Impressions: It’s fun being a ‘vacationist’ in your own backyard

<p>Nancy McCarthy</p>

It’s 9 a.m., middle of the week.

I should be deep into my work – writing or editing stories for the next Daily Astorian, Seaside Signal or Cannon Beach Gazette. I should be working with fellow reporters and editors on new assignments. Taking photos of people and events in town. Interviewing city officials about the latest issues.

Instead, I’m doing nothing. Well, I’m writing this column, but that’s not really work. It’s an exploration of what crazy things might be going on in my mind at the time.

I’m on vacation. This is my first day. Instead of getting up at 4:30 a.m., I slept in until 7:30. I’m calling it my “sleepcation.”

Why is it, when someone announces they’re on vacation, their friends always ask, “Where are you going?” For most people, “vacation” automatically means “travel.” But when a vacation is only a week long, and it takes at least two days to travel to and from someplace – and if that travel is in an airport – well, it just takes too long to recover from the exhaustion of just getting there to make a getaway trip worthwhile.

Besides, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, so why not take time to explore the North Coast?

When I attended a Gearhart City Council meeting a few weeks back, I heard a new term: “vacationist.” Council members actually took a few minutes out of their busy agenda to determine the difference between a “vacationist” and a “tourist.”

Several members said they liked the new word. It implied, they said, that a vacationist was someone who was serious about vacationing, who would stay in a location long enough to get to know the area. A tourist, on the other hand, was someone who breezed in and out in a day or two to catch the highlights of a place but ignore the heart of it.

We who live in a major tourist destination, where neighborhoods are filled with second-home owners (in my block, for instance there are only two of us living here year-round) and whose incomes depend on the kindness of strangers, we understand the difference.

For me, a vacationist would be someone who seeks to understand the culture of a location, who might want to meet some of the local residents, who respects the towns they visit and grows to appreciate the nuances of the locality.

Meeting others

Not everyone has time to become a vacationist. I have a friend who spends months traveling through Indonesia or Mexico or South America, staying in hostels, using mass transportation, hiking in the countryside, buying food at the outdoor markets, attending concerts and festivals, sipping an afternoon wine at a local cafe. She meets residents and fellow travelers along the way and develops friendships that last longer than any cheap souvenir.

I believe, however, that it’s possible to be a vacationist in your own locale, maybe even in your own neighborhood. For me, who spends most of her waking hours in a newsroom, taking vacation means being able to walk on the beach, hike through the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve or even wander along Cannon Beach’s inner city trail. I might even head to Ecola State Park for a picnic or check out the Fort-to-Sea Trail or amble down the Ridge Path in Gearhart.

On Tuesday afternoon, I plan to go to the Cannon Beach Farmers Market to buy produce and fresh bread, listen to music and sample a falafel. There are a few new restaurants and a couple of old favorites in Cannon Beach and Seaside I’d like to try. It’s also time to catch up with local friends who I never see, unless they’re attending the same City Council meetings I’m covering for work. Maybe I’ll go see Gramercy Ghost at the Coaster Theatre before I begin rehearsals next Sunday for the theater’s holiday play, White Christmas.

It’s quite possible to fill an entire week of vacation with activities that I always mean to do, but never find the time for. In my own way, I will be a “vacationist” for a week, testing out that new term to see how it fits. Best of all, the destinations are only a few minutes away.

It’s 10:30 a.m. Time for another cup of coffee and a visit to one of the best spots available in this vacation paradise – my own backyard forest.

When she’s not on vacation, Nancy McCarthy is the South County reporter for The Daily Astorian and editor of the Cannon Beach Gazette and the Seaside Signal. Her column appears every two weeks.

For most people, ‘vacation’ automatically means ‘travel.’

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