Notes From the Beach

I just returned from my summer vacation and am still trying to re-integrate into normal life so I don’t have any profound insights for today’s blog post. (My last seven posts were pre-scheduled before I left town. I love modern technology.)

But I do have a couple of observations from my time away, and here they are:

1. People are still reading. Everywhere! And they’re reading… books! Paperback books mostly. In the airports, on planes, and during an entire week of observing people on the beach and by the pool (covertly trying to read their book titles) I saw people relaxing with reading material and it was overwhelmingly fiction. The whole week I only saw one Kindle by the pool, and a couple people reading books on their iPhones on the plane. It’s certainly not scientific research but I can’t help but be heartened and reassured by seeing so many people continuing to enjoy books. So writers, keep writing!

2. Be aware of the moment. I managed to read three great books on my trip, mostly in the early mornings and late at night when the rest of the family was sleeping. But I also realized the importance of having plenty of no-book time in which I stayed fully present and in the moment. Often reading takes you away to a different place and I didn’t want too much of that, even when sitting by the pool. I think writers may be tempted to always be either reading or writing, but maybe scheduling plenty of time where you’re doing neither will be more beneficial for your writing in the long run. You can’t write truth unless you’re fully experiencing life, so don’t be afraid of putting down the book and engaging with the world around you.
3. Get out of your country, if possible. I’ve traveled abroad to several countries, but we’ve never taken our kids out of the U.S., reasoning that there’s so much to do and see right here. After this trip to Mexico, I’ll never think that way again! Exposing my kids to a different culture is one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I found it personally enriching as well. There is something invigorating and enlightening about being outside your comfort zone, your own environment, your own language. I can’t wait to plan another trip and will start saving my pennies immediately!

I know summer’s just beginning, so you may not have taken a vacation yet. But if you want to share some version of  “What I Learned on My Summer Vacation,” now’s your chance!

If you haven’t yet, drop by my Facebook page and click “Like.”

© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. google on April 1, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    Interesting blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your design. Many thanks

  2. Credit Keeper on April 4, 2012 at 4:50 AM

    Great article! I loved the insight and also the advice given . Plus, your writing style is very pleasing to read. If you have time kindly make sure you visit my new website and let me know what you think.

  3. MartinezKirsten26 on February 14, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    Different people in every country get the personal loans from different banks, just because it’s fast and easy.

  4. Sarah on October 14, 2011 at 4:19 AM

    Regards for helping out, superb information.

  5. Ella on September 25, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    Really fantastic information can be found on web site. “It is fast approaching the point where I don’t want to elect anyone stupid enough to want the job.” by Erma Bombeck.

  6. Anne Lang Bundy on June 12, 2011 at 9:34 PM

    >Perhaps you (and your two DD's) will appreciate this quote I recently encountered:

    "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
    ~ Mark Twain

  7. Caleen Canady on June 12, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    >I travel every chance I get, which is usually once a year. My first choice is always to travel abroad, but finances will inevitably dictate my destination. I'll bring books for the plane and in the evenings, but I don't read or write while vacationing. I like to soak up as much of where I'm at as possible. The people, culture, history, sites, the food; I can't get enough.

    Now that my son is turning four, we will be taking our very first family vacation. I'm a single mom so this is beyond scary for me, so we're staying local; just a drive up north and a train ride to the Grand Canyon. Once I figure out how my son handles being away from home, I'm thinking Italy in the near future. Tuscany here we come!

  8. Andi on June 9, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    >I love your blog. Just wanted to say how lovely it must be to return from summer vacation before summer has officially started – NICE. enjoy the rest of it – it’ll be a long one!

  9. Lauren on June 9, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    >Welcome back, Rachelle!When I go home to France in the Summer, I keep my reading to a minimum and I don’t write, but just soak in the joy and happiness of time spent with family. And yes, I do find that I am more prolific and more inspired when I’m back to the US and start writing again.

