I recently returned from a trip in which I visited Norway, Mexico, California - even outer space and the future. In other words, I went to Disney World with my family. While Disney has been a part of the vacation landscape for quite some time, there is a new trend that takes this concept a step farther. Fake vacation destinations - such as a tropical beach in Berlin, a ski resort in Dubai, a Kremlin in Turkey - are designed to allow locals to experience the world without leaving home.
Who of us has not wished that we could quickly and easily jet off to some exotic locale, particularly those of us who live in places with too-cold winters or too-hot summers? There is a common grace to these fake vacation spots, bringing destinations that would otherwise be unreachable for the average person a little closer to home. We may criticize the (mis)appropriation of another culture and question the tremendous expenditure of resources utilized to recreate such fake environments. Yet we also should not lose sight of the fact that there is a healthy wanderlust that celebrates the goodness of the whole of God’s creation and desires to experience that creation.
Even as we celebrate that common grace, however, we also recognize a deeper purpose to vacation. In a Wired article on this trend, photographer Reiner Riedler concludes, “This is exciting for a day or two, but at the end people will find that there are no stories to tell when they are back home.” On the one hand, Riedler is right. Some of the most memorable moments of vacations come from the environments and experiences – the discovery of a cockroach in the kitchen on our honeymoon, the time a barracuda swam past our feet at the beach, the breathtaking awe of the grandeur of the Black Hills at the end of a hike. These are the stories we tell again and again. Yet the setting is only half of the equation to a memorable vacation.
Setting is only half of the equation to a memorable vacation.
The other half of the story comes in the relationships we share - the joy of a family conversation around the campfire, the quiet moments of holding a loved one’s hand, the delight on a child’s face. We tell these stories, too. Even more importantly, we cherish and treasure them as moments that deepen our relationships. Vacation is about more than days off from work and the experiences we can have. Vacation also allows us to experience spiritual and relational refreshment, a small piece of Sabbath. And that can happen whether we’re in the actual Norway or the Epcot version.
While fake vacation destinations raise some questions about the stewardship of resources and cultural icons, I also believe that they can bring us closer together. In the delight and rest we find in being able to escape to another world, perhaps we experience just a small taste - imperfect though it may be - of the way things ought to be.