With the kids back in school and the suitcases of summer travels emptied and shelved in the closet once again, I’ve been quietly haunted by the words of Henry Southworth Allen, a gifted cultural commentator who worked for many years at The Washington Post.

It was Allen who suggested that we feel like our true selves only in summer vacation houses. “Summer houses are where you believe that you become the Real You, and the rest of the year you’re a ghost in the unreal city, wandering around like somebody looking for a car lost in a shopping center parking lot,” he told readers. “You work in places where you have to wear a picture of yourself on a card hung around your neck so people will know that you’re you. You go to schools that train you to take tests that show how well they trained you to take the tests. … Everything is rules.”

At summer vacation houses, on the other hand, everything is permitted “as long as you hang up your bathing suit and don’t track sand in the house.”

Maybe Allen is overstating things, but if his point is that we should keep a bit of our vacation selves with us throughout the year, it’s a suggestion I’m ready to embrace. How to do it? Some thoughts:

Get plenty of light. Whether we go to the beach or the mountains, the summer houses we rent all have big windows to provide scenic views. The light lifts my spirits, making me want more of it after I get back. Fall floods my living room back home as the sun hangs lower in the sky, its brilliance pouring through the shutters. I’ll try to make time to enjoy it as autumn arrives, a tonic for the toxic headlines.

Take a break from social media. We stayed in a mountain house a few days this summer that had spotty internet service. By necessity, I kept offline a lot, and it did wonders for my mood. I’ve resolved to take more breaks from the smartphone and laptop at home this fall, reconnecting with the joy of not being connected at all.


Rosemary Clement, of Slidell, shares her scrapbook Jan. 9, including a vacation photo of her riding a zip line in Belize.

Try something new. Summer is when I often try new dishes at roadside restaurants, tackle new diversions like zip-lining or go new places during days away from the office. Why let that change of pace go back in the drawer each autumn with the flip-flops and beach towels? I’m promising myself to be more open to change even after summer fades.

See your friends. We vacation with friends most summers, reminding us how good it feels to see the people who know and love us best. It’s an easy blessing to overlook in the urgencies of career and family, but I want to do better. Vacations are nice, but they shouldn’t be the only times to enjoy what’s really important.

Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.