By Marta Hepler Drahos
---- — Now that our first season as vacation rental owners is winding down, we're looking back at what we learned.
n Not all vacations are equal
We're the kind of vacationers who don't like to stay put, moving on every few days.
So I was surprised to discover that here in the vacationer's paradise called northern Michigan, many vacationers prefer to skip the dunes and the shops and the wineries and the coastal villages and instead read on the screened porch, sit by the water or pick berries along the wooded trails. Indeed, some hardly leave the premises at all.
At first I took this personally, especially after tacking up on the bulletin board detailed itineraries for some of my favorite day trips. "What's wrong with them?" I asked my husband, after the second or third such vacationer left without experiencing any of the region's highlights.
Now I know that vacationer styles vary, from folks who are up and out before we rise and rarely return before dusk, to others who leave only to find a grocery store or restaurant. Food for thought for the area's tourism providers.
n Water, any water, is king
My deepest fear was that vacationers would be disappointed in our tiny, wake-free lake and its natural shoreline — frogs, clams, silt and all. Instead they seem delighted, content to spend whole days sitting by its side, paddling around in the kayaks, throwing water toys for their dogs, roasting marshmallows in the fire pit. Maybe a view of the bay isn't all people are after, after all.
n Vacationers still cook
Summer vacationers love to cook, and they do it with a passion. And not just simple grilled fare, either, judging from the complex aromas that waft in through the cold air return and the food waste in the trash bins we empty. Of all the cottage amenities — after the decor, that is — they're most grateful for the ample spices and good knives.
n Vacationers pay it forward
Here's how it works: One vacationer buys fixings for s'mores, then leaves the leftover marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars in the pantry for the next vacationer, who buys something else (fire starters, for instance) and leaves the leftovers for the next vacationer ... This is how the once-empty cupboards and pantry (except for the spices, of course) came to be filled with coffee, tea, pasta and panko.
n Vacationers splurge on fancy beer
We know this because we're the beneficiary of the leftovers in the refrigerator. So far my husband has tried out Belgian craft beer and gluten-free beer made without wheat or barley. "It's OK," he pronounced the latter, though he didn't sound too sure.