Editor-in-Chief Paul Doiron reflects on vacationing close to home.
It’s become an annual ritual for the editors of various dictionaries to select a word of the year: a neologism that sums up the mood of the day. For example, subprime was the American Dialect Society’s pick for 2007, and who can contest the choice? Speaking for the state of Maine, I’d nominate the term staycation for 2008. The word is a cutesy pun on vacation and is generally defined as “a vacation spent close to home.” To put it into a sentence: “Many people in the Northeast will be taking staycations this month.”
One word you’ll rarely find in Down East is Vacationland. We have something of an institutional revulsion to the slogan, which suggests Maine is a fantasy place where no one actually labors to earn a living. Since we actually work quite hard, thank you very much, we’re disinclined to use the term (which first appeared on our license plate back in 1936 and thus has a historical pedigree we cannot deny). But, of course, we’re not fools: Maine is a state where millions of people vacation and have for well over a century. Glance at our advertising and you’ll see that we are somewhat invested in the concept of drivers traveling about Maine to enjoy our excellent inns, shops, galleries, and restaurants.
With gasoline hovering around four dollars a gallon, there’s considerable debate in Maine over how much actual driving will be going on this August. That’s one reason you have the Maine Office of Tourism promoting the concept of Maine staycations to New Englanders: “We’re nearby, we’re friendly, we’re beautiful — why not save a little cash and enjoy your summer in Maine?” So far, the evidence is mixed whether vacationers are buying into that message. I tend to believe that high gas prices and expensive airline tickets will redound to Maine’s benefit. Say what you will, our state is a lot closer to Manhattan than is Rome or Honolulu. Ideally, I’d love to see a return to the storied days when railroads and steamships brought millions of rusticators to the Pine Tree State. If gas prices continue to rise, that glorious past might well become our inevitable future.
If you’re a visitor to Maine — or a resident Mainer just recreating in your own backyard — I would like to commend you on your choice to spend August here; your decision was both economical and well considered. If you have doubts now, you won’t by the time you finish paging through this diverse issue, which both celebrates Maine at its best and recalls some Mainers at their very worst. Vacationland is a pretty interesting place. You’ll be glad you stayed.
- By: Paul Doiron