The Technology of Resorting/Vacationing, part 1

Modern civilized man (for space’s sake, I will refer in this post to mankind, homo sapiens sapiens, as male), once he is materially beyond a base level of surviving, has consistently chosen to leave his regular habitation and “vacate” himself for regular periods of time at “resorts.” The ancient Romans had their villas, the British their seaside retreats, in the same way that working-class American whites have their camp grounds. I can identify at least two reasons why he gets away from his normal place or “vacates.” Doing so brings him:  

  1. Physical fitness/health
  2. Mental/Spiritual fitness/health

Regardless of his station in life, the resorting man generally chooses a place that is near some natural beauty—a mountain, river, lake, or (as the USA’s most valuable real estate attests) oceanside. The more awesome the natural wonders/beauties, the more valuable the real-estate. We wisely set aside the most awesome scenery–Natural Parks–as places of inestimable value. This is another value of camping—one cannot “own” a piece of Yellowstone, or Grand Teton National Parks. One cannot adequately experience these places except by camping.


Once he owns or rents a place in these awesome sites, modern man can claim the physical and spiritual uplifts of resorting, if only for the term that his “main” role in civilization allows him release (sometimes only a week or less a year in the USA). If he is fortunate, and has the means to build himself a “vacation place” in a select spot,  it is because he has can spend extended periods of time—months out of the year, perhaps—in the chosen resort.)  The places he chooses and the particular ways in which he builds deploys his “vacation place” can yield important insights into his character and values.  


For instance, he may be athletic and therefore emphasize the physical benefits of vacationing. He will have specific outlets for physical activity. The sailor, hiker, hunter, and fisherman are examples of these. The fishing camps of Canada and Alaska are favorites of many modern men, as are the ski lodges of Colorado and Utah. In these rustic settings, one’s body is taxed, one’s physical endurance challenged, if only in a controlled extent. Even if one doesn’t do serious exercise, one’s body “naturally” responds to the demands of being in a new natural environment—it may mean extremes of temperature or a radical shift of venue—a snowy mountain, along a fast-rushing trout stream, aboard a small ship in a large body of water, etc. The circumstances call one’s body out of its slumber, un-used muscles are called into work, one’s lungs and blood adjust to different atmospheres, and the overall effect is corporeally strengthening.


If a man’s tendencies run to the spiritual, he can find a kind of meditative peace in good seasons of Nature. Just being in or near a wilderness allows his body to relax and the “higher faculties” to engage more than they can in one’s normal home. Something about the steady rhythms of a forest stream, waves on a beach, or the sun and wind on a mountainside lowers one’s blood pressure and heart rate.  The trailor camper sitting in a natural setting can have his attention diverted, his mental activity engaged in an encounter with Nature. His thinking may grow more spiritual as the day-to-day material matters of his home-life are transcended. One may find one’s thoughts growing more and more general (and thus potentially more meaningful) when in Nature. One’s imagination and memory are loosed to deal creatively with the facts of existence. And although menacing encounters with Nature (such as those described in the technology of camping post) teach him material lessons, a man in a vacation place can have a more salubrious, spiritual learning experience. 
What does the spiritual resorter do beside imbibe the invisible benefits of Nature?  It depends on the practice. Religions have made pilgrimages and other outdoor activities (one thinks of adult baptism) in a spiritually-conducive Nature. Here the activities are communal. Others follow individual pursuits–the most extreme example being the hermit. If one values family, and one is religious, he may make a resort that can function as a familial cultural site, a place where regular rituals impart and enforce norms, including religious norms. Such is the case with the vacation place in my family, the cottage called “Balgownie” after a bridge near Aberdeen, Scotland by my great-grandfather, Tom.
The case of Balgownie

Situated on the southeast coast of Lake Michigan, and thus affording a relief from the oppressive humidity of the Chicago in summertime, it provided my great-grandfather with a place where his family would not roast or fall prey to pestilence. Is it perhaps no coincidence that the construction happened during the year of the last great deadly epidemic in the USA (other than the slowed and not so immediately sizeable AIDS epidemic), 1919. His choice of location of this resort was wise. The city is on the stale side of the lake, where the breeze is not normally so strong, and constant.  The risk of disease—pneumonia and malaria, “yellow fever” and tuburculosis, smallpox, diphtheria, cholera, etc. was lower here. The surroundings of the cottage, including roads and utilities, are taken care of by the association (or “country club”) of which Balgownie is a part. 
The spot is less than two hundred yards from the lakeside, and offers children waves and sizeable sand dunes where children can safely run and fall and climb and fall. My grandpa could give his kids opportunities to do crafts and games through the Clubhouse, and allowed himself and his wife the bliss of detaching from the life back in the metropolis. As this image (from the 1920s or 30’s?) shows, reading, needlework, and music were part of the set of cultural values expressed in the early years of the cottage.
It is my inference, though, that for the middle-aged adult, the chief pastime of this cottage dwellers was reading books, since the original furnishings attest to that function, and since I myself find it a perfectly crafted tool for that purpose. The image of the reading lounge, made specifically for that purpose from a modified chiropractor’s table in the 1920’s, shows the way it’s set up to be a reading room.
This is the spiritual purpose of this resort, my great-grandparents being devout members of a full-gospel sect of Christianity that believed in reading scripture and commentaries thereon, along with patriotic and religious-themed fictions.

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