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.
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.
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?