We plan for it. We save up for it. Some of us pour over maps, marking the most effective routes to get to it. Others spend weeks comparing air fares and choosing the best flight times, booking hotels and arranging for rental cars that will whisk them to exotic destinations. Still others leave perfectly appointed homes in the lap of civilization, only to lay temporary claim to a strip of wilderness where they will pitch a tent and return to basics.
Yet before we can lock the doors and leave our real lives behind, some of us need to make certain arrangements. Depending on the length of your absence, there is mail to put on hold, sprinklers to time, and if you’re anything like us, pets to be looked after. This of course means that a house-sitter has to be hired, one who must look me in the eyes and swear that she will take care of our furry family members as if they were her own.
Whichever way you approach it, most of us count the days till our summer vacation, wherever we choose to spend it. And as much as we love our homes, we can’t wait to leave them for a brief while each summer.
So where do we head?
While it’s a large world out there and plenty to discover that we haven’t yet, my family tends to gravitate toward the familiar. Unless we’re heading overseas (and that’s a whole other column), The Sea Ranch is our happy place. I fell in love with it when I was twelve, from my first glimpse through the car window of its foggy outlines in the distance. We turned a corner and there they were, dramatic Pacific Ocean cliffs, their imposing outcrops standing guard just off the shore as far as the eye could see. Breathing in the clean, sharp scent of redwoods on one side, and the crisp, salty air from the ocean on the other, I thought this place was magical. I still do, thirty- seven years later, only now the place has been infused with extra meaning since my husband and children fell in love with it too. I knew my son did because when he was nine, I watched him walk up the path ahead of me from the beach through a meadow, arms stretched out to both sides, fingers running through the wild, golden grasses. I could hear him whispering goodbye to every blade along the way, knowing that it would be a whole year before we would return again.
And there is no question that our daughter counts this home away from home among her favorite vacation spots. She knows where to find the best sea shells, makes her way through the forest in the velvety dark adorned in glow sticks, equipped with a best friend and a flashlight, and can shimmy up her favorite tree in ten seconds flat. The fact that she’s now eighteen hasn’t changed any of this. Familiar rituals are what makes this place so special.
Shelley Dunning knew exactly what I meant as she shared some of her family’s vacation experiences. While they have ventured out on new adventures, the Dunning family also understands the appeal of the familiar, heading toward old haunts in Seaside, Oregon more often than not. They stay in the same hotel, enjoy campfires on the beach, and from the joy in Shelley’s voice, I could practically taste the s’mores and hot dogs as she described the simple pleasures of being a family on summer break. “We all know what’s coming when we go to Seaside,” she said, and didn’t need to explain further because I understood. We too look forward to the same house we rent each time, the upstairs kitchen with the view of the ocean, the balcony where my husband and I sip wine and chat, almost feeling like a young couple again, the large oak table around which we gather to play games that seem extra silly, and share meals that taste especially good.
While some of us crave the familiar and appreciate the, “…sense of tradition, the same traditions that you can count on,” as Shelley Dunning stated, others leave our sleepy town and set out on bold adventures. This summer, Wendy Weitzel’s family,”…took three weeks and visited the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park, going through parts of Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, British Columbia and Alberta. It was gorgeous.” And a few years ago their “… grandest adventure” was when they, “… drove across the country and back in six weeks, mostly on Highway 50 and Highway 20, hitting 25 states.”
Joe Krovoza also enjoys the comforts of the familiar, as well as the excitement of the new. “For about 15 years we have almost always visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the city of Corolla for at least a week each summer…everyone loves it…I get to run and kayak in the surf. Janet reads and sees her best friends. My youngest daughter Lillian, 21 and just graduated from Occidental College…surfboard surfs and runs. My oldest daughter Charlotte, 24…reads, body surfs and relaxes. We cook huge meals every evening.” All this family time and relaxation seems to be nicely balanced with Krovoza’s adventurous side. He belongs to a hiking and mountaineering group that takes a trip every summer. “This summer was Rainier, our biggest adventure, though we have done Mt. Shasta, Mt. Lylle, Mt. Ritter and the Palisades in the Sierra.”
For the few days or weeks we all wave goodbye to Davis, we also get to turn our backs on some of the daily chores and annoyances that cause us to appreciate our time away even more. Besides the abundant wildlife and proximity to the beach Sea Ranch offers, what I look forward to most is the absolute silence. No loud music, no dogs barking, no neighbors’ chickens squawking (also a whole other column). Joe Krovoza admitted that it was, “…nice to leave behind water scarcity. We have been capturing our shower water and using it to flush the toilets. It was nice to leave the bucket and flushing behind for a week.” And Wendy Weitzel enjoys leaving,”… the housework, yard work, cooking and other chores at home, to free up your days for sightseeing.”
Of course, at some point we do have to return to reality. If we’re gone for a sufficiently lengthy time I begin missing my garden, wondering how much work there will be and whether the squirrels have left us any apricots on the tree. Ironically, that very garden and all the maintenance it requires is one of the things I look forward to leaving behind when we head out for vacation. And no matter how comfortable your temporary lodging may have been, most people long for the feel of their own bed under their back after a week or two of slumbering elsewhere.
Regardless of where our travels take us, whether it’s up one coast or down another, up a mountain or down a river, we all seem to revel in being together, sharing precious time and our favorite places with the people we most love. Wendy Weitzel recognizes that without every day distractions, her family is closer during these trips.” My boys are 18 and 15. We talk more, play games more, and smile more.” Seeing as by the time you read this column her oldest will have left for college, these memories they’ve created are even more meaningful than usual. Joe Krovoza’s daughters live in other cities yet, “every member of the family ended up flying different flights to Washington DC and then we all drove to North Carolina together.” While Shelley Dunning reflected on how much she enjoys seeing all four kids buckled in their seats, “and we’re all together in that van, it’s wonderful…how blessed we are.”
Blessed indeed. Can’t wait for next summer.