The Best Vacation

Many of us are in that stretch of the year when we’re waiting, waiting, waiting for school denver snowto be out so we can shift into summer break mode. Maybe we’re waiting for the weather to get a clue–my daughter sent me pictures of Denver covered in snow last week. Maybe we’re holding off to go on vacation until we’ve built up more leave or more savings.

I made plans last fall to travel for italian coastseveral weeks in Italy this spring, and then to end my journey with ten days in Scotland. I browsed websites, I googled destinations, I looked at pictures and read catalogs. I talked to people about their travels and where they’d stayed. I racked up the credit card expenses for tickets and got them paid off before my departure date–a particularly nice accomplishment.

italian cookongI had great fun anticipating good food, new faces, new scenery, and some new vocabulary. Italian is a wonderful language, one usually spoken with energy and rhythm, and Italy itself boasts so much beautiful coastline, it’s a wonder there’s any population in the interior of the country.

All of this was new to me, and as it turns out, the fun of an experience, be it a vacation, a rock climb, a wedding, is only partly in the event itself. Much of the pleasure we derive from recreation lies in anticipating the fun. When you ask people who’ve tuscanyplanned a vacation how much they enjoyed it, and compare their answers with results from people who made a spontaneous or short-notice outing to the same destination, the planners will report having more fun.

eilean_donan_castle_scotland_0303This is true even if you give those people the exact same vacation itinerary, put them up in the same hotels at the same time of year. There really is a lot to be said for anticipation–ask any romance heroine long about page 178.

So what small or large pleasure awaits you later this year? What could you put on the calendar that you’d enjoy doing, and enjoy looking forward to? If I were to plan an author’s retreat in Scotland, what would you say I absolutely had to include to make the trip worthwhile?

To three commenters, I’ll send a signed copy of The Captive.




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67 comments on “The Best Vacation

  1. I’m going on a polar ear -seeing trip this year, and I’m anticipating it so much! November can’t come fast enough!!

  2. Am looking forward to my dog club’s Speciality show in June. It will take me about 3 hours to pack the Suburban with dog crates, bedding, towels, the grooming table, the dog dryer, dog food and water. And then, my clothes and essentials!:) Looking forward to showing Molly, Celeste and Greg, seeing friends and shopping. In my opinion, you can’t have enough corgi pottery or sweatshirts! πŸ™‚

    An authors retreat in Scotland . .. I would think you would have to visit both the countryside and the coastal towns, music…definitely bagpipers and folk music, a visit to a castle or two? Wonder if you could find a B&B by the coast and use it as a home base for writing and traveling. Sounds fabulous!

    • Your dog show activities put in mind of my horse showing days, Sue. Competing was only part of the fun, and I learned something at each show–I often bought something, too.

      As for Scotland, excellent suggestions. It’s not a large country, so a central base will allow for a lot of sight-seeing.

  3. My anticipated pleasures are simple: going to visit my Darling Daughters. The one in Fairfax is a teacher of 3rd grade. I go to school as many days as the principle will sanction and act as a teacher’s aide in her classroom. I also enjoy the multiple persons volunteering their praise of my “child” as a person, teacher and friend. Visiting DD#2 in LA is a riot of discovery… who would ever have thought this one would want to spend time in museums! Her path has turned into one of such pleasure, relief and pride for her mama.

    As for the author retreat… I would gain a copy of the Travel & Learn itinerary planned by my alumni group and re-create it for us. It is impressive, if expensive and at I time I cannot manage. The only addition; time for us to gather and practice the “writing thing.”

    • I’d like to see that itinerary, Sue.

      As for the kids, I love visiting my daughter. She’s in her mid-twenties, and every visit, she’s acquired some new competence. Sometimes, she’d taken a class that has broadened her horizons, other times, she’s found a cool new restaurant. This last time, we poked around the Denver University campus, which she got the hang of by the end of her first quarter.

      Bless all the young people, for they have much on their collective plate.

  4. I’m looking forward to going home to England at the end of next month, and seeing my family. I haven’t been back in over four years, so I’m pretty homesick.

    If you go to Scotland, you must visit “Culloden”. I went there years ago, and couldn’t fathom how such a terrible battle had occurred there. Scotland is truly a beautiful country, and you will be pleased with any place you visit.

    Thank you for the chance to win a signed copy of “The Captive”. I’d really love to read this.

