Sometimes travel isn’t about going to a new place, it’s about getting away from the place I’m at, even if only temporarily. Going away is getting away, escaping, retreating, running, changing. It’s called the geographic cure.
All Canadians want to get away from the annoyances of winter, even those of us who live in Vancouver, the garden spot of Canada. In November especially, I find the heavy rain, the perpetual clouds, the chilly wind, the creeping darkness too much to bear. Getting away from approaching winter, even for a few weeks, seems to take the edge off the grey, shortening it from insufferable to tolerable.
While I like the 12 days of Christmas, I don’t particularly like the crass commercialism of the over-extended run-up to Christmas. If I can be so bold, I would prefer the season be shortened to less than a week. I tire easily of the forced bonhommie of the month long exercise in Pavlovian consumerism. When I hear my first ‘jolly Saint Nick’ sound track in Starbucks in early November, I cringe.
Truth be told, I also have a few bad memories, ghosts of Christmas’ past, that would be best left dormant – too much Xmas offers too many opportunities to awaken them, setting them to rattling their chains in my mind.
Finally, while I’m not sure it has provoked this bout of ennui, I am now an orphan. My mother was 95, she lived a good life. Her slide into dementia had taken her some time ago. Her death, the funeral and the aftermath have not been totally neutralized, even with all the kindness shown by those close to me, especially, Blair, my son.
My spiritual, emotional and physical lethargy was not amusing. Getting off the couch and out the door had become a challenge. Comfort food had become impossible to resist. Hibernation is for bears, not for me.
I could have endured this patch; I could have slogged through it with as much stoicism as I could muster. I could have suffered the rain, wet shoes, cold feet, snuffly nose, oncoming rhumey cough. I could have huddled around the warm campfire of my TV screen; going out too much of a nuisance. I could have cocooned; when I’m not good company I refuse to inflict myself on my friends.
These days, I can change my situation. Life is too short. The solution is clear, the geographic cure. I reshuffle the cards and deal myself a new hand. This year, the geographic cure is Palm Desert, the quintessential American artificial oasis for escapism and rejuvenation.
Don’t scoff, it’s working for me. In fact, like all adventures, it is full of surprises, sweet spots that are unexpected and therefore doubly delightful.
First, I shed my sweater upon arrival, I’ve put it somewhere but I know not where and I care less. The weather is sublime; in terms meaningful to me, I can sit outside, take coffee outside, eat meals outside and exercise outside.
Second, I nurture my Christmas spirit back to life – Scrooge begone – long enough to think about gifts for those close to me. I’ve managed to shop for them without losing that Christmas spirit in the crazed cacaphony of the Cabazon Mall. It’s ironic that, in this grand bazaar of forced consumerism, I’ve managed to rekindle some joy in gift finding and gift giving.
Third, Bohdan and Dee have taken me under their wing. They are enthusiastic hikers; every morning they gather me up, take me to a trailhead and march me up and down the austere desert hills just outside Palm Desert. There is no choice in the matter, no equivocation, no debate, no lollygagging. After, there’s coffee. I bask in their hospitality; they’ve delivered a carefully curated social life, including appies every evening in a convivial place and at a convivial pace.
We even search out the local cultural traditions of Indio. The international Tamale festival is one of those events which, if I came upon it in Mexico or any of a number of central American countries, I would consider it travel heaven. The warmth, friendliness and hospitality of everyone in Indio stands out, even over the blocks and blocks of street food. It is joyful and for a bonus, I now know how to consume a Tamale.
I have time to look up, Peter, an old client; we share several hours of graceful conversation without every touching on business; it didn’t seen that important compared to sharing our emerging passions of photography, music, writing, traveling; no talk of ROI or EBITDA but instead we share our joy over friends, family, children, experiences.
I read. The stack of books I have brought with me are offering up delights and insights. I ignore the carnival barkers on TV Shout Shows, opting instead for the restful lull of NPR. A few movies add spice.
Is this a selfish indulgence? Absolutely. Am I even a bit remorseful for my wanton hedonism? Maybe a bit. Do I feel any guilt? Not really. Do I care what others might think? Obviously not or I wouldn’t be writing this.
I am at the phase of my life that I call polishing my eccentricities. If you don’t like it, stop reading.
Sometimes it’s better to run than fight. The geographic cure works for me, as far as it goes. I do need to remember that where-ever I go, I take myself along so I did need a bit of attitude adjustment.
Somewhere in the desert, I found more of the spirit of Christmas than I have had in a while; I dropped Scrooge, he’s not much fun to be, or be around.
And now, renewed and refreshed, I’ll be home for Christmas – the second leg of my geographic cure.