Book Review: Permanent Vacation

Sun and sand. A week away from the office. A briefcase left at home. Swimwear or hiking boots instead of a suit and tie. These ideas are typically what come to mind when one hears “vacation.” However, Editor Kim Wyatt had a different kind of vacation in mind when she published her book Permanent Vacation. In this collection of essays, readers hear about life in America’s national parks. These adventures are told not from tourists, but from stewards of our parks – men and women who not only work, but live in our country’s most famous natural vacation spots.

Escape, adventure, and beauty are at the heart of any vacation. To lose oneself – one’s troubles, worries, and schedules – is often a paradise of its own. The location is the background of this escape – the means for plunging into these ideals. In Permanent Vacation, the essayists illustrate these desires. Writer Janet Smith says that she came to Yosemite to experience beauty she could not find on her own. Robert Cornelius yearns to alter the course of a life, to make a difference somehow in his career as a park ranger in Gunnison National Park. Melanie Dylan Fox deduces from her time at Sequoia that the park’s beauty and isolation allowed her to commune freely with the natural world. Mary Emerick describes an itch that urged her out of her comfort zone to discover new parks, face challenges head-on, and view her future as an endless source of possibilities. Emerick describes this journey as a “river carrying us to freedom, away from anything that might want to tie us down.”

The essayists in Permanent Vacation attest to vacations that are more than margaritas on the beach or tanning by the pool. Their times of work and play in national parks are times of searching; the search for meaning amongst the quiet of a river, in the isolation of a forest, or amidst the majestic presence of mountains and canyons. In Emerick’s essay, she writes that “a lot of people come [to the parks] looking for something. But if you don’t bring it with you, you won’t find it here.” Those on vacation look for escape, adventure, and beauty, that is true, but the writers in this collection reveal that their “homes” were just the outlets that allowed them to find in themselves what they had been searching for all along.

Permanent Vacation is more than just a book. It is a guide to truly living, tips for finding purpose, and a manual on how to be personally transformed by your passions. Living at vacation sites such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, has enabled these Americans to find, rather than escape from, themselves.

Photo of book cover art. Source: Kim Wyatt.