    • What struck me about Culloden is that it’s still a bog. Charging across that terrain well rested, well fed, and without all the gunsmoke beclouding it would still be treacherous today.

      Nearly freezing, starving, exhausted, and dealing with the effects of heavy rain… Bonnie Prince Charlie’s troops didn’t stand a chance.

    • Sounds terrific. One of my former college buddies is an editor for Cruising magazine, which I gather is about point to point sailing. She gets to sail in all manner of cool locations–the Black Sea, the Hebrides, the South Sea Islands…. pretty nice editing gig, if you ask me.

  5. I do think you are right about the anticipation. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to go on vacation but my friend and I occasionally visit a local casino to get away from it all. Sometimes she calls me at the last minute and I don’t always go. I guess I’m not the most spontaneous of people lol. We’re planning a trip at the end of next week so I have had that anticipation and always the hope of being a big winner lol.

    And for your trip to Scotland – a visit to a castle and seeing some laddies in kilts lol.

    • The inchstones are as worth looking forward to as the milestones. For many of us, that’s happy hour on Friday, the book club on Tuesday, the poker game on Thursday night. For me it was often the new romance novel that I’d start that night.

  6. We will be making a trip to Disney world the week of Thanksgiving this year. I personally can’t wait because I am such a kid at heart. My son who is 7 can’t wait to go eat with his favorite characters and to ride the trains around the park. I have never been at holiday time so I can’t wait to see the decorations.

    • Sheryl,
      Take the time and plan to the smallest detail – there is so much to see and do… oh its really a place to go and be a kid again… your son will love it… I wish my nephews were his age so I could get a chance to get a ride in the parade… I know it sounds silly from a 52 years old!!!! but I will tell you its a great place to enjoy. I loved Animal Kingdom the best… if you are planning to visit it get there really early and run to the Safari so you get to see the animals – after they have breakfast they tend to hide to sleep – but if you get there early you have a chance to see them around… its so worth it… even after being there twice I still want to go back… ah when you are tired and need a break go the Flights of Wonder – ah the eagles are absolutely gorgeous – I got all emotional when I went close by them… Hope is so gorgeous…

    • Sheryl,
      No place like it. Do you plan to do any character meals? You can only have a wonderful time there. Especially at the holiday time. So beautiful.
      One suggestion, make sure you check out when the Mickey Christmas party is. It can make a huge difference on your time.

    • I think many parents who take their kids to Disney have as much fun as the kids. I went to Disneyland when I was five, and I still remember much of that day half a century later.

  7. I have never been to Scotland but have enjoyed reading about that country, past and present, in Diana Gabaldon’s and Susanna Kearsley’s books. I think I would definitely visit where the Battle of Culloden took place. Maybe I would bump into Jaimie’s ghost!! Hope you get to go there!!

    • I’ve seen Culloden, which is bleak on a sunny day, and also the split rock at Clava Cairns where Outlander starts off. They’re only a few miles apart, though the Cairns are thousands of years old, and the battle was only a few centuries ago.

  8. In less than two weeks my family will embark on our first family vacation in four years. I am already in preparation mode with getting things ready for the road trip across the country. As much as I love visiting with family and friends in PA and NY my favorite part of the trip is the actual car drive there and back, when it’s just our family of six together for every meal of the day and everything in-between. With a husband who is gone a lot and works past dinner time we are rarely together for meals. Thankfully the boys are wonderful car travelers and the the twins somehow manage to sit through dinners out at restaurants. This year we are taking the boys to Hershey Park so they can have fun and enjoy the rides.
    I am also hoping to get away for a few days in October without any of the boys and refresh myself. It’s always good for this mom to get away from everything and remember I am an individual.

    • Hershey is a wonderful place to spend a day, and it shouldn’t be too hot, as early in the season as you’re going. If you and Jonathan have time to take in Antietam Battlefield, gimme a holler and I’ll meet you if I haven’t left for Scotland yet.

  9. I’m planning a trip to travel up the coast of California. So looking forward to it as I used to live in San Diego.

    • Jennie, I wish you clear sailing. Everybody says drive up the PCH, you have to do Route 1 and see the coast.

      You don’t see the coast, you see the exhaust of the behemoth RV toddling around the hairpin turns ahead of you. Yes, the ocean is there on your left, but you’re too busy navigating the switch backs to enjoy the view. I wish I’d done the Hearst Castle though–maybe next time.

