I moderately enjoy traveling. The effort is not so fun- the TSA, the early flights, or the late ones too, and the feeling that something has been forgotten that will make the trip unpleasant, or ruined, the stress of the entire thing. But a change in scenery is nice and it is appreciated, and when that scenery begins to feel a bit familiar then I think the vacation is even more fun. This is why when I find a place I like I tend to visit it again, and again. Familiarity in our daily lives is what we're trying to replace, but familiarity in a vacation setting is comforting and sought after.
It's for this reason that I like to return to Marco Island every winter, to duck out of the cold and into the warmth, if only for a short time. I enjoy the feeling I get when I drive up and over the Jolly Bridge, and find some peace knowing that I like the Publix on Collier but not the Publix on San Marco. I like knowing that Tiger Tail Beach is for fishing, but not for swimming, and that mullet can easily be netted in that lagoon but not really in the shallow bays on the East side of the Jolly Bridge. These are the sorts of things that familiarity can teach us, and through this familiarity a process, or a routine, is established.
To buy a vacation home on a Friday and then to find your way there on a Saturday is a wonderful thing, but it is not immediately part of a routine. A vacation home purchase is emotionally thrilling, but the onset of this routine can be physically draining. There is effort involved in this, and many times the vacation home of our dreams can be exhausting. The process that loads a family into a car in the 60606 and transports then across tollways and into the 53147 is not always the easiest. It can be hard work, and it can be tiring, and when the kids scream most of the way up it can be maddening. Vacationing can be difficult.
When the first Friday at the lake arrives, nothing will be as it really should be. Even if the furniture delivery truck brought new and fabulous things to your new vacation home, it will not yet feel comfortable. It will not yet feel entirely like home. And even if the furniture truck did bring everything, and the closets are stocked and the refrigerator is too, then your new vacation home still won't quite feel right. Time is the only thing that makes a vacation home feel right, the addition of memories to that new floor and a pile of rocks that your son just picked from the water that morning and left on his nightstand overnight- that's what is needed to make a vacation home feel like a home.
The first weekend in, and the fourth weekend for that matter, is all about exploration. It's about figuring out which grocery store will become yours, and which convenience store is closest should the milk run low before anything else really does. It's about procedure- when to wake up and when to walk to the lake. Is coffee on a pier or a deck, or is it in bed? Is breakfast bacon on the skillet or is it bakery items in a box, brought back by the one who made the earliest run to find coffee and pastries still warm enough to fog up the inside of the thin cardboard box they came in? And after breakfast, is it straight to the boat or straight to the porch, to read a magazine for a few minutes or to spend an hour inside a book? Do the kids swim in the morning when the water is calm and at its most clear, or do they wait, as you do, for the sun to warm them before curling their toes over the edge of that new white pier and pushing off?
The argument against sporadic vacations that find us in different locations every time we can find a few days off work is an argument for familiarity. It's an argument for routine. For every moment we spend lusting for a change there are two moments where we just want to feel at home. For every left turn we make at an intersection we've never seen before there is a right turn that takes us from our wooded drive and towards the restaurant that we know makes that omelet exactly how we like it. The routines are not easily formed, and familiarity takes time to grow, but while the rewards of feeling at home when away from home take some time to realize, they are well worth the effort.