When I first read this question, I decided it was asking me where I go time and time again to relax. At various times over the past 10 years, the answer to that question might’ve been New Orleans, a condo on the Gulf of Mexico, or New York. Those have been my go-to places. Um, literally.
But I’ve stopped visiting those places—regularly, anyway. New Orleans got complicated, first, by the Soulmate-Who-Got-Away. Then, of course, there was Hurricane Katrina. Now I’m not sure I want to go back because the city won’t seem the same, because I’ll remember things that are hard to face, because I might see someone I don’t want to see, because it’ll just be too difficult. I’m sure I need to get over (most of) this psychological stuff sooner rather than later (ahem, now), and I’m sure I eventually will. But doing so hardly sounds like vacation, huh?
I also got in a little mini-routine for awhile of visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast. Puzzled? Well, there are beautiful beaches there, and it’s usually warm enough to visit well into September and October—just when I’m trying to prolong summer and forget that winter’s on its way. That’s also a good time to vacation because, well, there aren’t kids everywhere. Ewwww, kids. But as I’ve become more and more entrenched in Philadelphia, the Gulf Coast has started to feel too far away to be an easy getaway. (Actually, given how cheap it is to fly into Pensacola or Mobile, maybe I shouldn’t feel that way.) So I’ve pretty much stopped going. And the recent hurricanes didn’t help that as a destination, either, of course.
I’ve also visited New York several times in the past couple of years. I love visiting MoMA, seeing cool shows, getting a good seat at Carnegie Hall, eating black-and-white cookies, feeling like I’m in the most frenetic place on the planet. But it’s so expensive to visit, and I don’t really have any good New York friends who’ll put me up (hint, hint?). So New York remains a fun place to visit once in awhile, but it’s not really my go-to vacation spot.
Does all this mean that I don’t have a favorite vacation destination anymore? Gosh, I hope not. That would truly be depressing. I think it just means that I should reinterpret the question. Instead of understanding the question to be asking what my regular go-to vacation destination spot is, I’ll understand it to ask where I’ve had the best vacations of my life. And the answer to that is…drumroll, please…Yellowstone National Park.
I’ve only been to Yellowstone twice—first when I was 15 and again in 2002, with the ex. I loved it. I loved the wild weather (ice pellets on my first trip, hail on the second), the stinky mudpots, the geysers, the animals, the altitude. It’s all so bizarre, yet beautiful, that it sort of feels like Nature’s Disneyworld. Natural and bizarre—that pretty much sums up Yellowstone, I think.
Plus, I just enjoy being in the West. Westerners are tolerant and independent, and they expect those values in others. There’s also a sort of beautiful emptiness in the West. As crowded as some spots in Yellowstone might be, it’s very easy to find yourself alone in nature.
I’ve been to Yellowstone in late spring and in mid-summer. I’d like to visit in autumn and winter, too. Who’s going with me? Who knows how to use snowshoes? Let’s go.