Getaways within Getaways

Why is it so many are interested in where we went on vacation and how it was? They, too, want to escape. Will this escape be better than their last one, assuming they had a last one? What are the pros and cons?

Wherever we stay, we often want new experiences – different people, food, streets, trees and bodies of water. But we also need a feeling of safety, a retreat within our retreat where we can hang out while we absorb our new location.Balcony

A protected balcony or courtyard, a quiet, shady spot for relaxing and enjoying a meal, a morning muffin with coffee, a lunch of local cheeses and fruit, a casual dinner of freshly caught fish and harvested vegetables.

Before I went on my first long trip to Europe with my sons, my boss had some words of advice. He was excited for me and happy to recount his trip with his wife, but he also added: “Remember, the word travel originates from the old French word travail.”

Travel is work. It is pleasant and liberating, but it also requires vigilance, thinking about everything we do, from where to walk and eat to how to pay for goods and services in foreign currency.  Even listening to a tour guide or walking around a museum requires more attention and thinking than our daily drives to work or the grocery store on auto pilot.

RetreatAnd, as with any challenge met, any task successfully completed, a trip to a new location, new travels, new travails, can leave us feeling upbeat. We’ve accomplished something and feel as good as after exercising, but with better scenery.

If we’re lucky or wise, we can also bring some scenes and retreats home to become part of our regular lives, indoors and out.

Out with the Old, In with the New

The Los Angeles area beach city where I grew up is no longer recognizable. Most of the original bungalows and small homes are gone, replaced by looming McMansions, some spreading over two or three formerly tiny lots. The corner drug store with the lunch counter and the old five and dime are long gone, replaced by expensive, blingy boutiques.

The transition is my current beach town 100 miles south is similar in the business district and slower in the residential neighborhoods. There is a 2-story limit on height and loud objections when new neighbors (such as Mitt Romney) want to overwhelm the neighborhood or block beach access. The residences here are an eclectic mixture of beach bungalows, remodeled homes, estates, and condos and apartments in styles ranging from stark and modern to Tudor and Mediterranean.Old cottage 2

On my block, three cottages have been or are being torn down in the last year. One came down completely and is now a private school playground called Field of Dreams. One stands empty and boarded, devoid of its front porch where a family used to sit every day under a pergola of bougainvillea and morning glory. The third stands bare, stripped to its studs. At first I thought it was coming down too. A bulldozer ate up the lawn, but left trees standing like sentinels in the dirt. In back, workers stripped down a matching guest house, but then built it up again with fresh wood, a handsome roof and railings. Perhaps the same restoration is planned for the master home? It will live on beautifully for several more years, even decades.

A few doors down, my cottage-like duplex is in pretty good shape for being 64 years old. It stands alone between two large condos – one square and plain, one graceful and rounded, Spanish pink. In back of me is another large, 2-story building with two apartments, our carports and our laundry shed.

I’m still not used to being on the ground floor after living upstairs in a sunny space for eight years. However I had to move. My rent was raised astronomically and I lucked out in finding this affordable and convenient accommodation around the corner.Old cottage

I’m trying to like it. It has a remodeled kitchen, new flooring and carpeting and a fireplace. But I’m fighting claustrophobia and missing my view out into the world so much. I haunt the streets and alleys (called lanes here) looking for another perch.

Until I find it, I will make the best of my current space. I will examine all the nooks and crannies holding my possessions and my life. What do I need and what can I let go?

I want my next perch to be smaller and simpler and to bring with me only what I truly need. I want to make peace with lost homes and dreams and hold onto those worth pursuing or renovating.