s something to be said for slowing down. I think traveling to exotic places appeals to me because my mind becomes so full of sensory stimulation, I don’t have time to think about the things inside that maybe need attention. I see now that easy, peaceful getaways serve an important purpose, too: a chance to reconnect with yourself and to remember who you are.
Hope you’ve had time this summer to reconnect with yourself and your family. If you haven’t, take time this month to plan a getaway. It’s good for your health and your spirit!