When the Worldwide Greeter Communication Project recently asked Greeters our travel preferences, seven in ten preferred culture and cities to nature. That’s not surprising, since Greeter programs are in cities, and we Greeters volunteer to show off our cities to visitors.
I was in the 30 percent minority. Don’t get me wrong: If I didn’t like museums, the theater, ethnic restaurants, diverse people, tall buildings, and the tolerance and energy of a big city, I wouldn’t live in one, let alone volunteer to show visitors how much I love it.
My main reason for preferring a vacation in nature is that Chicago has everything I want in a city; I’m not looking to another city for what I can get at home. True, we can’t see the Mona Lisa in Chicago, but the Art Institute has scores of masterpieces and can educate us in every art period. Chicago attracts foodies, theater lovers, and architecture buffs with its top-notch reputation for those attractions. Immigrant neighborhoods like Pilsen and Argyle Street, where English isn’t the language most heard on the street and restaurant cooks dish up the real thing, give us a global cachet.
A vacation is meant to be a getaway from the usual. I’ve enjoyed visiting cities that can provide what Chicago lacks — for instance, the history in Boston and Philadelphia — but a vacation in nature is a real change from an urbanite’s everyday. Its qualities are the opposite of those at home: wide open spaces, quiet, a slow pace, fresh air, and few people.
As grand as a built environment can be, none has awed me as much as the Alps, the Grand Canyon, and the Pacific Coast Highway did. Though not as jaw-dropping, Midwest spots like the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Great River Road are serenely gorgeous.
A lakeside getaway has been a regular excursion for me for decades, in Door County when I lived in Wisconsin and now in Brown County, Indiana, where my sister and brother-in-law have a home. Not every vacation has to be in awesome surroundings. Quiet beauty suffices, and unspoiled nature offers quiet beauty anywhere. Give me sunny days and I’m not disappointed.
Unlike when I’m in a new city, I go into the country without a list of tourist attractions, happy to be spontaneous. A hike may suit my mood one day and sitting under a tree with a book the next. There is no to-do list. I return home refreshed, which I can’t always say about a city vacation where I hustle to see as much as possible because I might not get back. On the flip side, that’s another reason to prefer urban exploring at home: there’s always another day to check out or return to something. I can go deep instead of skimming the surface.
As many of us think about where we would like to travel once restrictions are lifted, my niece Alex and I are planning to spend a few days in Brown County in between her college graduation and entry into the world of full-time work. We’ll hike in the woods, float on rafts in a lake, and lounge at the lakeside. I’m also thinking about an Amtrak trip to Glacier National Park, if it’s not too late to reserve a room in or near the park.
If someone offered me a trip to Paris, I wouldn’t turn it down. If a friend were to move to another city, I would visit and see the sights. But my travel bucket list doesn’t contain the names of any cities. I bought a National Parks Service senior pass, and I intend to use it well.