  10. Hi Grace!
    I have to say that planned vacations are the best I have had. My best vacation of all times was when I went to Disney with my oldest nephew. We spent a week there and I had 2 seasoned Disney crazy friends to help me plan.I had the best time ever. It was well worth the investment in time to do plan to the smallest detail. I can totally say I know what to do when I do it again!!!

    Unfortunately I don’t have anything tremendously exciting to look foward to it in terms of vacation. I am hoping to work a lot this summer and in the fall start the online program for wound care and ostomy certification in order to get a better job… BUT summer to me will mean I will sit in my porch or back yard or in my garden and READ… and READ and get far away of day to day things… Ha… that is a great thing for me… thank God for books and people that write them… yay… I don’t know what I would do without books and good stories…

    Grace, Scotland is on my bucket list… I have only been there in my day dreams… I have read tons of stories that takes place in Scotland… have spend countless hours online looking at pics… why??? I have no idea why a country so far away from my origins “pulls’ my attention. Braveheart is my favorite movie. I have even looked into moving there and looked for a job there…
    I have a list of places I would love to go – and 2 castles in particular – i think you have to go to at least 2 castles if you go to Scotland. I am not sure where you are going but I think Castle Duart in the Isle of Mull – it appeals to me because it feels like is grand, solid, stands alone, makes a statement against all odds… its there and its staying (yes it has been restored but its a monument of strength… )
    Also in Isle of Mull – Iveraray Castle – it looks very touristy to me but I would love to see it… and of course the gardens there would be a must for me… so I think you should plan to stay in Mull at least a couple of days visit those places, take tons of pictures and write at least 3 new books when you come back…

  11. For this summer, I really like to go to San Antonio for July to see most of my favorite authors, I am still not sure if I can travel there but that is where I like to go for this summer and I like to go overseas to see my family too. For Scotland trip, you describe Scotland so beautifully in your books , so I think to make it worthwhile just relax, take lots of pictures and enjoy.

    • Kimia, please say hi to RWA National for me. I’m using up my travel money in other ways this year. Then too, when I go to RWA, I always lose my writing rhythm for a few weeks–to much stimulation?

  12. I don’t have any great plans for this year except enjoying my family, but I have been wanting to attend at RT Convention for years. Now that I am retired, I am planning on saving up and, hopefully, be able to get to the one in Dallas next year. I have my “wish jar” ready to be filled and hoping my dream comes true! πŸ˜‰

    • The numbers this year set a new world record for the largest booksigning, and I gather there were some problems dealing with crowds that size. I hope by next year the problems will be straightened out, but whenever I’ve gone, RT has been nothing but fun.

  13. Not taking a vacation this year I think. Will go see my Mom and sister 6 hours away in central Illinois. Will do something entertaining, but the prairie is too familiar (and I find that tedious) to be a vacation. I may go to Washington, DC in the hottest part of the year (ugh!) July 28th for the Badass Teachers March on Washington. Probably my last hurrah at protesting. Voicing my outrage at what is happening in public education. So my best vacation not happening this year!

    As far as what you should do in Scotland – you have been there and I haven’t so I think the advising should be the other way around with you telling me what to do. If I had been there and seen the once in a lifetime stuff already I might try to spend some time in a pub or village talking/shadowing/hanging out with some folks, gleaning insights into the Scots character. What makes them tick, what do they love about their country, what do they value, what makes them laugh, etc.

    • Mary, my take on our educational system is that for what we pay for it, we get amazing results. That said, I will google this protest. I live not that far from DC, and the cause is important.

      You’re right about the micro-perspective on Scotland and other destinations. The sights are wonderful, but the locals are the heart of any place.

  14. I’m one of the lucky ones – my school year is over! I’m waiting for several things right now. The first is my daughter’s dance recital, coming up next weekend. The second (in time, not in importance) is the birth of my nephew, which could happen any time, although June 2 is the due date. I have several short trips planned this summer within the state of Kansas, and I have planned one longer trip to upstate NY.

    I’m not sure I’ll ever make it to Scotland, so I don’t have any advice for your writer’s retreat.

