Connie Werner Reichert
My idea of camping is staying in a hotel room without room service and a wall-mounted blow dryer. Give me a clean hotel room with 400 thread count sheets and a lanai I can walk out on so I may greet the early morning sunrise.
I long for a place with a cool swimming pool and hot tub to soak in after a long day of sightseeing.
Needless to say, we didn’t camp this summer. Instead, without any particular itinerary, our family embarked on a road trip to experience the spectacular United States. Fueled with excitement as well as gasoline, we stayed in a different hotel each night. We could’ve flown, but that takes the fun out of a good old American road trip.
Sure, airplanes get you there faster, but the seats are rather uncomfortable. Remember when it was glamorous to fly? Well the style and sophistication have been replaced by stale sandwiches packed in plastic trays served by snippy flight attendants. The golden days of train travel have also disappeared. Instead of nice meals served inside a dining car,we now eat microwaved beef dinners and look out dingy windows as we chug along the tracks.
Besides, there is something comforting and thrilling about traveling long distances by car. It’s a spontaneous, panoramic adventure into the real world. You can stop and go as you please, and if the kids have to pee for the umpteeth time, who cares?
The pleasure of being “somewhere else” gives us a burst of energy. Travel has proved to be the ideal Rx for boredom, broken hearts and strange illnesses. I think part of that is because no matter where we travel, we look at similar things through a different pair of eyes. A cocker spaniel panting on the sidewalk on a hot summer’s day in Santa Fe is suddenly much more interesting than a dog panting on the sidewalk back home. Heck, we’ll even take its picture on our digital camera.
An old historic building in North Carolina is more exciting than one with similar architectural features at home. Breaking down in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa is much more adventurous than having your car stalled on Main Street at home.
We even look at people crossing the street in awe. See the old man in Martha’s Vineyard smoking a cigar on that bench over there? Such a scene suddenly seems poignant to us.
Moreover, everything is unusually significant because we aren’t going to stay there too long and we are compelled to experience everything within our reach.
We’ll eat in a café in Ontario and although the scones are like hockey pucks, we convince ourselves it is the best thing we’ve ever eaten, just because we’re so far away from home.
We’ll eat stale bagels in New York just because not eating a bagel in New York is a sin.
We also tend to do foolish things we normally wouldn’t dare do at home. Things like dancing in the water fountain without our shoes on, for example. Sometimes I like to speak with a Russian accent to see if I can fool people. I find it to be a very inexpensive form of entertainment. These people will never see us again.
I have an entire collection of hotel lotions, shampoos and bars of soap and shower caps I will never use, but I feel compelled to “steal” them anyway.
Many of us convince ourselves that we’ll be more productive at work if we take a vacation. Ironically, when we return it’s the same old thing all over again and we realize we need another vacation to recover from the original vacation.
And I think we travel not only to see new places, but to appreciate where we live.
Dorothy was right: There is no place like home.