Are you traveling for real, or from your laptop? So many of us, passionate about getting up and going, have been making do with travel brochures and virtual tours these past two-plus years. Some folks who spent a lifetime saving for a special adventure or retirement trip are still waiting for it to be safe enough. On the scale of problems people are facing these days, travel plans pale, but taking to the road is still one of life’s abiding joys.
Over the years, you have journeyed with me around the world. Whether or not you are travelers yourselves, if you turned to this page, you have visited dozens of countries, from Australia to Abu Dhabi to Tanzania to New Zealand to South Africa.
And I’m not hanging up my traveling shoes just yet. I am, however, staying stateside these days. The amalgam of unmasked crowds, canceled flights, war in Ukraine and concerns about getting sick in foreign lands has fixed our GPS to the USA.
If I wrote an essay called “What I Learned During the Coronavirus Pandemic,” it would emphasize traveling light and being ready to change plans.
Our plan this summer was to go to Maine, and so here we are. We picked three locations, and various Airbnbs. I write now from Kennebunkport, which is a first-time visit for us, “us” being my husband and me and Lillybee, the traveling dog.
We’re in a small, 200-year-old house that has been beautifully kept and updated with lots of modern conveniences, including a tricked-out cook’s kitchen. It also has an old, narrow, steep stairway to the second floor, uneven floorboards, creaking banisters, low ceilings, and bells on the porch that move in the wind. This is a little strange, I know, but this house wrapped its arms around me immediately. We’ve stayed in lots of rental places, but this is a unique feeling, as if I could just stay forever. I imagine there are ghosts in the evening, and I say, welcome, sit by me, tell me your stories.
We are walking every day, and finding lobsters to eat, and chatting with the locals when we can. We visited a local monastery, and found paths along the harbor that offered stunning seaside views. At the house, I can sit out back and read my books or do a crossword puzzle. The main tourist area is mobbed, and was crazy busy over the Fourth, but in general, the vibe is laid back.
Yesterday we booked a day sailing trip. The ocean was rolling as we passed the Bush compound known as Walker’s Point. The Texas flag was flying under the American flag, which everyone here knows means the former president is in residence. Seals were bobbing just off the rocks.
It looked picture-perfect, and it was — and, like a picture, it was all surface. Unbidden, intrusive thoughts rumbled through my head, like the problems of 43’s presidency, and his wars, and the misery of today’s politics, just an iPhone notification away. The world is always there, even on holiday. Even in a glorious moment.
We know we are lucky to have this getaway in a place that feels safe and close to nature and accessible to various kids and grandkids who may show up along the way. In the kids department, all the plans have changed many times due to Covid and Covid and Covid, as one after the other got sick and had to rebook. We roll with the changes; this is the lesson of the pandemic.
I confess to complicated feelings about the dozens of large, ornate historic summer “cottages” owned by people who come to Kennebunkport for brief stays in the hot weather. Like Newport. Like the Hamptons. Like the reverse in Palm Beach and Palm Springs. Some owners come for only a week or two. These outsized homes sit on vast parcels of land along the shore.
They require enormous upkeep. These Kennebunkport beauties are a slice of history; some estates are owned by families who built them more than 100 years ago.
We tourists have a role to play. We bring cash, but some bring trash. I know we are outsiders looking in, and we try to behave ourselves; it is our good fortune to visit this community for a time.
The weather has been grand for a state that is notorious for foul, wet, chilly days, even in summer (which is said to be one week in July). It has been in the 70s and sunny, with a side of lobstah.
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.