  15. We live in upstate NY & our daughter moved to Wisconsin last summer for her 1st “out-of-college” career job. My hubby, myself & our son (NYC school teacher) are making our final plans to all arrive around the same time & spend a week in the Milwaukee area…We will get a chance to see the local sights & meet (in person) all her friends that we’ve seen in photos on FB–lol…Our daughter will join us when she can (tho’ she has to work for most of the time there)…So I agree that the planning has been fun (esp. as we discuss what there is to do during our skype sessions)…Weather may dampen some scheduled activities but being together for a short time in “her world” will be great. BTW, years ago I went in on a bunch of lottery tickets with some co-workers when the “pot” was quite large…My hubby & I discussed what we would do with our windfall (it was pre-children era)…We dreamt of travel & sharing our wealth with our families, etc. & how we could contribute generously to our favorite charities…of course, we did not win but afterwards, my hubby said “didn’t we have the best time dreaming & planning & thinking about the “what if”…That was so true. Peace, Ev

    • I don’t visit my daughter. I pass through town and spend an extra day, making sure all is as well as I can make it, then moving on. Looking forward to the day we honestly visit.

      Beloved Offspring finished her first marathon yesterday, so I’m hoping some day she can pace me for a 5K.

  16. I am so glad you enjoyed Italy. I was there in early April. Do you think you will set one of your stories in a hill country town in Tuscany? It might be an interesting change. Thanks for the books that have come out recently. It is always a treat to have a new Grace Burrowes book to read.

    • Barbara, I’ve been thinking of a Regency trilogy of three Italian brothers, a violin master, a dancing master, and a voice teacher. They’re handsome, dashing, fun, and hiding something….

  17. No formal vacation in my plans this year, but I’m already starting to add mini “vacations” to my schedule: a trip across town to my middle nephew’s Little League games, heading out of town with a friend to learn Argentine tango, the annual party at a friend’s farm just outside of town, and today’s jaunt to another friend’s place in the country so that she could indulge her urge to cook several dishes her family won’t eat so that she and I could sit and talk for hours. (Very European feel to the day!)

    I’m planning on scheduling a date with myself in August, too, for staying up way late and heading out into the country to watch the Perseid meteor shower.

    Not sure what all you got to do on your trip to Scotland last year, Grace, but I would sorely love to find a “faerie glen” and explore it — who knows what magic might happen?

  18. I am planning a vacation to visit my son and his wife in their new home in Las Vegas later this year. I anticipate seeing lots of fun things since they’re really good at ferreting out the cool local spots that not everyone knows about. I’ll probably do some research myself, but I know I can rely on them to find the really fun stuff.

    • Las Vegas is an easy place to find cool stuff to do. As much as the glitter and gambling isn’t for me, the variety of entertainments is mind-boggling. And then there’s Lake Mead, the desert, the North Rim…

      You WILL have fun.

  19. We are taking our boys, ages 10 and 12, to Washington D.C. I love that most of the museums are free. I’ve already put the hotel, just 20 minutes walk from the White House, on a credit card. So we ARE going. I’ve researched interesting restaurants and saved them onto trip advisor. I hope that we don’t melt in the DC heat–but it can’t be worse than Georgia at the same time!

    • It isn’t any worse than Georgia, and the metro is air conditioned. Don’t forget that the National Zoo is also free, and it’s just a few blocks from the Woodley Park-Zoo metro stop.

      I think your Congressional representatives can get you passes for the special White House tour, and if you do nothing else, take a gander at the ceiling of the Library of Congress reading room.

    • Lesia, I don’t know how it escaped my notice–my sister has lived in Italy–but the country is 80 percent mountainous. For some reason, I’d thought much of it was Piedmont, like Tuscany. I also somehow missed that at least Mt.Etna is an ACTIVE volcano that has erupted in my life time.

      Much to see and do and learn…

  20. The reason isn’t ideal, but I’ll be going to Washington State and Oregon this July for the memorial and internment of my grandfather. He was a cantankerous old coot in the finest tradition of curmudgeonry. He disowned my mother decades ago, but my aunts don’t care and are including us in the trip. I will get to see all my family on my mom’s side for the first time in a decade. I also get to visit five other friends and meet TWELVE of their kids that I haven’t yet.

    And you couldn’t be more right – the planning and anticipation are a fabulous gift of joy long before the trip is taken!

  21. I’m looking forward to the birth of the next great-nephew or niece in the fall – just spent the weekend with the 20-month old brother of the expected baby – what a hoot that boy is!

    I was only in Scotland once many years ago – besides Edinburgh Castle I loved the tour out into the countryside and seeing the shaggy highland cattle – and having the lovely tea with scones. I hope to get back someday – let me know if you’d like some company on a trip!

