One doesn't have to trudge around the world trying desperately to pack 13 countries into nine days. What vacations really mean to me now is treasuring some free time to reflect on what's become most valuable in my life. I live in Washington, D.C., and on the best vacation I ever took — in my own backyard — I tucked my journal under my arm and visited places that spoke to me about what it is to be an American and what experiences define a nation and its people.
See also: Volunteer on vacation.
Now, I reread quotations and remarks from my journal and reflect on the places where such people are remembered. For example, Clara Barton's quote, displayed at her home in Glen Echo, Md., reads, "If I can't be a soldier, I'll help soldiers." Or from Helen Keller, whose ashes are buried at the Washington National Cathedral: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable."
I recorded the words of Anne Frank at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. She wrote in her diary, "Every day I feel myself maturing, I feel liberation drawing near, I feel the beauty of nature and the goodness of people around me. Every day I think, what a fascinating and amusing adventure this is! With all that, why should I despair?"
"Vacations" can occur in one's own city, in one's own surroundings, with one's family — or even alone. Their purpose is to see the ordinary from a different perspective. My journal holds words that still make me laugh or cry and reflect on life, like the quotation from Barbara Bush in the first ladies exhibit at the Smithsonian: "Someday, someone will follow in my footsteps and preside over the White House as the President's spouse. And I wish him well."
Kathy Megyeri is a reader from Washington, D.C.
Your Turn! Tell us what you really know about saving money.
Email your essay of up to 400 words to email@example.com. Or mail it to "What I Really Know," AARP Bulletin, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049. Please include your name and a phone number or email address. Volume of submissions prevents us from responding to all of them.