  10. Siri Paulson on June 9, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    >An older lesson for me, but still a good one: Travelling alone doesn’t have to be scary or loneliness-inducing. I’ve done two extended solo trips overseas (to Denmark/Norway and Ireland/England) and they were both wonderful opportunities for:- soaking up the culture- sightseeing- meeting other travellers and locals- learning to be with myself- living on my own time (Want to turn down that random street or change your travel plans at the last minute? You can! Not having to consult with anyone is so freeing).Highly recommended if you can manage it.

  11. catherinemjohnson on June 9, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    >I used to travel so much. It’s looking like my trip to the UK is not going to happen. Looks like you had a lovely time, Mexico is great!

  12. Jessica Thomas on June 9, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    >Sounds like you had a great time. I’m trying not to be jealous!I appreciate your observations. Wonderful that people are still reading the good old-fashioned kind.And it’s true what you say about needing to live in the real world. I’ve been reading and writing a lot lately and I can tell, too much is not healthy! Mentally or emotionally.

  13. Sharon A. Lavy on June 9, 2011 at 7:20 AM

    >I love the kindle for traveling. I used to have to pack a small suitcase full of books. Now that we have to PAY for every suitcase we take, husband told me to buy a kindle.

    I even carry it in my purse for those times when husband has to stop and check something out and I am stuck in the car.

    But at home, I still love paper. And for research, I still love paper.

  14. Pat on June 9, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    >I loved this post Rachelle. It was funny, I do the same thing. I watch and see who has books and how many use Kindle…..Great minds….

    Once I get these Non-Fictions out of me, I pray that one sweet summer someday, someone will be sitting under an umbrella holding a wrapped to single page view, wrinkled and windblown Fiction that I wrote 🙂

    Praying for your REAL-LIFE, RE-ENTRY!!!!!! (LOL)

  15. Sharon A. Lavy on June 9, 2011 at 5:56 AM

    >I hope this does not come across differently than I mean it.

    But husband and I fell in love with the real Mexico when we visited our Mexican workers. They were insulted when we asked if they had a motel in their town. The wife had fixed up their bedroom for us to stay. And stay with them we did.

    I understand they now have running water since we visited last.

  16. Amy Armstrong, MS, NCC on June 8, 2011 at 9:36 PM

    >I've learned that I'll be a grown up when summer vacation no longer means "who's parents are we visiting? Mine or his?"

  17. Bethany Robison on June 8, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    >I learned that trying to do something you think is 'too hard' is the only way to find out what you're really capable of.

  18. Diane Fordham on June 8, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    >Welcome home! I really enjoyed your post – great advice there. Thank you 🙂

  19. The Pen and Ink Blog on June 8, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    >My mother loved exposing us to diversity. Her path from husband # one to husband# four led us to Paris, Cuba, South Africa, Italy and many points in between. (England was my own adventure) In retrospect I have a lot of wonderful memories.

  20. Sara Grambusch on June 8, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    >Yay! Welcome back!

    That is great advice to not ALWAYS be either reading or writing. Must take breaks.

    I've been seeing a lot of people reading while walking around the grocery store I work. Who takes books to grocery stores? They are usually romance novels. I'm just glad the people are still reading.

  21. Janet Oberholtzer on June 8, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    >Love all three points! I enjoy people-watching … so I like to give myself some time without a book.

    We took a family vacation to Puerto Rico last year and loved it! Great experience for the whole family.

  22. Kimberly on June 8, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    >We went so far as to move overseas in order to give our kids the experience of seeing life through a different lens. It's been frustrating, challenging, and tear-inducing…but I wouldn't change a thing!

  23. Michelle DeRusha@Graceful on June 8, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    >Awesome insights, especially the part about writers spending time NOT reading. I always have a book in my hand for down-time, even if it's just a couple of minutes in the doctor's office. It never occurred to me that I might be missing life, and life to write about, with my nose always in a book!

