For 52 weeks now, I’ve written about getting away from it all — if only for a day.
Escape is my theme. How to get away from the daily routine, the humdrum, the stressful, the very cold and the very hot. So I looked for places to relax, to find inspiration, to laugh, to find pleasure and have fun.
For me, these days away have been about reconnecting. With every new day away, I reconnected with my family, with the world around me, the history I should know, places I visited before.
I rarely went on these daylong jaunts alone. I went with friends and, mostly, family.
I grew up with with Sunday drives. Columbia was a new city when I was little so my parents would pile us kids in the car and off we went to see Wilde Lake or the brand new Mall in Columbia. We went to see the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian Institution, spent a day on the beach at Ocean City or visited small towns in Virginia as we drove along the Skyline Drive. We saw Hershey Bars being made and got on boats, trains and merry-go-rounds.
As a parent myself, I realized I knew very little about the small towns in Maryland along Interstate 70. So I revived the Sunday drives for my own children, although I moved them to summer Wednesdays and brought whomever would fit in the mini-van. After a summer heading west, we spent a summer in southern Maryland and another on the Eastern Shore. We saw lots of places — especially parks, playgrounds and picnic tables. Little kids like that part of the trip best, don’t they?
For the past dozen years, I’ve returned to lots of those places while I wrote for Frommer’s and I visited lots of new ones. With every visit during those years, I kept thinking there’s so much more to write about these places than I can squeeze into the summaries of a travel guide. And there are lots of places that go beyond the boundaries of my books.
And that’s why I decided to start this blog. When I began, I wasn’t sure I would last the year. I knew I had plenty of material — enough to keep this up for a very long time, with more ideas always developing. But it takes time planning, organizing, visiting and writing. I knew I had to fit it in with responsibilities of work and family.
And I had to recruit travel buddies. But I have been lucky. Many friends and relatives have joined my adventures — and sometimes they came up with destinations. Along the way, we laughed. We filled each other in on what was new in our lives. We shared memories — especially when we visited a place we’d seen before. We shared discoveries when we visited a new place.
With each day away, we enjoyed rolling hills and icy pathways, good restaurants and museums filled with new ideas. We learned a little history and spent a little money. We discovered and rediscovered perfect small towns and big city attractions. When something went wrong — oh, yes, things have gone wrong — it has been nice to have someone to help me out of a bind. Or at least laugh at me; I meant with me. Mostly, I’ve gotten lost, gotten stuck in traffic, had a perfectly good schedule go awry. I’ve shown up at places that were closed (didn’t check the hours, did I?!) or went to a restaurant that I should have skipped. That’s part of the travel experience and I have learned to take it in stride.
Blogging has given me an opportunity to look a little more closely when I travel, take photos beyond the family snapshot, and then relive the trip as I write my essay here. A travel blog, I have discovered, becomes a trip traveled twice.
Blogging also gave me an opportunity to connect with the world in a way I never expected. Every day I’m amazed at the reach of my essays — people from all over the world come to this URL to read my blog. I’ve become a blog reader myself, too. I’ve read blogs from every continent. And became a fan of quite a few. I’ve found advice to follow, fashions I wish I could wear, places to put on my bucket list. I even bought a book after reading a blog.
All in all, it’s been a year to escape, to discover, to rediscover and to reconnect. What a fun year it’s been. I look forward to another year of discovery, escape, and reconnections. For all of us who seek a day away.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman