When my friend, Deborah, the world traveler from Bremerton, Wash., finished describing the recent 10-week journey she took through Vietnam and Cambodia, she challenged me with this question:
So where are you going on your next trip?
Now, Ive done my fair share of traveling as well: Europe several times, Scotland, Greece, Yugoslavia during the week they declared civil war, Mexico a few times, Canada, many of these United States. I roamed through Australia for three weeks by myself, had quite the adventure in Jamaica, bumped along in a Volkswagen van with five others across the dry country of Namibia, stopping to view giraffes and zebras on the way to Swakopmund on the South Atlantic coast.
Deborah and I have even traveled together: We spent a few weeks with other friends in an Italian villa high on a hill in Tuscany. We spent another week together in a delightful casita in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.
But when she asked me where my next trip would be, she had me stumped.
Of course, she was sitting in my house, in Cannon Beach often referred to as a gem of small, romantic beachtown getaways.
Having been happily ensconced for five years on the North Coast, where theres an ocean on the west, forests on the east and friendly people all around, I havent wished to venture out much. If I want to walk along the beach, its only three blocks away. If I want to hike through the woods, trails in the Ecola Creek watershed or Ecola State Park are just a mile or so down the road.
If I want to visit art galleries, watch a giant fireworks display, participate in a sandcastle contest, play a game of golf, get revved up over muscle cars, buy a crab or two on the docks or watch local theater, all I have to do is head my car toward downtown Cannon Beach or venture a few miles farther to Seaside, Gearhart or Astoria.
And, if its a foreign accent that I long to hear, I can go into almost any shop and listen to customers from Europe, Japan, South America, the Middle East or New Zealand converse in their native languages.
For someone who wanted to travel more than anything when she was growing up, I have become a beach bum.
Why would anyone go away during the summer? asked Katie, my hairdresser, who moved to Arch Cape with her husband and two children from Utah a year ago. She knows North Coast residents who take off in the summer to visit warmer climates.
Such a practice in the winter is understandable, said Katie, who got so worked up about the topic while she cut my hair that I worried I might not have any left.
But, summer! she repeated, snapping those scissors furiously. Thats the season we all wait for!
She and her husband purposely chose to relocate on the North Coast, and, she admitted, they forego certain luxuries so they can afford to stay here. But, she said, it is worth those small sacrifices.
This is the place everyone wants to come to, and we are so lucky to be able to live here, she said.
Others, who are just beyond being local, apparently feel the same way. Of AAAs recent list of the five top gas tank getaways, around the Portland area, two of the destinations Cannon Beach and Astoria were on the North Coast. The others were Lincoln City, Newport and Bend.
The North Coast is such a destination that travel writers often come in packs just to taste our food, drink in our beaches and dip their toes in our culture. Gretchen Darnell, from the Seaside Civic and Convention Center, and Jon Rahl, of the Seaside Visitors Bureau, have arranged to host a travel writers conference here next year.
It seems strange for me, as a reporter covering the inner grist of Seaside, Cannon Beach and Gearhart those gems of the North Coast to think of them as travel destinations. True, some of the stories I write about the Seaside Aquariums 75th anniversary, or the history of Sandcastle Day in Cannon Beach, for instance could be travel stories. But, for me, they are stories containing fun facts about towns where I live and work every day.
Maybe its because Im just a local reporter that I dont get invited to sit in with travel writers who are lured here by the visitors bureau or the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce. While the local daily may give these towns much more attention than any publication out there, I guess that doesnt count when it comes to drawing world travelers to our magic cities.
Sometimes, on a day off, I pretend Im a tourist. Its not much of a stretch. There are still plenty of places to discover right here.
So, the next time Deborah asks me where Im going to travel to next, Ill tell her, Im already there.