    Glad you are back in the USA!

  24. Jillian Kent on June 8, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    >Glad you had a great vacation Rachelle! We've only been to Canada with our kids when they we're very young, I wish we could have done more traveling.

    For writers who can't take those vacations and have young children another way to look at traveling to conferences or business trips is that the kids learn this is okay and mom or dad will return. It's a healthy experience for children either way. So writers, if you want to leave home and experience a writers conference it's one of the best things you can do! If you can take your kids with you to another country, even better. Do both! 🙂

  25. Bill Greer on June 8, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    >My wife and I take winter vacations alone without the kids, although 6 of the 7 kids are adults now. This winter we went to Jamaica, the youngest daughter went with her high school group to Italy and Greece, and the daughter who is a junior in college went to Amsterdam for spring break to visit a friend. My annual winter trip with just my wife is sacrosanct. No children. It's our time to connect and be alone with each other.

    Our experience with other readers at the resort in Jamaica was different. Kindles and other e-readers dominated around the pool and on the beach, ours included. Books were more prevalent on the plane and in the airport, though.

  26. Beverly Money Luke on June 8, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    >I've been on 3 mission trips abroad and recommend them highly with or without children. They were all "The Trip of a Lifetime".

    As for summer vacation, we haven't taken ours yet but over Memorial Day we decided on a little R&R with some friends–in Strasburg, Colorado of all places. It was the most relaxing 3 days for me in recent memory. My friend and I were paddling around the pool and the subject of my lifelong struggle with cancer came up and I wound up telling her my life story. After we arrived back home, her interest in my story led to my decision to put it on my blog, bit by bit, of course. You can find Part 1 at

  27. Jessica Nelson on June 8, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    >Woohoo on the books! I'm glad I'm not the only one sneaking peeks at titles. LOL
    I'm glad you had a great vacation. I went to Costa Rica last year and am hoping to go again. It was amazing!

  28. Lyn Miller-Lachmann on June 8, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    >Yay for #3, and for taking the kids too! My husband and I took our kids abroad from when they were nine years old on, and not only to hotels and resorts either. One summer we stayed with family friends on a kibbutz in Israel, and several times we traded homes, which allowed us to get to know how the locals live.

    Now that our kids are older, they feel comfortable with diversity and living in other cultures, so much so that when my son couldn't find a job in the U.S. after graduating college in 2009 he took a temporary position in Europe until something came through in New York City. And now, much of his work is with folks in Europe, Israel, and China.

    In our increasingly globalized economy and with jobs scarce and wages declining, many of our young people may need to look abroad, or at least have the skills to work with people from other countries.

  29. Walt Mussell on June 8, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    >Glad you enjoyed your trip. I particularly appreciate point three. My wife is from Japan and I lived there for four years. We've taken the kids a few times to visit relatives, the most recent trip being in the summer of 2008, Our kids are familiar with the culture. (However, my 9 y.o. still doesn't understand why his friends don't get excited about foods like sushi and tofu.)

    Oddly, though, I wonder if my experience in Japan would mean that visiting there can no longer be classified as "getting out of my comfort zone."

    This summer, we will head to the beach as well as to California. Can't wait. My wife is excited that I have a Nook, which takes up less space and weighs less than the books I usually carry.

  30. Abigail Stokes Palsma on June 8, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    > used the slogan, "I wrote about you today." Being present in the moment and observing details about people, diction, perspectives, mannerisms…that's the best part.

    As for family life, I am working hard this summer to enjoy my kids during the off times. They are growing up quickly!

  31. Susan Anne Mason on June 8, 2011 at 9:50 AM


    Thank you for this piece of good news that people are still reading actual books! I've been picturing everyone except me running around with Kindles and ipads. But I still LOVE the look and feel of a real book!! May they never go out of style.

    Glad you had a great vacation.


