It Dawned on Me: Making a living in Vacationland

Dawn De Busk

By Dawn De Busk

BN Columnist

How glorious it is to be so engrossed in an activity in which the clock ceases to exist.

How wonderful it is to climb into bed at night knowing the best possible was done.

Am I describing vacation or work?

Could be both.

So many of us Mainers make a living during the tourist season. We work while others are taking their summer vacations. In fact, many Lake Region residents have jobs that directly cater to the bevy of vacationers.

Recently, I was standing in line at the grocery store ahead of the owner of a restaurant on the Causeway. In her cart was a collection of cleaning products.

I asked how her summer was going. She answered that she really hadn’t had time to get out and enjoy the weather. She pointed out that her skin was white from being indoors instead of tanned from soaking up rays. Too busy, she said. Me too, I said.

Then, she compared the difference between the tourists and seasonal residents who come to the Lake Region in July versus August.

Summer is so short. The weekends whiz by.

Some days, I try to imagine I am on vacation and seeing the Naples Causeway, Sebago State Park, the Songo River Lock or the quaint and thriving downtown Bridgton for the first time.

But that game is short-lived because I have reality to contend with.

The first time I realized that Maine was referred to as Vacationland was when I crossed Piscataqua River Bridge and saw a billboard saying so: Welcome to Vacationland.

People have been coming to Maine for some downtime for eons.

The September day I saw that billboard there was a festival set up on a beach. The terrain offered miles of flat golden beach, shallow water with mellow waves and the so-familiar sound of gulls. My daughter was a toddler who took off across the beach like a low-flying kite — skipping in and out of the waves, touching the sand so lightly her footprints were partial. Chasing her in this open space was a joyful experience — my first in Vacationland.

Delight can be found on and off the clock.

I want to commemorate all those who give up their summers to make other people’s vacations memorable. From the bakery owners who rise early to create what will be someone’s first meal of the day to the cooks who scramble up with the first light to plate up breakfast for summer campers. Maine is made up of park rangers, gift shop owners, boat rental attendees, waiters and waitresses, baristas and bartenders, tour bus drivers and museum curators — all trying to better the vacations of strangers.

It seems funny to say we live in Vacationland when a holiday might very well be what many people need by the time summer winds down.

There is equal ecstasy in hard work and chill time in Vacationland. Most of us don’t have to look hard to find it.

I cannot think of a better way to end this column than with a quote from a playwright of Irish origin, George Bernard Shaw.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature, instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

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