Dorothy was right, after all. But if you can't be at home, here are some of your favorite next-best places to be. Illustrations by Tim Bower.The air puffer security scanner at Fort Lauderdale airport. After … having to go through sometimes incredibly long lines at security, to be pointed to the air puffer machine is a pleasure. Fifteen seconds of peace and the quick blast of air that covers you from head to foot just give me a nice little pick-me-up.
- Charles Maurice, Hollywood, Florida
Slovenia. It is a very small country in Europe that very few people have ever heard of. It is part of the EU and also a member of NATO. My dad's parents came from there and met in America. We took a trip back with my dad and met 19 cousins. … Half the country is forest. It looks like the Sound of Music, with the Alps and beautiful meadows. I have traveled a lot, and I think Slovenia is an undiscovered gem. I am reticent to write about it, because everyone will want to go! Lake Bled is beautiful, and the customs are rich; the food is a mixture of Austrian, Hungarian, Italian, and Slovenian. My dad was a naval officer when I was growing up, and I lived in a lot of places, so I don't feel like I am from any one place, but Slovenia makes me feel like I have a hometown.
-Mark Dvornik, Lewisville, Texas
On an open sea in a sailboat with my wife. Many places will do, although if I had my choice, then the southern tip of Barbuda would do quite nicely. No phone, no radio, no TV, no newspaper, no computer connectivity … just the tranquility of the gently rolling waves, incredibly fine pinkish white sand of the distant beach, and the slowly sinking sun off to the western horizon. … It is quite delightful to trade in the hustle and bustle of the road warrior's existence for the enchanted silence of a warm Caribbean night, a hotel room for a cozy cabin, and a business suit for a pair of old shorts. Oh, and yes, that barefoot feeling of the deck under your feet cannot be replaced by any pair of fancy shoes, and I do not care if they have been custom-made by the best shoemaker in West End London. … A smile gradually replaces the ever-present frown, the whiteness of the skin vanishes in a matter of a day, and the hurried pace of life is only a distant memory. I wake up early in the morning not because I need to rush to the airport but because the ocean calls, the sails want to be filled with the trade winds, and there is yet another remote cove to be discovered just a little farther down the coast. Indeed, besides home, for me, there is no place like a sailboat on an open sea.
-Zdenek Holy, Cary, North Carolina
Home. I have been in the military for over 24 years. It is my life. I've traveled around the world - Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and other areas. But all that travel, to places that many would describe as exotic, has never included the wonderful or popular locations depicted in your travel montage. As I thought about your essay question, my thoughts turned to my wife and family. My chosen profession, service in the U.S. Army, has caused me to be away from home more than I've been there. Having missed so many birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, first dates, first time driving a car, death of a beloved pet, etc., there is no place like home. Home, for me, has been and remains my foundation, my touchstone, and, in many ways, that exotic popular destination I look forward to visiting as often as I can.
-Allen Batschelet, Harker Heights, Texas
Blue Pumpkin. It's my favorite café in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It had the most amazing mango smoothie I have ever tasted, and as soon as I sat down, a waiter materialized with a cool, white, peppermint-scented facecloth. In a country so humid that a minute outside causes even your eyeballs to sweat and the dust from the street to stick to your skin in a damp red film, the small pleasures at Blue Pumpkin were a welcome respite. I was in Siem Reap for a brief pilgrimage to Angkor Wat, an ancient Khmer temple complex considered one of the most intriguing and beautiful sets of ruins in the world. But even pilgrims must eat, so my daily routine included an early breakfast at Blue Pumpkin. On my final morning in Cambodia, as I sucked down my smoothie, a very young man swathed in bright saffron robes appeared at the café's entrance and stood silently, head bowed. A slender teenage waitress sprang off her stool, returning a minute later with a bulging grocery bag of food. She placed it in his hands. Without a word, she kneeled, bowing her head to the young monk's feet. He blessed her and then turned and walked quietly down the street. The waitress rose and strode quickly back to the kitchen. Glass frozen in midair, straw poised, I caught myself staring and looked down, but my mind was buzzing. Did the monk come every day? Where did he go next? Was this scene repeating itself in cafés all over town? Compared with the shooing away of the steady trickle of beggars at the door, the respect - not to mention the food - given to the monk stood out. When I looked up again, the noisy bustle of the street had consumed the silent void where monk and waitress had been, and the moment was gone. The bright colors of that scene, the monk in orange, the waitress in black and white, the food, the silence, the solemnity, the rote familiarity with which they played their parts - I still think about them. I have since read and learned more about the importance of Buddhism and Buddhist monks in Southeast Asia. The scene at Blue Pumpkin was a sliver of tradition in the middle of a country - in the middle of a continent - in flux. … But that one moment in Blue Pumpkin was timeless and beautiful, and I would give anything to go back.
-Jane Lindholm, West Hollywood, California
My storage unit. I was on the road 90 percent of the time, so renting in California did not make financial sense. So I moved all my stuff into storage (furniture, memories, clothes, my life - all packed tightly into the end of the storage unit), and then I drove my little car in too. The routine is to land at the airport and then cab it to the storage unit. When I roll up that creaky door, there is no place like it. The stuff that defined and, who knows, maybe still defines, who I am, waiting for me. … I start my car and remember the freedom that having a car can give. As I open the sunroof and crank the tunes, I am free, and the six weeks out of town just seem to melt away. No feeling like it.
-Carol Skerrett, Oceanside, California
Atlanta's Coke Museum. There's a section in the museum that has fountain drinks of all the different types of Coke products across the world. You try one from India and wonder why they even have this drink, and then you try one from Italy and wonder why it's not in the United States. Overall, it's a nice place to relax and be surrounded by … fun people high on sugar from the drinks. It's like traveling the world through taste.
-Phil Sheen, Chicago, Illinois