  32. Kelly Combs on June 8, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    >I just want to say kudos on item #2. Max Lucado said, "Your children are not your hobby; they are your calling. Cherish the children who share your name." I try to live by that.

    My children are my ministry at this season in my life.

  33. Casey on June 8, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    >Numbers 1 and 2 were especially encouraging and insightful. I had never really thought of that in THAT way before. Glad you had a great vacation and are home safely. 🙂

  34. Elle Strauss on June 8, 2011 at 8:41 AM

    >All really good points and I fully agree, though I do confess to reading books on my iphone when I travel! Thanks for sharing your holiday insights.

  35. Tracy on June 8, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    >It's so encouraging to hear people are still reading "books".
    And you are so right, traveling abroad IS so enriching and refreshing I love experiencing differnt cultures. I can't wait to take my son to other countries so he can share in the experience. He's 18mos and just got his first passport.
    Thanks for sharing!

  36. Jackie on June 8, 2011 at 7:57 AM

    >Knew I wasn't being paranoid when I tried to hide the cover of a trashy airport read – suspected there'd be soemone like you out there, Rachelle, spying on me!

  37. Dean K Miller on June 8, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    >We "summer" vacationed with our family back in December…to a beach as well. I found mornings, before everyone else was up, to be a great time to contemplate and write "morning pages". At that time I was getting ready for my first critique group and wondered what I had gotten myself in to.

    Getting away can help get back "in" to yourself, as the normal daily stresses are left at home (hopefully) and it's easier to focus on being creative, or just listening to see what your inner self has to say.

  38. Lynne Connolly on June 8, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    >Writers are particularly well situated to visit different cultures. There are writers' organisations all over the world that you can contact, chapters you can visit as a guest (I'm thinking here of my organisation, the UK RNA).
    Also, although we might write for US publishers, we're all over the place. And the online lists are worldwide, too. Contact us, we're friendly, and almost tame!
    I have to say that I've found astonishing and heartwarming welcomes in the US when I've visited, even from people I've only ever met online. I've experienced things I could never hoped to have enjoyed any other way. So please contact us and come and visit, we'd love to reciprocate!

  39. Laura Marcella on June 8, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    >Glad to hear you saw so many people reading! That's very encouraging. 🙂

  40. Lisa Jordan on June 8, 2011 at 7:20 AM

    >Love the post! Exposing your daughters to diversity is a great way to showcase other cultures. Glad you had a great trip. What books did you read?

    Due to my husband's new job, we won't be taking a summer vacation this year, but I'm hoping for a few smaller weekend trips.

  41. Wendy Paine Miller on June 8, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    >1. Yeah for paperbacks!
    2. That’s when I get most of my reading done, when my family is sleeping. Excellent point about engaging in the world around.
    3. I’ve been blessed with some wonderful cultural experiences.

    Welcome Home!

    Hmm, considering my summer doesn’t officially begin for another two weeks, I’ll say laughing with family is one of life’s greatest treasures. And just for kicks I’ll add when 4yo daughter says she has to go potty during that long car trip…she really does, we should listen to her.

    Cool to hear you had a refreshing break.
    ~ Wendy

  42. Kristi on June 8, 2011 at 7:00 AM

    >I loved this post!

    Glad you and your family had such a wonderful time…good luck adjusting back to the routine post-vacation. 😉

    And thanks for the awesome reminders and warm fuzzies…nice to know there are still so many book readers out there. You know, besides all of us cooky bloggers/writers.

  43. Heather Sunseri on June 8, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    >Our summer just started last Friday, but we've got a full summer of being in the moment. I'm going on a mission trip out of the country next month. I already know that this trip will be a lesson of "in the moment."

  44. Maril Hazlett on June 8, 2011 at 6:46 AM

    >What a fun trip! Glad you got some time away.

    What I learned on my summer vacation: it's never too early to take your toddler on a long hike. As long as her daddy can still haul her around in the baby backpack.

