Luskin: The free vacation

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(HOST) Maybe there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but commentator Deborah Luskin says she’s discovered a free vacation.

(LUSKIN) Not every Vermonter thinks to vacation in the mountains of home, but the current economy might change that. Visiting Vermont can be easy on the budget as well as good for the body and the soul.
Vermont’s Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is offering two ways for Vermonters to enter the state parks and historic sites for free. The first is in partnership with Vermont’s public libraries, where a cardholder can check out a day pass to a state park, good for up to eight people traveling in the same car. Then there’s Vermont Days, on June thirteenth and fourteenth, the second way for Vermonters to enter state parks and historic sites free of charge.
Both these programs are for day use only, but a day in the country can give back big rewards. I know, because I do it all the time. To make the most of a day off, I offer one rule. No electronics. No laptop. No Blackberry. No cell phone – at least not turned on.
For those of us who have become addicted to connectivity – it’s a challenge to unplug from cyberspace and engage in that antique method of social networking called being together. Not just in real time, but face to face.
No electronics means no iPod or MP3 player. No ear buds or anything else blocking the sounds of nature. In fact, I still play a game I learned with my kids – even when I’m outdoors by myself. I sit, eyes closed, and listen. It’s amazing how much I can hear when I’m outside, away from everyday beeps, alarms and chatter.
No electronics also means no GPS. Nothing that uses a battery except a flashlight. Instead of a gadget, get a map and a compass and learn how to use them. Maps work when batteries fail. Tucked inside a plastic bag, they work in the rain. Likewise, the compass always points north. Using a map and compass has taught me how to read the topography of this lovely, Green Mountain State.
Once the electronics are out of the way, everything else is pretty simple. Commit to spending the day outdoors. Dress in layers; wear sturdy shoes; pack a raincoat, a hat and some bug dope. With a sandwich, some water and an apple, you’re good to go.
When I go out for the day, I go cold turkey: I don’t even carry a book. This is hard; I’m addicted to reading. But for one day, I can manage.
And when I return home, it’s as if I’ve been on a long vacation. Even just one day disconnected from my workaday life is refreshing. And best of all, when I return home, I’m still in Vermont.

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