DISCLAIMER: I love America and it’s the best country in the world.
So, I just came back from a vacation in Spain. And by vacation I mean an incredibly intense, sight-seeing, experience-acquiring, sensory-overloading, physically challenging… experience (and not without some emotional taxation, but that’s a whole different story). It made me wish I was a travel blogger because of all the experiences that were to be had and sights that were to be seen.
Now, it’s been a rough few months for me, mental health-wise; long winter (actually, the it wasn’t even that long this year, which makes this even worse), dark nights, cold, lonely. Existential crises everywhere, like once a week. Inferiority complex. Imposter complex. Outsider complex. Other kinds of complexes. I have not been happy the last half a year or so. And you know what, it’s not just me. My friends and people I know have been struggling between being destabilized by politics and dealing with personal issues, health and otherwise, and just… no one seems at peace. In Spain, I don’t know what it was. Maybe only because I was on vacation, but like I said, it was as far as vacations go, not a stress free one. It’s just… People looked like they were genuinely enjoying themselves, their food, their cities, their lives. kept marveling at the lifestyle differences between here and there, and wondering… like… where have I gone wrong? Where have we gone wrong?
1. The sunlight is spaced out better
I guess this isn’t technically a lifestyle issue as much as it a latitudes and longitudes issue, but something happens to a person when they don’t have to awake at the crack of ass hour of 5 am or whenever it is that the sun rises in the summer where I live! In Spain, they have these things called the persianas, which are metal blinds that go over your window that will shut out any inkling of light when you don’t want it so you can sleep.
Something also happens to a person when they don’t have to be locked in their house when it gets dark at whatever ridiculous hour it gets dark. I mean, on the longest day of of the year in June, I think it was night time by 8:30, and in the winter sometimes, I get to work when it’s still dark and leave when it’s already dark. And when it’s dark, it’s dark, because guess what, streetlights aren’t a thing in my neighborhood; maybe, the town thinks it would bring in street urchins. It depresses me. It is depressing to hibernate! In Spain, it stays light until almost ten o’clock in the summer so that party spirit, the joie de vivre never leaves you and instead of hiding away in your house, you want to be out and around people, and raising your dopamine levels.
2. Fruit tastes like fruit
I think this has to do with mass harvesting of our fruit? Or maybe because we’re less concerned about eating seasonally and more concerned with perpetual availability of anything anywhere, even peaches in January.
3. People walk everywhere
I try to make excuses for why my town or any other town I’ve ever lived in that wasn’t Philadelphia or Boston proper has had no side walks and why people won’t walk places. But, like, honestly, I was with my kids at Karate and Target is literally across the way and there is NO WAY to get there because it’s a busy road and there is a guardrail and no cross walk and basically, you gotta get in your car and drive across the street! That is not good for dopamine. I try, actively try, to get to the unicorn goal of 10,000 steps a day, and most days, it is impossible because I go from kitchen to garage, from car to office, back to car, back to garage. On the other hand, the tiniest village we visited had side walks, buildings, a bar on the corner for people to get together and everyone walked places if it made sense! Like to the grocery store to get bread or down the street from Karate to Target (if they had those things). I made 10,000 steps before 5pm.
4. People are allowed to take vacation
Well, when I got back after two weeks off, I got a comment about my “sabbatical.” Meanwhile, my brother and sister in law, both professionals, have the month of August off. And other people, not necessarily professionals, also get August off. Or 20 days. Why are we working ourselves diligently into an early grave, I don’t know.
5. Kids hang out
One of the hardest things I have found as a parent is keeping my kids occupied – I mean, otherwise, they go nuclear. They’re in heaps of activities and there are playdates that need to be scheduled – and kids can’t schedule those on their own because no one has land lines any more and they’re currently still too young for cell phones. It’s a serious effort. We moved to this nice neighborhood because we were told there are a million kids and a neighborhood association, and everyone told us it’s all kinds of amazing, so we were expecting crowds of kids loitering and playing ball and street hockey. However, the reality is, the streets (no sidewalk!) are fairly deserted most days. There is a boy my son’s age who lives across the street and we haven’t seen him all winter. Not even at the bus stop, once it got a little chilly. In Spain, though, there are actual crowds of children roaming the streets. We were in a seaside town that everyone flocks to for the vacation month of August, and there are these tall buildings, and each building has its own patio or playground, and all the kids get together and hang out, and the parents don’t even have to plan it! They just watch from their balconies to make sure it’s ok! And the older ones can leave the buildings and ride their bikes (down the sidewalk!) into town or to the beach, and sometimes, different building groups have cross-contaminated hangout sessions, and they do this year after year with the same friends because they come to this town every summer, and it’s just amazing.
6. Adults also hang out
And it’s not just kids. Adults know each other year in and year out, and everyone is out there, talking, sharing, eating, drinking. Not just in the seaside town. Everywhere. During the week. And I kept saying, It’s Wednesday people, why aren’t you working?
7. Very few to none mass shootings
Yeah, while I was there for two weeks, there were two back here. Like what the fuck, man.
I’ve been wondering what else is coming our way, ever since Charlottesville, and then the rapist on the Supreme Court, and then the Temple shooting, and then all the other shootings, and whether I need an exit strategy. This has not made that line of thinking any less frequent. Maybe, I should just stop vacationing.