Have you ever needed, I mean desperately needed, to just push pause, escape, and refresh? I wont spend time here describing the variety of events that lead to me having that feeling. It wholly deserves its own post. For now I’d like to recount the way that I was finally able to disappear and refresh.
I’ve grown so accustomed to the idea of “vacationing” and “travels” meaning lounging next to a cliff-side river in Laos, or bungee jumping near the Tibetan border in Nepal, or spending sunsets on paradise islands with no roads in Panama or Indonesia. But now that I have those experiences, I can say wholeheartedly that we take the concepts of “vacation” and “travels” too literally and physically. Isn’t it truly more of a method of refreshing the mind than anything else? And e can do that any number of ways. You can escape by turning a room in your house into an artistry nook, or you can escape by meandering around a new park with a camera, or perhaps you can do as I have done and just escape to a new city within your same timezone.
I write these words sitting in a quaint little coffee hop with nothing but a pen, a pad, and a map on a cool, rainy Sunday in September. Even though its not what I or people generally consider a traditional vacation, its quiet, its quaint, and its rejuvenating. And to be totally fair, yesterday, when I had heavenly weather, I did an incredible amount of traditional touring, site seeing, and picture taking because I knew today would be a very different kind of day.
Starting from the beginning, I arrived a few days ago by the simplest international flight I’ve ever taken. The trip included one easy connection, no delays, and arriving in the same timezone that I departed from. After arriving, I quickly found an Uber to my hostel, checked in, found me bed, and then started walking around and getting to know the immediate vicinity. The hostel that I’m staying at, Auberge Saint Paul, while pretty central in the city, is very much in the “touristy” area of downtown Montreal. This has its pros and its cons. While the walkability score could not be better, the types of food and beverage options most easily accessible are lower quality and higher prices due to an assumed unawareness or ambivalence of the majority of the patrons in this part of town.
I woke up the following morning and knew that I had a long day ahead. Because I had already seen that the following day would be wet and rainy all day, task one for the morning was to find a cheap rain jacket. After asking around, a local market area was recommended called the Renaissance. I ventured there via the city metro, and it had exactly what I was looking for. I found a used clothing store that had a medium sized, mens rain jacket for $20 USD. After that first success, I meandered towards the hilltop that gives the cit its name, Mount Royal. The city seems to have grown around the hill, so it was very much the case that you can just follow a path uphill anywhere in town and end up at Mount Royal’s peak. I’ll say that the height and intensity of the hike was surprising. While nothing quite like Adams Peak in Sri Lanka or the Pokhara hills in Nepal, Mount Royal did require significantly more energy than I had expected. I hiked to the top and was unimpressed and a bit confused by the lonely cell tower at the very peak. It was only on my way down the other side that I came upon the beautiful vistas, and the truck loads of tourists, that I was expecting. Being one of the last weekends of the year that it is still comfortable to wear shorts and t-shirts, and being the long Labor Day weekend, there were buses of church groups, families and their children, and of course many general tourists there to join me. But it was still an incredible view and well worth the effort of reaching the hilltop through the morning.
Next, after wandering my way down from Mount Royal, I had heard about an electro parade taking place just at the hill’s base. “What’s an electro parade” you’re probably wondering. It is probably not far away from the image you have in your head right now, except this occurred in mid-afternoon broad daylight. One long street downtown had been blocked off for six semi tucks with trailers filled with DJs and dancers to inch down the street over the course of several hours, surrounded by people dancing to the open-air beats and others wondering what the hell was going on. After following the bizarre spectacle for a time, I them departed, heading back to my hostel, wanting nothing more than to sit, idle for a time, with a good beer in my hand, and just reflect on the day of nonstop movement I had just experienced.
The following day, it rained through all the day light hours and more. It was not the intense afternoon thunderstorm that is a daily nuisance in late Summer in Charleston, but more a lingering, cold drizzle. This is generally my least favorite type of weather, but after months of powerful storms back home, I appreciated this varying pace for forcing me to relax, stop moving, stop planning, and just appreciate again the feeling of doing nothing. Will I be able to maintain this nonchalance if the poor weather continues? I don’t believe I’ll get to find out; it does appear that it will clear up tomorrow, at least enough for more walking around town. But if not, we’ll see. I got all the essential sights seen on day one, so everything from here on can just be considered tentative commitments.
And that’s life, isn’t it? We can make plans to a stressful degree forever and ever, but ultimately, we’re just making the most of the days we get and balancing goals and achievements against our present realities. When you’re “vacationing” in the sense that I am now, with the primary goal of refreshing mind, body, and spirit its more important to simply relish in and appreciate the senses of novelty and brevity. I’m not saying this is always the best way to take a vacation, but on occasion it is the tentative commitments that prove most surprising, rewarding, and refreshing.