Initially our Christmastime adventures were to places we were obliged to fly to and of no more than one week's duration, usually at an “all inclusive” resort or hotel. Now however we drive, are away for three weeks and stay at a rented villa or condominium on the Ocean. Except for the drive there, the business of routinely dining out has taken a back seat to dining in. Instead of knowing where the best restaurants are, we calculate the location of the better food suppliers. As might be expected, for longer holidays there is a distinct advantage in having one's own kitchen, not only the obvious financial benefit but more importantly the privilege of avoiding what becomes tedious restaurant liturgy if practiced on a daily basis. The villas and condominiums are as well far less restrictive than a hotel room or even a suite. Being out of the mix of a dedicated resort also diffuses the hype which so often attends a resort. The experience now is more akin to cottage life.
The choice to drive encouraged us to apply for and obtain a Nexus card permitting us speedier passage across the border. We never buy anything of consequence in the United States so we are able to respond with impunity to the questioning of the border guards upon our return.
Packing for the trip is a relatively painless undertaking. The knowledge that one may take just about anything one wants (not having to compress everything into one suitcase) makes the task almost effortless. There are nonetheless decisions to be made. We still straddle two climates, the winter weather for everywhere above Virginia and the decidedly more moderate temperatures of the Carolinas. It is safe to remind oneself to take a pair of short pants. While we may include one set of semi-formal clothes, the majority of our apparel is casual. Normally we purchase one or two new items which we preserve for our trip especially. This year we bought ourselves a couple of fisherman-knit sweaters, a tuque and some comfortable socks.
Like most people we are intent upon keeping in touch with our personal affairs through technology. We therefore transport iPhone, iPads and laptop computers. Each serves its distinct purpose and we would feel horribly disconnected not to have them. The encumbrance of the computers is that each evening while en route to our destination they must be taken indoors as a precaution against freezing temperatures and for safety. The laptop for me would be almost superfluous apart from its word processing feature necessary for the fulfillment of my compelling need to write. Relying on Siri for that more heavy-duty composition would not work.
Some consideration must be given in advance to one’s vehicle which, at this time of year, includes the installation of winter tyres. Routine maintenance is desirable as well. Some years, as this, we have a new car to break in. Along the way there we scout for car washes, something which clearly meshes with the general American psyche. We are proud of our automobile and consider that it makes a statement we prefer. As such its appearance is important. The GPS with which the car is equipped makes the discovery of car washes a fairly simple exercise.
Thankfully over the years my despair at being away from the office has declined. This is no accident. Here again there are decisions to be made. Foremost is the insightfulness to forego anything that cannot assuredly be completed before departure. If there is a shred of possibility that a transaction may modify or abort then it is best avoided entirely. Of equal if not more importance is the assurance that there is a significant financial cushion which can tide one over both during the holiday and for several weeks after returning (before the machinery of the business can again produce income). It is undoubtedly one of the advantages of aging that one manages to accumulate a bit of capital. It is very relieving to be able to snap one’s fingers at industry if there is enough of the right stuff in the bag. The resorts where we stay require prepayment so that particular obligation is already out of the way.
Because we have two properties which are free-standing we are required to make arrangements with a local reliable personality to check them regularly to ensure the entrance-ways are swept and kept clear, that the heat is on, etc. My tenants are provided with a list of emergency numbers for contacts to the various trades if need be. I have commissioned a contractor to plow the snow from the house driveway and the office parking lot.
In the several days leading up to our departure we purposefully wind down the provisions in the refrigerator and customarily choose to dine out. We generally avoid alcohol as well, particularly since our stay in South Carolina is punctuated by daily bicycling along the beach or the numerous paths which swirl about the Island.
Finally our so-called Christmas tradition includes a viewing of the 1951 Renown Film Production of Charles Dickens' cherished novel "A Christmas Carol" starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge. It is guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye no matter how often it is seen. Its message of family and friends is somewhat piquant in view of our abandonment of the hearth; otherwise it succeeds as a purgation and purification.
Then we’re ready for Christmas!