We all know how the summer feels. As a child it is blissful and freeing, a removal from the constraints of arithmetic and chalkboards to a time of jaunts at the playground and road trips with the family. When we are older summer becomes about escape from the rhythm of everyday, a time of relaxation and serenity.
Or at least that's what we aim for. As I write this, I'm on a bus in the middle of a rainstorm on my way up to New York City. My family and I are going to spend a long weekend upstate at Lake George for my mother's birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!) and I wonder what the perfect vacation would be.
For me, it would obviously have to have some element of history to it. A former colleague here at the National Trust once told me that whenever he planned a vacation he and his wife would draw up a list of books in preparation. So for instance, if you're going to Paris you would read not just history books or travel guides, but also novels set in Paris, writings about traveling to Paris, reflections about Paris. Giving you a context and a sense of what a place, a people, have been through before you get there.
But maybe there is some element of joy in the discovery. Of visiting a place and learning from those who know it best. Maybe that is perfection -- learning as we go. Going in blind, so to speak.
Perhaps it is not the place at all that is the attraction, but the people who surround you, the memories you capture of your own of what you saw, who you talked with, what inspired. It becomes a part of your personal history, your personal photo of album of life that 50 years from now you'll look back and say "remember when..."
Or maybe the best summer vacation is all of the above. One part character and history, folded in with the unexpected and a hint of spontaneity and discovery. Mix in friends, family, and loved ones (or maybe a dash of alone-time) and you have a recipe of possibility teetering on perfection.
Tell us, as we sift through the heat, the storms, finding ourselves almost into the swelter of August -- what is your perfect vacation spot, and why does it matter to you? What makes that place important, what makes it shine?