The sound of vacation.

The sound of vacation.
Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy (photo by me)

What is it about the sound of the beach…the breeze, the drone of the ocean and the occasional squawk of a seagull that is powerful enough to make (almost) all of your worries melt away?  And certainly powerful enough to motivate you to look slightly absurd holding a seashell to your ear once in a while, searching for that sound that can teleport you back to that beach where you can relax worry-less once again…at least for a few seconds.

Cinque Terre. Italy
Cinque Terre, Italy (photo by me)

I mean, certainly we don’t choose our vacations based on sound.  But these sounds  are rather powerful.  Or a least more powerful than I had ever given them credit for.
It was an on an afternoon stroll on a quiet winter day in Venice’s Dorsoduro district on the last day of the Biennale, with not a soul in sight, that the unmistakable sound of small waves lapping against the sides of the canal and the repetitive thud of the boats shifting with the water that it finally hit me: I’m in Venice.
You would think this obvious fact would have hit me when I was walking through Piazza San Marco, watching the pigeons and the tourists (or more precisely, the pigeons playfully attacking the tourists), and perhaps some pretty notable architecture.  Or at the very least when I was schlepping across the Grand Canal with motorboats whizzing by and gondolas drifting peacefully along.
Instead, it was on this nondescript canal, alone, that the reality of my environment hit me.  And as I was walking along this canal in Venice, listening to these sounds of the boats and the waves, I thought of my second most unmistakable city sound.  Waking up in Brooklyn, New York, to the echo of a car driving down narrow 4th St. and the familiar bump of the manhole lid as the tire rolled over it, voices shouting in the distance, and an inevitable car alarm sounding.

New York, NY
New York, NY (photo by me)

And then I thought of Bologna, Italy, and the sound of the rolling suitcases of the students bumping along the cobblestone streets on their way to and from their family homes in villages outside Bologna every weekend.

Bologna, Italy
Bologna, Italy (photo by me)

And then Florence, and the overwhelming sound of American English speakers.

Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy (photo by me)

The indescribable and almost soundless sound of fresh snow falling in mass in the Italian Dolomites…

Italian Dolomites
Italian Dolomites (photo by me)

The echoing rolling wheels and clattering fall of a skateboard in San Diego…

San Diego, CA
San Diego, CA (photo by me)

And last but not least, in my hometown of El Centro, California, the peaceful receptive chirp of crickets follows you for months during the never-ending summers.

El Centro, CA
El Centro, CA (photo by me)

The more I think of these sounds, the more I am transported to these places.  More than my usual memories of people or moments on vacations.  The memories of these sounds have a way of attaching themselves to all the nuances of these places that you only really observe when you are alone.  What are your favorite sounds?  I’m curious… 🙂


  1. Dave Malnes says:

    I would have to say my favorite sounds on vacation has to involve the ocean — especially the crashing of waves on the seashore and the cry of the seagulls overhead. Combined with the smell of the salt air — your sense are overloaded that lies your whole body, mind, and spirit to reboot. Now that’s a vacation!

  2. Rich Ryan says:

    Peg, nice job remembering the sound of the manhole being driven over on 4th St. That clump sound was steady w/the background noise of the NYC bird, the car alarm. love, Dad

  3. Meg says:

    The doves in early summer should be a pleasant enough sound, but it, too, is a sign that our long summers are beginning, and so I don’t like to hear it. Beautiful thoughtful column!!

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