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My "staycation" in Canada.

To be clear, “staycation” is a stupid word. Let’s face it — any time you take off of work is vacation. That’s why it’s called vacation time. At its root, the word has less to do with where one goes than the fact that one has left: “vacate” does not mean “go somewhere with fruity drinks served with tiny umbrellas by boys in Speedos,” it means “leave the premises.”

I have left the premises a lot, this summer.

This week I’m headed to Montreal for Worldcon. I’ll be doing a kaffeklatsch on Friday in the Palais de Congres, Room 521C, at 11:00AM. My other workshop members will be there, too. Do stop by and say hello. I’m also on some other panels, most of them Friday. I apologize in advance if I am at all snappish that day; I’ll have lots to do and see and talk about, and probably won’t know exactly where I’m going. I may also be sporting my best Kathleen Turner impersonation, as I feel a slight tickle in my throat and pressure behind my eyes. (Copious amounts of miso soup have been consumed to stave off this tickle. Next in my armada: genmai-cha. And a multi-vitamin.)

This past weekend, I was on Lake Huron spending time with DeathRay’s family and fixing my thesis, in addition to writing action scenes and getting sunburnt. (I saw a double-jointed girl in the grocery store today and felt a little envy; I bet she has no problems putting sunscreen on her back.) There was also plenty of eating — good eating. Say what you want to about the dangers of corn and the vagaries of corn subsidies, but there is nothing, nothing better in terms of snack food than stove-popped corn drizzled with melted butter and covered liberally in salt, then eaten in hushed voices so as not to wake children.

Also the sound of waves at night is pretty damn great.

The week before that was spent at Gibraltar Point, on Toronto’s Centre Island. We stayed in a converted school. The place is magic. Kid-sized drinking fountains are now inhabited by glass balls or pinecones or sculpture. The ventilator shafts are wide enough that I could probably wiggle through them, if I just stopped eating for a while. My hallway was guarded by huge black wings and the exoskeleton of a long-dead Underwood. And the beach — and the amusement park, and the hedgemaze, and the chained-up, useless ferry docks — were all abandoned, desolate, empty: I picked my way up the boughs of an oak and realized that I was alone, truly alone, in a way I had not been in years. I felt good. I felt sure of myself. I placed my foot in the next notch in the tree and knew I could climb much higher without falling.

Then I came back, and Dave made me the best steak I’ve eaten since Texas.

Last year at this time I was dithering about Japan. I was wondering how it would go (it went well, despite my failings as a traveler), and whether I knew enough of the language (I did, and people were patient with me), and whether I would find participants for my study (no dice). This year I’ve seen more of Canada, and I’m wondering roughly the same questions about Montreal. It’s a nice balance. “Staycation” in addition to being a totally useless word, has a lot of baggage attached to it about the collapse of the global economy and a sudden belt-tightening. But travel is only as humdrum as one allows it to be, and discovering something new about one’s environment is useful. If you’re staying in-country, make that country your own. Get out there. See it.

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  1. I need to do more of that in Washington. I’ve been moping about my mostly-self-imposed exile from Utah’s gorgeous scenery, but it occurs to me there’s probably lots of gorgeous around here too. Hell, I haven’t even poked around The Mountain much.

    Still mad envious of you and all you Montreal-going world-conners. Le sigh. Hope you guys have buckets of fun.

    • There’s *tons* of beautiful scenery in WA. I’d hit the Olympic National Forest, if you have time. Or Dungeness Spit. Or go hike Tiger Mountain — it’s close by, and the Fleet Foxes wrote a song about it.

  • Madeline Ashby…

    ...is a science fiction writer, strategic foresight consultant, anime fan, and immigrant. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and IAM Sports & Entertainment. You can buy her novels here. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity, and Tor.com.
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