Vacationland is an ongoing project charting the history and structure of regions hosting seasonal tourism. I’ve been able to visit Cape Cod, the Jersey Shore, the Outer Banks, and the Florida Panhandle, at various times and for various reasons, and these places have formed my basic views of the built environment that surrounds and supports seasonal tourism.
The term ‘Vacationland’ comes from a sign that I saw on the side of the road somewhere near Port Saint Joe, Florida. The sign was meant to seem welcoming, but instead felt ominous and vaguely Stepford-wives conformist, and a friend and I spent the rest of the week intoning the word to each other as though it were the title of a forthcoming horror movie. (“This summer, there will be no escape from… Vacationland.”)
I picked up the term again when I was in Beach Haven, New Jersey, this past winter, on tour with my improv comedy group. This first set of posts—about the domestic architecture, the economic landscape, and the political structures of Vacationland—draws on the time I spent in Beach Haven to provide an idealized abstraction of Vacationland. This semester, I hope to research the formation and growth of early seasonal tourism destinations as part of a junior history seminar (Making America Modern, 1880-1930). And I may finally get around to reading Doug MacCannell’s The Tourist, which has been on my bookshelf since October of last semester.