I recently returned from a week’s vacation with friends to explore the San Juan Islands. This was offered as an auction item at the Children’s Home of Illinois annual gala, and we were the fortunate ones who won the trip. We met several times prior to the trip to familiarize ourselves with the destination and the options we would have to explore. Transportation was by plane, automobile, and boat, and would require coordination of time, baggage, and supplies, as well as division of assignments. This was an adventure trip, as no one had “lived” on a boat for six days.

We decided to meet in Seattle and drive to Bellingham, Wash., to meet our captain and settle in to our new home the next day. Still controlled by our watches, we ventured to Pike Place Market at what we thought was opening time, only to be the first tourists to watch the market slowly come to life. We were told nonchalantly by a smiling hostess, “It’ll be another 15 minutes before the crumpets are ready—we’re running a bit late today. Please have a cup of coffee—isn’t the day going to be beautiful?” Yes, it was, and within half an hour we were about to begin our journey with coffee, fresh crumpets, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers we admired throughout the week.

Upon piling into our rent-a-cars, we began our journey. Six professionals trying to relax into vacation mode might take a couple of days, we decided. The boat’s owner had given us choices—the direct interstate route or a scenic route. If we took the scenic route, we were told we had to stop at a wonderfully quaint coffee shop along the way. We unanimously decided to always take the scenic route.

That became our theme for the week. Where would the scenic route take us? Through small towns whose neighborhood homes were modest, but whose flower gardens were extravagant. Flowers and colors were larger and more vibrant than in Illinois. We were on the lookout for whales, and on the third afternoon we were rewarded with three pods swimming beside us. We dropped anchor at small islands, prepared our crab bait, and delightfully enjoyed two meals from our catch, which our captain expertly prepared.

Eager to explore, we toured Butchart Gardens, then docked at tiny Genoa Bay. There was a small art gallery filled with perfect treasures for purchase to remember this trip. Several evenings we anchored off shore, taking the dinghy to shore for exploring. We hiked through the woods to a hidden pub familiar to our captain. We walked into a tiny village where jewelry craftsmen created one-of-a-kind pieces of wearable art. One jewelry designer told us the San Juan’s were her home, but her jewelry art was sold in U.S. department stores. As we walked a residential path, we thought about the lifestyle that would require all cars, building supplies, food, etc. all to be delivered to the island by ferry. We marveled at the beauty of the foliage and flowers that could only flourish in the cool northwest.

Had we traveled on the interstate or stopped in only the large cities, we would have missed seeing the hundreds of jellyfish, the setting sun over a tranquil ocean, the nun’s island store, the kind islander who gave us directions to the grocery store, the children and dogs with pint-sized life jackets running the decks and docks, and the sea lions routinely swimming by our boat. Only an occasional cell phone call from our offices returned us to reality from our scenic hideaways.

Upon our return, I was once again quickly controlled by time and direct routes to destinations. I’ve closed my eyes and smiled many times remembering the laughter and wonder that accompanied taking the scenic route. The oil painting of flowers outside The Grapevine Restaurant in Genoa Bay, which hangs in my office, reminds me of the quieter—and picturesque—lifestyle we experienced for a week. It’s no surprise many artists choose to live on the “scenic” routes. It’s no surprise artists want to capture the scenes of life on canvas, and we want to view and admire them again and again. Art relaxes and yet inspires and makes us feel alive. Take the scenic route—if only through books and art. AA!