Where are you going? Where have you been?

So last week I was on vacation, down in the Southwest. I hit up the Grand Canyon, various red rock mesas, and of course, Vegas. Pretty much everywhere I went, be it on a nature hike or up and down the Strip, everyone I came across was a tourist. While we were all coming from different corners of the country and sometimes much further, we were all bonded in our connection as tourists. And as tourists, many of them, myself included, had the inclination to purchase something from the gift shop with the hotel’s name on it. Perhaps as a way of associating ourselves with something in our home away from home.

So suddenly, the couple from Colorado were instead the couple from the Blue Angel, or the family visiting from Florida became the clan staying at the Mirage in Vegas. We became part of our vacation landscape, belonged, and let me tell you, when two people met who were staying at the same hotel and didn’t know it, whew! We would greet one another like old friends, talk about the things we loved and hated about where we were staying, offer tips, chat and sometimes even make plans to meet up again later. We became new neighbors in a sense.

I’m not sure what causes us all to do this, but for whatever psychological reason lies behind it, I felt a lot more at home when I’d run into someone else wearing something from the Tropicana on the Strip, be that baseball caps, t-shirts, or lapel pins. Not only are we making it easier for fellow hotel guests to recognize us, but it means we can take a little bit of our vacation home with us.

Now that I’m back I’m glad to be here, but it’s also nice to look through my mementos of the days I was gone: the plane tickets, pictures, postcards, lapel pins and t-shirts. They’re proof of what I did, and work in the same way that astronauts landing on the moon and planting an American flag does: we’ve been claimed by our vacation, and happily so. We are who we surround ourselves with, by our ideas, and also where we go.

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