After a month respite from the cold weather, we are back home in Port Jefferson. As much as we love to travel and explore far away places and new cultures, I must agree with Dorothy; "There is no place like home."
We love our trips and are very fortunate to have the time and the means to depart at various times during the year. However, I often find myself claiming we have many of the same things at home, which equal or surpass what our excursions tout as being spectacular. Our beaches on the south shore of the island rival any of the beaches I have seen and that include the much-acclaimed Caribbean. Our wine country is a jewel and offers similar landscapes, as does California’s Napa Valley with the exception of olive groves and olive oil tasting tours.
We have a variety of land features to enjoy from the rolling hills of the north shore, to the pine barrens in West Hampton, the sunken forest on Fire Island, and the glacial bays and harbors in Port Jefferson, Mt. Sinai and Stony Brook, just to name a few. We are privy to a plethora of golf courses like Harbor Hills and an array of state parks that are within an hour's drive. Ironically, after a recent cruise to the Panama Canal, which was very interesting to ferry through, I could not help but feel a striking similarity to the Shinnecock Canal, which allows passage from Shinnecock Bay to the Little Peconic Bay. Smaller, yes by far, but a very similar feel once you are in the locks ascending and descending via a system of dams, gates, and rising or falling water.
Well, yes, you may have seen all this and are ready for something different. That is understandable; however, venturing outside of the United States exposes you to a world much different from ours in terms of living standards and living conditions. I found myself appalled and disturbed by the dearth of sub-standard housing and deprivation that abounds outside the tourist sites.
We have seen communities in shambles, ridden with crime and poverty that exceeds anything I have see in the U.S.A. We turned our eyes away to assuage our feeling of guilt for having so much when others walk barefoot amongst the trash and shanties where they dwell. A sense of shame overwhelmed me as the bus passed through the side streets of Colon, Panam and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. Not even the zip line ride above the rain forest could eradicate these feelings.
On a brighter note, I hope with greater exposure, there will come social improvement and economic opportunity for the people of these islands and countries. Tourism seems to account for a large percentage of the economy as was pointed out by our tour guide, a young woman who lives with her young son in Panama City.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, I was happy to be back home in the United States. I missed the familiar rhythms and patterns of life in Port Jeff Village. I longed for the comfort and security brought on by the stately Victorian houses which stand so proudly along the harbor. I missed greeting my barber,visiting the shops, and having lunch at the friendly, cozy eateries found throughout the village.
It is nice to travel and venture out to new places, but for me, there really is "no place like home," especially when home is Port Jefferson Village.