Twice a year, my parents would take me and my three older brothers out of town on vacation in our native New England. First we’d spend a summer week at one of two destinations: Laconia, New Hampshire, or Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Then, in the fall, we’d go to Peru, Vermont, for a weekend. Despite their geographic proximity, each vacation couldn’t have been more different.
In Laconia, we’d spend our days on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire’s largest lake. While it was a sedate opportunity for my parents to order strawberry daiquiris and whiskey sours from the resort’s beach bar, my true interests lay in the night life. A few miles up the road was Funspot, a three-story arcade that housed every video game imaginable. There, I could be unleashed with just a few dollars worth of tokens with which to explore interactive worlds of fiction and fantasy, piquing my interests in the electronic entertainment that would become so central to my life.
On alternating years, we would eschew Laconia in favor of Old Orchard Beach. It too had its share of arcades, though unlike Funspot, which was more isolated and landlocked, Old Orchard Beach was home to a greater and more walkable variety of attractions. After parking the car, my family and I could enjoy a round of Pirate’s Cove mini-golf, or ride the rides at Palace Playland, or walk down to the pier to get fried dough and have our caricatures drawn. On other days, we’d make an outing to Aquaboggan water park or Funtown USA amusement park — or just stroll from our motel to the beach, where we’d make sand castles, collect seashells, and get sunburnt.
Whatever our summer looked like, we’d follow up with a fall in Vermont. We’d arrive in Peru on a Friday night and spend all day Saturday and most of Sunday riding the Alpine Slide. This single attraction, also known as a summer toboggan, was somehow captivating enough to devote an entire weekend to. We’d ride the chairlift up and the slide down, over and over, until the mountain closed and it was time to go home.
Each of these traditions was a highlight of my year, forming some of my fondest childhood memories. It’s been decades since my family went on a vacation together; those days will never come again. But Funspot, Old Orchard Beach, and the Alpine Slide have endured, still waiting to entertain visitors of any age.
What would it be like to go back now — not just for a day or a week, but for a month? As a digital nomad, I have the freedom and flexibility to not just pass through an area, but to stay there. My childhood vacations were always escapes from our daily routine, places where nobody had to cook or clean or work. If I were there for a month and actually got to inhabit these spaces, what old memories would it invoke? What new ones would I create? Would the magic disappear, replaced by the mundane?
I decided to spend 2022 finding out, booking one month at each place my family and I used to vacation. They are the closest stops to my home state of Massachusetts I’ll have nomaded, and they will be my most familiar, most grounding destinations yet. Some friends misunderstand my nomading to be an extended vacation, a misconception my spring itinerary will certainly reinforce — though even now, I’ll continue to work Monday through Friday, 9 to 5.
But on my nights and weekends, I’ll be reacquainting myself with old places in new ways, mingling the nostalgia of youth with the experiences of an adult.
(Featured image CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Duane Romanell)
What’s a vacation you took as a kid that you’d love to revisit? Leave a comment with your memories!