Vacations begin in the friendly confines of our home. We imagine ourselves in a desirable destination while anticipation and excitement builds, knowing that vacations change people in so many positive ways. We learn, we experience, we laugh, we recreate and re-create.
After all, what is a vacation but a chance to break from the repetitive routine of our daily lives? Vacations are willing exchanges of our discretionary time and money for places and experiences unknown. If we wanted vacations to be just like home, we’d stay home. Fun and adventure looms, but there’s more.
Transportation is the first and last phase of the vacation, and whether by car, bus or airplane we are reintroduced to the glamour of travel. The weather forecast is never wrong and all trains, planes and automobiles operate reliably as advertised. Despite a few minor hiccups, the final destination is in sight, and someone has left the light on for you. We might be slightly frazzled, but very happy to have arrived.
That first day, we may begin to realize we are no longer in our oh-so-familiar environment. We have become a stranger in a foreign land. We may feel a bit out-of-place, awkward and vulnerable.
We seek out local hospitality staffers and ask questions hoping not to sound silly. As the first few days go by, we recognize our dependence on others for directions, ideas, solutions and recommendations. At this point, we very much appreciate a little patience and empathy.
When we travel, we take not only our luggage, but our baggage. We bring many things that bruise easily like our pride, ego and dignity. Whether we’re taking a first-timer’s snowboard class or scuba diving lesson, we can feel embarrassingly awkward, even intimidated by the whole experience.
As vacationers, we also bring precious cargo in fragile containers such as our children and families. We want them to be safe and have a positive experience so they return to the activity for years to come. First-timers, newbies and never-evers not well-treated can become never-agains.
At times, we may become a bundle of little problems that are insignificant in the big picture, but unbelievably important and quite urgent in the moment: the nearest restrooms, a drink of water, a place to rest, the lost-and-found, a place to warm up or cool off.
The tourism business is about empathetic hospitality. Whether we travel to places to wear ski boots or don flip-flops, being reliant on others to maximize the value of a vacation comes with the adventure.
The Durango-area tourism industry employs more than 6,000 people in lodging, services, retail and recreation, and they can be relied on to serve and guide our visitors.
We all want to enjoy our vacations to the fullest, which starts with appreciation and respect for both the served and the server.
email@example.com. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.