  45. Rebecca Bradley on June 8, 2011 at 3:11 AM

    >That photograph looks stunning. We won't make it away this year, but we usually take a holiday abroad. When we do I also notice how much people read books. It would seem books are definitely a must have when packing suitcases. I also try to see what titles people are reading and am sometimes surprised by the choices after attempting to guess the genre they will read just by looking at them!

  46. Kate Larkindale on June 8, 2011 at 1:42 AM

    >Sounds like a great vacation! So heartening to hear people still read real books.

  47. Melissa on June 8, 2011 at 1:32 AM

    >I actually do want a Kindle and plan to get one this summer. This is a painful admission, because I used to think of these as geek toys, not anything functional. I had an iPod that I never used; when it was stolen from my gym bag, it was no big deal. I’m warming to the idea of having thousands of books in one small gadget. I envision a less cluttered house.

    I'm so glad you had a great time in Mexico — really, it's so lovely and more diverse than anyone realizes. I love traveling to different countries, especially the Middle East and North Africa. But I always seem to go back to Central America time after time. I love the rain forests and the pristine beaches – it's really a romantic place. That’s on the books for September. ☺

  48. Tana Adams on June 8, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    >Glad to have you back! It looks like I'm sitting by the pool this year sipping cold drinks. It could be worse, right?

  49. Bryce Daniels on June 8, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    >Love the pic. You are so right about "getting away."

    One of my fondest memories, and probably the closest thing to heaven on earth for me, involved trying to do just that.

    I'm on a private island. Just me, a hammock, and the clear blue waters. I didn't have to be back on the cruise ship for six or seven hours. I decided NOT to bring a book with me, as I wanted to remove myself from all things associated with writing.

    So what happens? The ol' noggin starts drafting the next few chapters in my WIP. Sigh.

    I think I've misplaced my on-off switch.

  50. Anne on June 7, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    >Got here from twitter.
    The bit about paperbacks being preferred is interesting. Particularly since articles all over are eager to write it off as a relic.

    Completely agree with needing time away from reading/writing to be productive.

    Informative post!

  51. Stephanie McGee on June 7, 2011 at 11:37 PM

    >I'm with Neurotic. I wrote in my journal every day I was on study abroad five years ago. I may be overreacting, but it seems like there's been a lot of sentiment in the blog world in the last year or so regarding the "I can't go do anything because I have to write" mentality. A lot of what I seem to have seen was that this is the way to go with your writing. To the point of staying home when your family is headed off to do something.

    Whilst I understand the sentiment, that we need to actually write at some point if we want to have this career, I've noticed that for me the well of creativity dries up much faster if I deprive myself of socializing with people.

    I'd say I've never been to Mexico, but we did a half-day trip into Tijuana one summer when we were at my grandparents and took a detour to San Diego.

    I love the image of you sitting there in your poolside lounge chair craning your eyes around trying to read the spines of people's books.

  52. Neurotic Workaholic on June 7, 2011 at 11:29 PM

    >I wish I could travel, but I'll have to save up enough money first; since I'm a broke grad student, it'll probably take a couple of years. I did get to study abroad for one summer in college; I filled up a whole journal because there was so much to write about.

  53. Sarah Pearson on June 7, 2011 at 11:23 PM

    >This year I shall be travelling vicariously through others' blogs 🙂

    Glad you had such a lovely holiday, that beach looks lovely.

  54. Marla Taviano on June 7, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    >What a perfect welcome home post!

    1. Love the visual of you trying to see what everyone's reading without getting caught.

    2. I have 3 goals this summer. Enjoy my family, enjoy our community, enjoy God's creation. I reeeeeeally want to try to be more aware, just like you said.

    3. AMEN!! I spent 3 months teaching in Japan in college, spent 2 weeks in Cambodia w/my husband last summer, and we're taking our 3 girls to Cambodia in December. My dream is to take a 2-week trip overseas each year for the rest of my life.

    Glad you're back!