Note: This is an expanded version of what was written in my newsletter a couple weeks ago.
I was in Minnesota a couple weeks ago for business – again. One of the benefits of owning a hotel business in Minnesota is that when I travel there, I am reminded of all the years our family spent vacationing in the state. As I drove through Minnesota, sights, smells, and sounds reminded me of those cherished times. With only a little imagination, I felt like I was on vacation again.
The experience made me think about how much importance all of our senses hold in remembering places we have traveled. Sometimes we get so busy taking pictures, and looking at sights, that we ignore sounds, smells, tastes, and what we touch.
Growing up, my parents bought pop from the local Royal Crown (RC) distributor – never from the store – so our pop choices were RC, Diet Rite, Nehi Orange, and Nehi Grape. When we went on vacation, though, we could buy whatever flavor pop we wanted. It wasn’t long before I developed a love for Dr. Pepper. It was, and still remains, my “vacation pop,” as I rarely purchase it at home. Every time I drink a Dr. Pepper, I’m transported to the lake in Minnesota.
Another taste sensation involved stopping to eat at Perkins Restaurant. This chain is very prevalent in Minnesota with 68 locations, but the closest one to my home in Indiana is about two hours away. Regardless of the time of day, I always ordered an omelet, hash browns, and a fresh baked muffin. Now, when I travel through, I almost always choose the same meal.
In recent years, I’ve traveled more, venturing into Europe, Asia, and Central America. I’ve tasted delicious food in each place. On one trip to Paris, I sampled French Onion Soup in several restaurants. One restaurant’s offering stood out – I can almost taste the soup as I write.
We’ve made Duck à l’Orange a couple times at home, and each time we do, I feel transported to my favorite French restaurant.
Minnesota has it’s own unique smell. It’s hard to describe, but includes fish, motor exhaust, and very fresh air mixed together. As soon as I stepped out of my car, I noticed it. It’s a pleasant smell, but one I’ve only encountered in Minnesota.
Each country I’ve visited brings it’s own smells, but none stand out like the ones from my childhood. On my upcoming trip, I intend to stop and smell the roses…and the sea, the mountains, and the cities. I want to remember everything.
The sky in Minnesota is big – it seems to go on forever. I’ve been told that it is because there is less pollution in the air, which sounds plausible. When the weather is good, the sky is a brilliant blue, different than at home.
In contrast to the sky are the red roads. The natural stone and soil in Minnesota has a reddish cast which is evident in the pavement. Other roads glitter with crushed scraps of granite.
The sight I love the best, though, are the lakes. When my girls were young we always played “count the lakes” as we traveled to the resort. We had our own rules for how large the puddle had to be in order to count as a lake, but whoever sat on my side of the car always won. My husband teased that I was cheating, but we both knew there were just more lakes on that side of the road.
In order to remember the sights, I take pictures – lots of pictures. For larger trips, I’ve made scrapbooks – paging through always brings me back. Since I started this website, I’ve been able to share some of my pictures with you. If you’ve visited the places I’ve been, I hope my pics bring back memories. If you haven’t visited, maybe you can imagine being there.
Touch and Feel
The weather was beautiful when I was in Minnesota, with the gentle warmth of the sun shining down on my car as I drove. I had the air conditioning on, so when I stopped and go out of the car, I felt the warmth – not too hot, just pleasantly warm.
The sense of touch is one that I am least aware of while traveling. I feel the weather and have memories of hot (Paris, 2009), cold (high in the snow-covered Swiss Alps), or rainy weather (Venice, 2015).
Often when I travel, I am afraid to touch native plants and ancient structures in order not to damage them. I need to pay attention to what I do touch, so I can bring those memories home, too.
There was one sensation that I missed on this last trip to Minnesota – the sound of boats on the lake. In my head, I can hear the boats leaving the dock, slowly speeding up, and then the sound diminishing as the boats make their way across the lake. I hear the powerful acceleration of boats pulling skiers – then stop abruptly when the skier falls and needs to try again.
There are sounds in my memories from my trips to other places, too. I remember the organ at St. Suplice Cathedral in Paris being played by Daniel Roth. I remember the noontime concert in Amsterdam where we listened to the Royal Concertgebouw and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet play selections by Edvard Grieg. I remember the bells of the Cologne Cathedral and so many others ringing out the hours.
Not all pleasant sounds are man-made, but are part of the nature that surrounds us. Loons call out over the lakes in Minnesota. The water rushes over the cliffs at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee. The wind rustles through the trees in Northern Michigan. These God-made sounds balance the sounds we hear when we travel to cities.
Using my Senses
Even though I was not by the lake on my recent trip to Minnesota, I experienced many vacation sensations. If these sense memories that were not consciously made are so easily recalled, imagine what memories could be made by being consciously aware of sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and feelings.
Think about your senses the next time you travel. What do you taste, smell, see, feel, or hear that is exclusive to your favorite vacation spot?