Checking In: Domestic Travel
Checking Out: European Vacation
Before I launch into my defense of our country as a viable vacation alternative, let’s get one thing straight. I in no way condone the use of the word “staycation.” It’s the “Fergalicious” of travel writing, and we’ve all seen what Ms. ‘Alicious has done for pop music. That said, vacationing within the borders of our fine nation is a trend that cannot—and should not—be overlooked. Besides, in times of economic downturn, there’s nothing wrong with keeping money circulating at home.
To understand how our country stacks up against our European counterparts, it’s important to understand the appeal of foreign travel. For the purpose of this column, I’ve come up with three overarching reasons why Americans are so enamored with the idea of a European vacation. They are, in no particular order: shopping, culture and history. There may be a million other factors, but for the sake of brevity, we’re going to stick with the horribly oversimplified ones listed above.
This is a no-brainer. Unless you’re shopping somewhere that’s been denied admission into the E.U., your money isn’t worth jack in Europe. You might not find a boutique that specializes in bottled water tastings (see Colette, Paris) this side of the Atlantic, but for the most part, America has some of the best shopping in the world. And, as I said before, keeping the dollar circulating at home can’t hurt. For the best in the west(ern hemisphere), New York, Los Angeles and even San Francisco are known the world over for their shopping districts.
They don’t call it a melting pot for nothing. The Untied States is the only place on earth where just about every culture known to man exists (harmoniously or otherwise) side by side. True, there are areas that are thoroughly white bread, but it doesn’t take an anthropologist to sniff out a culturally rich city. For a uniquely American experience, there is no better place than the Big Easy. New Orleans may have suffered a few major setbacks after Hurricane Katrina, but the spirit of the city never died, and the famous French Quarter hardly even missed a beat.
If your definition of culture is a bit more metropolitan, the United States isn’t lacking in that option either. New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and even Fort Worth, T.X. are all thriving metropolises with plenty to offer in the way of fine art and food.
From Ellis Island to the Gold Rush, the United States has a varied past, and one that’s been properly exploited. There are Civil War reenactments almost daily, guided tours of indigenous dwellings and, of course, Washington D.C. The city is practically one big monument, and is home to the world’s largest museum complex, the Smithsonian.
I know, I know. You’ve heard it all before, but when you’ve got your sights set on Europe, it can be easy to forget just how fulfilling staying home, or at least in the country, can be. We may be responsible for the degradation of the English language (ahem, staycation), but the truth is, we’ve got everything we need right here at home.