Lancaster County PA, aka Amish Country. This summer we went on a long weekend to visit the area. I have to say I struggled with planning for this trip and struggled with our activities while we were there. It was just not my normal vacation. But, I do feel like the trip taught me some lessons about myself and how I operate!
We had planned the trip to Lancaster in the early spring, back when a touch of warmth in the air hinted at the long hot endless summer days to come. My mother-in -law suggested the idea while we sat outside on our patio, our faces turned towards the sun. We would all spend a long weekend in Lancaster with the highlight being the Sight and Sound theater. We planed it, picked the weekend, purchased the tickets, and settled back into our busy spring routine.
Summer arrived and before I knew it our Lancaster trip was just a few weeks away. Now, as you have probably gathered if you have read other posts, I like to plan a trip within an inch of its life. Yes, I know, personality flaw but I am always afraid that anything less will result in us missing out in something the area has to offer. So I started looking into the Lancaster area and I just didn’t see much of our typical vacation activities. No parks, no mountains, no lake or beach; I really wasn’t sure what we were going to do! We are just not shopping and mini golf type people. What’s the point of traveling somewhere to do what you can easily do at home?
So, I turned to Facebook. I knew that there were a lot of people out there who have been to Lancaster, some repeatedly. A large number of people responded to my question of what to do in Amish country! I had a starting point and came up with some things to do, never really feeling satisfied with what I had found.
Friday afternoon we went to the Sight and Sound theater and saw Jonah. Everyone loved it! The next morning we hoped in the car and turned onto the main drag and drove in heavy traffic past amusement parks, mini golf places, and one chain restaurant after another. We could have been at any tourist destination in the country! We passed a huge outlet mall and turned into the Mennonite Visitors Center. I asked the man at the counter for some maps and he handed me a bunch and turned to leave. Then I asked him for the handwritten map. He stopped and said “how do you know about that?” A friend of mine had told me to make sure I get that map because it included the non-touristy places in the area. I told him that this is what we hoped to find, the out of the way places, and he got out a new map and traced a driving route for us; circling all of the best places to stop. Satisfied that it would be a unique adventure, we were off!
Almost immediately after turning off of the main drag we were thrown into rural Pennsylvania. No more stores and restaurants, just fields and farms. I felt like I could breath again and settled in to enjoy the subtle beauty of the area. We drove, passing a small town, beautiful old houses, more farms, and soon we were in a mostly Amish area. Our first stop, according to our super-secret hand drawn map was just ahead. We got out at an Amish farm and went into the huge store attached to look around. It was filled with food and Amish souvenirs. There were dolls, quilts, clocks, hats, signs, candles, baby clothes, books, anything Amish that you could hope to buy. After a bit we moved on to the next stop and the next. They were all the same! Beautiful farm houses with a store attached selling products that were all very similar to one another. We were in the Amish version of that main drag!
As I sat on the porch of one store on a homemade rocking chair, waiting for the others to come out, I looked around and really noticed the Amish farm. It was immaculate! The family was going about their daily farm live, feeding the animals, sweeping the front walk, fixing tools in the barn, while tourist after tourist pulled up in their cars to get out and gawk and buy things from them. This was obviously their choice since they have a huge store on their property, a way to profit from our curiosity, yet still such a weird set up! In front of this Amish house ran a set of high tension wires. I thought this was the best analogy for Amish country. They live in the world but are not of it (this is the Bible verse on which they base their lifestyle). The world hurries past them, ever changing and advancing, while they stay the same.
Sitting on that porch, looking out over the rolling fields dotted with cattle, I began to understand the point of this trip, the reason people love Lancaster County. It’s not the shopping or the games or even the “Amish experience”. For me it obviously wasn’t the adventure and physical activity because, unless you count eating as a physical activity, there was none! Rather, it is about slowing down and taking the time to really look around and take everything in. I am always go go go, even on vacations. Especially on vacations! Here things move slowly, deliberately. I realized that every vacation we went on did not have to be a great adventure, sometimes it’s just as important to just get away and slow down. Sit, look around, and enjoy a tiny section of this world.