The last part of my “around the world trip without leaving the Chicago area” a few years ago was a visit to Japan. Sansho-En or The Garden of Three Islands at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe is a tranquil spot if you get there early in the morning before the crowds arrive and you don’t mind dodging the sprinklers.  As you cross the bridge, follow the curving paths past the Shoin Building, a re-creation of a 17th-century samurai’s retreat, and the dry gardens where fine pebbles are carefully raked to imitate rippling water.

In contrast to this peaceful setting I got to see another part of Japanese culture at the Japan Festival.  Here, taiko drummers pounded out a pulsating beat, dancers performed tales of fearless huntsmen and great warriors, and geishas swayed to traditional Japanese music while vendors displayed everything from paper sunshades and silk flowers to awesome-looking swords.

After my globe-trotting experience I arrived back home without fear of discovering that I’d forgotten to cancel the newspapers, overdrawn on my bank account or neglected to feed the goldfish. What’s more I had a whole stack of new photos to add to my collection.  That was one super vacation!