The Key to a Great Vacation

The Key to a Great Vacation June 30, 2014

Editor’s Note: This post from by Paula D’Arcy is being shared here as part of our series on Best Vacation Stories.

My friend, Aurelia, and I had planned this holiday for weeks. Busy with our respective careers, we nevertheless arranged a mini vacation at Aurelia’s cabin in the foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I had images of mountain waterfalls and leaping deer. In my mind, I was there already.

Leaving early on a Thursday morning, the car packed with provisions, we drove out of Boston into sunrise ribbons of orange and pink. The more miles we covered, the more we laughed and reveled in the day.

The trip to the cabin took four hours; but after the first two hours, expressways fell behind, and we traveled west on country roads. Two hours more and we pulled up to the cabin, grinning at our seamless escape. Then, noticing swarms of hungry mosquitoes around the car, I suggested to Aurelia that she have the keys to the cabin door out and ready. At that moment, Aurelia realized that the keys were back on her kitchen counter in Boston.

It’s difficult to describe the next several hours: Hunting without success for duplicate keys, evaluating the cost (too prohibitive) of bringing a locksmith 100 miles to this remote spot . . . then, finally, in late afternoon, the return drive to Boston. At the end of a ruined day, we nursed our disappointment and watched the sun set behind us.

By 7 p.m., we had retrieved the keys and were again driving north, both tired and cranky, both miserable that our vacation was now one day shorter. Once again, we paid the toll and entered Maine Turnpike. And somewhere on that early stretch of turnpike, one of us realized the day was lost only if we perceived it that way. As long as our sole expectation was to reach the cabin, everything would seem wrong. But if we changed our point of view, everything else would change. The whole day might amount to a humorous adventure. Certainly the weather was spectacular whether or not we were hiking. The clear, beautiful temperatures were unaffected by our disillusionment. Nothing was ruined unless we told ourselves that it was.

In a new frame of mind, we took the next exit into a small Maine town for a leisurely dinner of lobster and shrimp. Not one thing had changed but our viewpoint. The lesson of that day has never left me: What you “see” is what you get.


[Photo by lee, used under a creative commons license, sourced via Flickr.]


Best Vacation Stories

While the stereotypical summer vacation usually involves a cabin or a beach, the vacations most of us take are much less nostalgic and far more varied than that. Or even if there is a beach or a cabin, it’s not the one we see in movies or read in books. Some of the best vacations, in fact, don’t involve packing or traveling at all; they happen in the backyard or on the front porch. At The High Calling, we’re telling some of our best vacation stories, the ones where things didn’t turn out as expected, where plans changed and so did we.

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