Germany is the world champion in traveling and has been so for ages. No matter how legendary Japanese traveling groups are around the world, snatching photos of everything, Germans have been there and done that before. Whether individually or in organized groups, whether high-fangled luxury trips to exotic places or eco-friendly social excursions, there’s something for every German. Passports are a given, even though you have to pay for them. Compared to this: I recently heard somewhere that only ten percent of all US citizens own a passport at all and that only about 20 percent of the Washingtonians go on a summer vacation trip.This mural in Port Angeles, WA, presents a common concept of leisure/vacation time while staying near home.
I’ve been a big-time traveler in my almost 42 German years, too. Exploring chunks of my mother country was as important to me as to get to know other European countries. I even peeked behind the Iron Curtain twice, in former Czechoslovakia. Business trips took me as far as the US West Coast and China. Once, I was even a wedding guest in Mumbai, India. Two bi-weekly vacations a year had become a standard to me as an adult single; and that left me another two weeks to spare for any kinds of family visits. That routine changed when my husband and I were courting. I flew out to England bi-monthly then, the actual trip taking a little above 3 hours and the tickets being a steal.
Coming here, I soon found that most people who travel are retirees. People who are still working seem to save up time and money to see their scattered family. Distances are simply incomparable to those within Europe, so those trips are often enough not just over a weekend. You have to turn you two weeks’ vacations into family visiting time. You have to turn your holiday budget into the fare for flight tickets for the whole family – pretty expensive if you happen to have all of your family on the other side of the continent. No wonder that what remains of time and budget is turned into rather local vacationing.
In Western Washington, I think this is not even a challenge. It’s pretty paradisiac with a stunning landscape, amazing wild life, and plenty of cultural opportunity. Who says you aren’t experiencing a great vacation, while enjoying a picnic on a small rocky island beach on the first warm day of the year? Or when you play tourist and go browsing the stores of a pretty harbor town? Or hiking some mysteriously beckoning trails, or visiting some intriguing museums?
Maybe camping is not my first and foremost choice for overnight trips, though. I’m used to and prefer real beds, a nice private shower, and the comfort of my own kitchen instead of improvising cooking and doing the dishes over a camp fire. I love Nature, but I also love the accomplishments that mankind has produced to procure for creature comforts.
My first weekend vacation at a pretty little bed & breakfast place in the north of the Olympic Peninsula was an eye opener, though, as to why such vacations are often way out of league for the average American. The nice little suite with a fancy, but scant breakfast at the table d’hôte cost us the same amount as a room in a four-star hotel in Germany, huge fancy breakfast buffet included, or even an entire all-inclusive weekend holiday organized by a German travel agency. It made me wonder about the price/performance ratio in either country – and how many people here can afford such luxury.
Which might be another reason why staying in the area on your own terms can be quite the nicer, more comfortable summer vacation option. Share a steak with some friends at a sundown BBQ, catch fresh crab with the neighbor down the street from the harbor dock, or have a glass of red with a friendly, down-to-earth stranger over a camp fire. I could imagine worse.