You drive up the sunny road and find nothing has changed. You know the best place on the lake for a swim, when to settle on the porch for sunset and where to buy the best burger. You privately acknowledge the inevitable shortcomings, though in your eyes, they become mere quirky charms.

Such is the mind-set of a vacationer returning to the same old beloved summer place, again and again. At least, it’s mine.

Madeline Island, a short ferry ride in Lake Superior from Bayfield, Wis., is my summer retreat, but the location is almost inconsequential. Everyone has their own favorite place in the sun — a fortress of laziness, where sitting on the dock is the day’s most pressing demand.

Live a week or two like that, and a deadline-addled, frenzied worker gets in touch once again with the important things in life, like sunscreen — and the loved ones you need to smear it upon.

What makes all this luxurious slothfulness possible, of course, is the very familiarity of the place. No need to study up on where to rent a boat. Skip the disagreements about whether we take the road left or right ­(you figured out the directions years ago). The summer place lets us rest well.

It also encourages us to take stock. Because the surroundings are the same, but you return to them somehow changed, an annual summer getaway marks life as reliably as New Year’s Eve. Maybe more so because the soundtrack is lapping waves rather than party horns. Where better to reflect on the passage of time than at the end of a dock, where life seems forever unchanged.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on Twitter @kerriwestenberg.