Where did you take your last vacation?

28 Dec

Where did you go on your last vacation?  Probably the most popular answer is the beach or some other attraction provided by nature (camping, fishing, etc.).  I am not concerned with these trips so much.  When was the last time that you took a trip a new city?  Where did you go; San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Savannah, Charleston?  Those cities are all very popular for tourism.  Why do you think that is?  It can’t be the weather (Chicago, New York, and San Francisco have notoriously bad weather.)  It can’t be exclusively for high society and culture (as much as I love Savannah and Charleston, I don’t go there for the museums or opera).  What common thread binds these cities?  The most obvious answer that I see, is that they are all old and well planned cities.

NYC bustling with a mingling of pedestrians and vehicles

When we visit places like Savannah, Charleston, San Fran. etc., we go there because they provide an escape from the drudgery of day-to-day life.  Which for many of us consists of lengthy commutes between suburbs and distant work places.  We live in homes where there is no street life or culture, and we travel to soul-less office buildings in downtown areas that shut down after 5pm.  We do all of our shopping at big box stores, fighting for parking spaces and spending a large percentage of our lives waiting in lines to purchase our weeks’ worth of groceries.

Savannah, GA's beautiful historic district.

This is a far cry from those cities listed above.  They all have street life, easy walking between hotels and pubs, restaurants, and grocery stores.  They are laden with parks for people watching and interacting with strangers.  I submit that the street life and walkability of these places is what makes them so attractive as vacation destinations.  It is the only common attribute shared among the cities that I mentioned.

If we are attracted to these places due to their walkability, accessibility, street life, and charm, why do we choose to live in places that lack all of these features?  I’m sure there is whole list of excuses that we can come up with for why we choose to visit these places on vacation, but somehow ignore their design when deciding where we will live the bulk of our lives.  But, is there really any reason that every town, city, or suburb in the USA couldn’t offer many of the same attractive features of these popular vacation destinations?

Perhaps I am being overly romantic and not practical.  After all, if we all lived in places like San Francisco and Savannah, where would we park our cars?


9 Responses to “Where did you take your last vacation?”

  1. Omar December 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    I went all up and down the Eastern Seaboard this year (Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC), and a primary cause of my journeys was the convenience of using Amtrak and connecting to transit. I’m not sure if transit was the reason I chose to visit these places, but it certainly made the decision to travel easier.

    Many people rent cars when they get where they’re going, so I’m not sure if transit is at the top of their minds when planning a vacation. Though I love that Disney World forces you to use a form of mass transit to enter the park: the monorail. That was part of Walt Disney’s vision for the future.

    Parking is definitely available in cities; it’s just more expensive. After you pay for gas, insurance and depreciation, parking isn’t going to be a welcome expense. It’s much better to reap the savings of going without one and using one only when you need it, a service many car sharing companies are happy to provide.

    • Omar December 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

      By contrast, I should mention I visited Phoenix this summer, my first trip to my home state in a few years. After experiencing the convenience of Amtrak and transit, I have to say it was pretty frustrating to have to get into a car and drive everywhere. I noticed how much of my vacation was taken up driving and not actually doing things.

    • dedwards8 December 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

      That is a great insight about Disney World.

      At Disney we leave our cars behind, hop on the futuristic monorail, and then we all arrive at Main Street USA (right at the entrance to the park). Going to Main Street USA is like visiting a small town preserved in a tacky museum.

      It’s amazing the lengths we go to to simulate the experience of living in a town.

      • Omar December 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

        There is a “Disney World” quality to using Amtrak as well since it deposits you right into the middle of downtown. 🙂 Traveling at airports feels like a hassle in comparison.

  2. Sir G January 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    “why do we choose to live in places that lack all of these features? ”



    (you’re born in Ridgefield Park and grow up thinking there is something inescapably Ridgefield Park about you)

  3. stephaniemhanna January 27, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    Reblogged this on stephaniemhanna.

  4. The Hook January 28, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    “Perhaps I am being overly romantic and not practical. After all, if we all lived in places like San Francisco and Savannah, where would we park our cars?”
    Great closing line!

  5. photographyfreestyle January 29, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    i went to the beach for 1 week the traffic was fluid… then i went to a place called antigua guatemala “Guatemala Country” the traffic was fluid also 🙂
    but then when i was getting again to the city WOW!!!!! heavy traffic i spend like 2 hours waiting there 😦

  6. cakeinthehouse January 30, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I live in NYC and I travel to other cities that don’t require a car. I grew up in the suburbs of South Carolina and hated that I had to drive at least 20 minutes just to get anywhere. Now that I’m in a great city, I ditched the car and I feel that the rest of the world is just a hop, skip, and jump away. The rest of my family is convinced that one day I’ll cave and move back to the ‘burbs. There are the arguments that it’s better “out there” for kids. Schools are safer and there’s space to play….etc. etc. But I disagree. They also claim that it’s cheaper to live outside of the city but I think that is a misconception as well.

    The saddest thing is when I see friends who have opted to live outside of the city, but even those areas on the fringes are becoming too packed. Subdivisions of town homes have popped up in the middle of parking lots. So much for the idea of giving the kids more green space to play in. Now, you open your front door and see black asphalt. They tell me that I have a street in front of my apartment, so what’s the difference? The difference is that my street has life, while their parking lot is full of dead cars. Also, I have a beautiful park just a block away, while they have to drive down a highway to get to a park.

    You described the American life so perfectly with the long commutes, soulless living situations, and everyone shopping at the same stores. When I try to tell my family about it they look at me and say, “But we are together and we’re happy. You’re the only one that is out there all by yourself.” This could be the big reason why more people don’t live in cities. Every city person probably has a family member somewhere in the suburbs, and when it’s time to raise your own kids, you want your kids to be close to grandma and grandpa…and thus the cycle continues.

    Instead of developing sleeper communities on the fringes of existing cities, why can’t we build well-planned new cities, or at least normal towns? Oh…if only…..

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