Several weekends ago, my wife and I packed our daughter in the car in
an orderly manner and drove out to Coney Island. It was our second trip
since the events of September 11, the first one having been a kind of
impromptu, helter-skelter escape the day after the terrorist attack, when
our downtown neighborhood filled up with smoke. We visited the Aquarium,
where the beluga whales were swimming around their tank in long, luminous
circles. We sat on the boardwalk in the autumn sunshine and watched the
strange procession of Russian soccer players and merry Indian families
and sunbaked old gentlemen strolling to and fro in their porkpie hats.
Across the waves, the headlands of Sandy Hook shimmered in the distance
like some exotic Mediterranean coast. We took in the scene for a time
in peaceful silence. "Honey," my wife finally said, "I think we need a
I don't think we're alone. These days, even the most insular New Yorkers
are looking a little wistfully at that vast hinterland across the Hudson.
My father, a New Yorker of the old school, travels all the time for his
job and generally loathes vacations, especially those that involve sitting
on beautiful sandy beaches for days on end with nothing constructive to
do. So imagine my surprise the other day when I heard him say that it
might be time to take the family south for a communal trip to the Caribbean.
Another dedicated New Yorker I know admitted (not wistfully at all) that
she was planning to flee the city, but only because prices were so low.
"These travel people are just throwing deals at you," she said. "It's
Ironically, for travelers, the going has never been so good. According to
industry experts, the two big trends in post-September 11 travel are reunion
trips by whole extended families, and wilderness journeys booked by jittery
survivalists who want to brush up on their skills and get away from it all.
Otherwise, the coast is clear. Air travelers report that the experience
is almost unnervingly pleasant. There are no waits on the runway, the flight
crews are cordial, and there's plenty of room to stretch out and relax.
Once you arrive in the Bahamas, say, or your ridiculously cheap Las Vegas
hotel ($89.95 for one night at the Mirage, when I last checked Travelocity.com),
you'll find a kind of tourist nirvana. You won't have to elbow your way
through a rabble of Texans to get onto the golf course or the ski slopes,
and the beaches are blissfully free of elderly German men in their skimpy
Or so I'm hoping. In recent weeks, my wife and I have been slowly expanding
our modest travel perimeter. We've driven up to New England to look at the
turning leaves, and last weekend we spent a day hunting for the perfect
samosa in the wilds of Jackson Heights. After that, who knows? We might
get on a plane and fly to Barbados or take a powder into the mountains of
Maine. Wherever we end up, it will be a relief not to ride the subway for
a day or two, or to work in a tall building, or to spend the evenings staring
goggle-eyed at CNN. That's how vacations work, after all. You go away, not
to escape, but to revive, and these days, psychic revival is almost a civic
duty. We'll revel in all the mundane tourist things. We'll gorge ourselves
in buffet lines, or go parasailing, or just sit on a beach and watch the
waves. We'll forget about the world for a while. And after a week or so,
I have a feeling we'll be happier than ever to come home.