Day trips add up to a vacation

Are you thinking about what you didn’t get to do because of COVID? Reframing may be able to turn a negative into a positive.

It was disappointing to cancel a summer trip to Glacier National Park when COVID created a number of impediments. I expected to not have a vacation this year. But after visiting the Illinois Holocaust Museum and the Pullman National Monument, I redefined vacationing in a 2021 as day trips to places off my beaten path.

Cindy’s photo of St. Louis Canyon at Starved Rock State Park

Last week I spent six hours with an old friend, Cindy, at Starved Rock State Park, which I probably hadn’t visited since high school. The scenery isn’t as dramatic as Glacier’s, but it’s as dramatic as you will find in these parts. Hiking was what I would have done at Glacier, and I wondered whether I would have enjoyed it by myself as much as I enjoyed hiking at Starved Rock with a friend.

Still to come are hiking at Indiana Dunes and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and a visit to my sister in Milwaukee. That adds up to excursions on six days in 2021 — more days than I intended to be at Glacier.

Who says a vacation has to be made up of continuous days? Who says a vacation has to require leaving home? Regional attractions are tourist sites for residents as well as visitors.

Day trips had not been planned to substitute for an out-of-town vacation, but once I started to look on them as travel, I stopped feeling deprived. With my glass-is-half-empty tendencies, it is refreshing to see the bright side for a change.

It’s a cliché that locals in any place pay too little attention to what tourists come to see. When I worked in my hometown of Joliet, I hardly noticed the 19th-century buildings made from limestone that was quarried locally on the banks of the DesPlaines River. I realized I’d missed a hometown attraction after I moved to Chicago and took architectural tours that pointed out Joliet limestone.

“I feel like I’m on vacation every day since I moved to downtown Chicago,” says a friend who lives in Streeterville and disproves the cliché about not taking advantage of what’s just outside one’s door. No question that a big city has a wealth of attractions, but wherever one lives, there likely are places to be discovered or explored more. Parks and nature and local history are everywhere.

“Are you planning any trips?” is a conversational gambit among my acquaintances. In the past I answered no if I didn’t have plans that involved sleeping away from home for several days in a row. Going forward, I hope that “journey” — a word that comes from the French “journée,” meaning a day’s travel, among other things — is what comes to mind when I’m asked about my vacation plans. Anywhere the experience is new to me can be a journey.

Filed under: Chicago, Travel, Uncategorized

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  • Thank you for a beautiful adjustment to our perspectives. During the time I worked at The Art Institute, I met people from all over the world who had come to visit art that I could see every day. I learned to savor it and commit it to memory, so that when someone asked for ideas, I could talk about something I'd just noticed and give the new vistors a chance to see what it took months or years of trying to find. (I can even direct you to the signature hidden in the grass of Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte."

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