By Molly Williams
A recent NPR story about the benefits of experiences over acquisitions trumpeted an obvious fact that addicted travelers have always understood: being and doing is better than getting and having. It’s the experiences, immersions, contacts, and memories that make us rich, not the tangible accumulations.
Interestingly, according to the study, a generous portion of our enjoyment of an activity is credited to the anticipation of it; looking forward to something is apparently half the fun.
I know this, which is why in my Mid-West house there is a hard rule – we can’t talk about Mexico until October.
October is many things to us – the excitement of the new school year has become routine, but not yet drudgery; fall crisps our mornings and wilts my begonias; sweaters come out and shorts get stored; and the seasonal charter flights to Puerto Vallarta go on sale. These things collide, making our annual March retreat seem just tantalizingly at the tips of our reach, as though if I listen hard I can hear the surf crash under our balcony.
And if I put my hand out just so under the palapa I can taste the salt on my tequila.
The wishing is tough, and although the looking ahead is sweet, we can only stand it so long, which is why there exists the Rule of October.
To harbor such desire all year long would do a disservice to my lush June flower planting fever, to the languid August afternoons floating on the hot lake, to cicada drowned evenings on the deck, when the fading September sun slants through the tall canna and crows pepper the sky. It seems to diminish the luxurious joy I have in my daily life if I immediately start wanting to be somewhere other than my lovely home as soon as I return to it.
But the need to wish ourselves there is strong, and helps to resign us to the mornings to come, when I will certainly have to shovel before dawn to make carpool.
This glorious autumn will give way to dark breakfasts and bare tree limbs, and then I will ache for the smell of bougainvillea and the trill of the muffin man on the sidewalk.
By January, when the light gets so weak that noon barely makes a shadow on the snow angels frozen crunchy in the yard, we will talk ourselves giddy at the dinner table, planning dinners out on new courtyards and Madonna-bus excursions to foreign neighborhoods.
October is when we can begin again to relish the certainty that our friends will find us on the beach and the mariachi will wake us from siesta.
The fullness of daily life nudges over a bit to make room for the frizzle of anticipation from knowing that Puerto Vallarta is there waiting, welcoming, warm, and familiar. I can do November, February, all the mean months between now and March. Because now is October, and now I can dream.