  22. I have always thought that planning a trip was half the fun–all of the “looking forward to it”!

    So, why was your trip cut short?

  23. The highly anticipated pleasures we have coming up this summer include: my daughter’s graduation from high school; a family trip that will include Salt Lake City UT, Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, Gardiner Montana and Yellowstone National Park, and Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming; a couple weeks later both kids will be off to college which is highly anticipated by them but bittersweet for me and my husband.

    As for your visit to Scotland, I’ve never been so I can’t say much about what you need to see or do. I can only tell you I doubt any of it could be considered a waste of time!

  24. I love the idea of a holiday. Never had a real big one . But the idea of lounging around , doing some sight seeing oohhh that sounds so good. I’m not a shopping holiday person. Great if that is your thing. But I like outdoors with the birds, wild life –tame wildlife – if that is possible . Just to wander & look.
    If I could pic 3 places to visit they would be Australia– Scotland–Ireland . Oh the sights to be seen.

  25. Hmm… I went to Scotland in May of 1991. The weather was gorgeous. There were these yellow flowers called rape, which they use for oil. I spent time in Edinburgh. I loved the tour of Edinburgh castle and had a great guide. The National Portrait Gallery was kind of depressing. Bonnie Prince Charlie was not a nice guy. I enjoyed walking the Royal Mile. I enjoyed St. Giles Church. I stayed at a nice bed and breakfast in the Haymarket District. The Italian food was quite good. I guess just wandering the city was my favorite part.

  26. Other than looking forward to the end of school in two weeks, I am planning a bid trip to Scotland with my sister for our 50th birthday. We’ve been planning it for years already! You are right, the anticipation definitely adds to the enjoyment of a trip.

  27. Large pleasure.. A 2 week transatlantic cruise that starts in London, hits Norway, the Shetland Islands, Iceland, St. John’s and New York.

    As far as an author’s retreat in Scotland. I would stay at the Loch Ness Country House in Inverness (been there and it is peaceful). While in Inverness, I would see Culloden Moor and Cawdor Castle. Both are wonderful.

  28. Afraid it’s going to be a “Staycation” this year:-)

    However, I do enjoy the anticipation of a trip. The planning – not so much. Which is unusual because I’m not usually a “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of gal.

    Hope you have a wonderful time on your trip – with no interruptions.

  29. Have to comment on this one! This year marks my husband’s 60th birthday and our 40th wedding anniversary. To celebrate, we are taking our adult children and grandchildren (that only makes 8 of us in total) with us on a 7 day cruise to the Great Barrier Reef, in the far north of our state. This will give us wonderful experiences together but space when we need it. As the time draws closer the grandchildren are watching “Chipwrecked” and “Finding Nemo” and building a Lego cruise ship. We have a large jar where all the loose change goes, building a fund for spending money on the shore excursions. Eight year old counts the contents every time he visits and proudly announces the total. Getting closer now!

    In terms of Scotland…. We were fortunate enough to visit there four years ago. Summer was a Tuesday that year – but we still loved it! I had always wanted to visit Culloden Moor, site of the terrible 1746 battle. Serendipitously, we had booked accomodation at a small “castle” b&b near Inverness – Kilravock. During the after breakfast tour, our host told us how this seat of clan “Rose” hosted the “Pretender” on the eve of the great battle while the baron’s townhouse hosted the Duke of Cumberland. “Cool!”, thought this history buff. To be in Scotland now, in the lead up to the referendum on independence, would be very interesting. Enjoy!

  30. I look forward to dragging my10 year old to visit her sister in Savanah. Since she married she lived far away and though the trip to Alaska was wonderful it’s nice to know I can pack a car and be on her doorstep in 6 hours…my poor son-in-law. I imagine Spanish moss draped streets lined with grand houses and visits to barrier islands and fabulous seafood.
    In reality it will be Spanish moss draped streets lined with grand houses and 100 percent humidity. Tybee island will be bumper to bumper and I should have homeschooled the 10 year old so we could be there before the tourist season.
    The 10 year old will just want an electronic device.
    I look forward to it anyway. The oldest loves to share. She anticipates for us. She should run a hotel or a B&B…
    I’ve never been to Scotland ( Italy was wonderful! ) but have always wanted to visit the Skye or someplace desolate and wild and windy. Just the thought makes my ears hurt but that could just be my sinuses.