F or some people, it’s the beach and the boardwalk; for others, it’s the pristine mountain air.We each have our own map of magical places, those enchanted settings that put us back together again when we start coming apart.

I like to get away, too, but my vacation spots are rather unconventional. Or maybe they’re so conventional that they’re unlikely getaways. One of my greatest thrills is just walking the streets in the frum neighborhoods of another city. I love the noise of shuls, of wedding halls streaming their music late at night. I love the availability of kosher food. I enjoy perusing the same stores I have at home, but with a clearer head. I need the novelty of a new setting, yet I crave the familiar.

So I’ve come to accept that I’ve got to compromise somewhere. If I want to be around the corner from Lederman’s shul, or the Ari’s kever, or share the block with six kosher falafel stores… well, then, I may not have the option of a spa resort or an ocean view. Still, it’s worth it.

There was the time we took a rental, one of those cute little guest apartments, and when we showed up to a room that wasn’t ready, the lady motioned to us that she’d be there as soon as she finished davening. True to her word, she came after a robust Shacharis with sponja stick in hand. The Ritz it certainly wasn’t, but we did have a good time, and a good laugh.

Then there was our visit to a hotel in the heart of a frum neighborhood. No little rental, this one — a real hotel, with a full-time front desk and bottles of shampoo with a real logo. There was no Internet in the rooms, so I came down to the lobby late at night to check my e-mails. And as I sat there, I got to watch a bar mitzvah taking place in the ballroom right next to me. There’s something to be said for sitting on a couch in a snood and slippers as ladies totter by, all dressed up, without even throwing you a glance, no?

Then there was that memorable summer vacation. We wanted kid-friendly, and we certainly got it. My kids ran into the curtainless shower stalls and emerged squealing, “Yum! The shampoo smells like cola!” (It was true, though I tried not to think about the implications.)

The food itself was good and plentiful, with chicken nuggets high on the menu. Petel (the Israeli version of Kool-Aid) was served in huge troughs, and the kids had a ball filling up pitcher after pitcher.

And then there was the nightly entertainment. Most unforgettable was the tightrope walker’s performance. We held our breath as he unicycled across the rope and somersaulted over that thin little piece of nothing. The priceless moment came at the end, when our jolly-faced, bearded host took the mike and had everyone applaud our star.

Then he asked, “Boris, tell these people here, how long did you practice until you were able to do this?”

Boris flashed a gold-capped smile. “Oh, many years.”

Our host swept his hand over the audience. “Boris, tell us all. Did you ever fall while you were practicing?”

“Many times! I once injured my leg for a month.”

Our bearded host continued. “But still, Boris, you continued? You didn’t stop?”

Boris shook his head. “Still, I continued.”

Then he pumped Boris’s hand and boomed to the audience.

“Do you hear what he said? In just a few days, rabbosai, we will be heading into Chodesh Elul. And we have to remember this, as we head back into a new zeman of learning and avodas Hashem. We fall, and we fall, but we don’t give up!” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 554)