One year, the kids and I drove to Philadelphia for a school vacation. On our first day, we walked to a little restaurant where we ate paninis and planned our adventures. We spent days wandering around museums, historic sites and taking tours. We ate again and again from the vendors at the Reading Terminal Market. And as we left the city, we stopped at the Philadelphia Zoo for one last hurrah.
Another year, we headed to Boston where we stayed in a historic hotel, took in a Disney on Ice show and visited countless other fun places. That year, we ate Boston Cream Pie from the hotel restaurant that birthed it and dug into a lunch at the oldest continually operating restaurant in the United States. But the part my kids remember most fondly is the milk and cookies they were delivered to our room on our first night there.
This year, I considered so many options for vacation. I knew that I didn’t want to drive, and airfare was costly. I looked at trip deals and other means of transportation like buses and trains, considering places near and far.
Finally, I had a plan. We weren’t heading anywhere for mid-winter vacation. This wouldn’t be a year where we breezed into a new city, intent on exploration. No, this year, we’d do something more practical.
We’d get new furniture.
Specifically, I planned to buy new dressers and bookcases for my kids. We’d reorganize their spaces, and much of the house, and come away with a refreshed, more usable space. While I love to travel, love to explore new things together and love experiences, this practical idea seemed like the best use of our time and budget.
I shifted gears, ceasing my attempts to plan a trip and instead started searching furniture sites for the right pieces within the budget I’d set. I looked at dozens of pieces, considered their longterm efficiency and finally, finally settled on the ones I thought I wanted.
Except, I didn’t order the pieces I chose. At first, I waited because I wanted to time delivery for our vacation week. Then, I wanted to give all the sites one more look. I double checked if they required assembly (yes), if they were solid wood or not (not) and read reviews (mostly good).
But ultimately, my hesitation was due to something else: We all wanted to go somewhere.
That’s how we ended up in Boston last week. Sure, we’ve been there before, but there’s so much to do and experience in that city that I booked the trip and figured we’d fill in the details later. And we did.
Ice skating on the Frog Pond. The Shakespeare exhibit at the Boston Public Library. A whole day devoted to the Museum of Science. Seeing Boston from the Skywalk in the Prudential Center. The Boston Public Market. And, of course, a trip to the New England Aquarium. We rode the T, ate in a few favorite places and a few new places, revisited some spots and made a point to hit many new ones. It was wonderful.
When I’d initially tried to plan the trip, I was stuck on the idea that to make the trip special we needed to go somewhere new. It had to be somewhere we hadn’t explored before. But that’s not accurate. You can have fresh, new, exciting experiences even in places you’ve been before. That’s what makes being a tourist in your own city a joy. And that’s what makes doing the same thing in a city you’re familiar with great too.
I guess that’s something to remember next time a break comes our way: It’s not really where you go. It’s how you make the most of your time.
And we did.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. Her latest cookbook is The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook, published by Rockridge Press, which focuses on quick, easy, from-scratch cooking for busy people. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.