Where are you right now?

Last week I took a trip to Puerto Rico. Where I live, it’s winter – bitter, gray, snowy – and it has been for awhile. So Geoff and I tossed our swimsuits in a bag, bought some sunscreen, grabbed the kids, and headed for the airport. A few hours later, we squinted in the late afternoon tropical sun and shed our sweatshirts.

We spent our time on the beach, swimming and building sandcastles. Geoff opened a coconut for us and poured the water into our mouths. We hiked in the rainforest and we explored cobblestone streets and centuries-old castles. I took a lot of pictures, and of course, I posted some on Facebook. I shared my sunny moments, my too-cute kids, my lucky life with my winter friends. I did it not so much to show off as to bring my half-frozen friends with me, even if just for that one second that they scanned my photo in their Facebook feeds. Because, let’s face it, winter is long and hard and everyone needs an escape.

On our last evening, we stopped at a beachside park before dinner, to let the kids play and watch the surfers. As I sat on a stone bench, my phone tucked away in the rental car, I watched the people at the park. There was a young mom chasing a toddler younger than Nate, one hand on her phone at all times. There was a young woman in professional-looking skirt and blouse, perfect hair, clearly just off of work, typing madly on her iPhone. She never looked up at my kids who were playing on the grass around her. An older man sat on a bench a little ways down from us, eyes locked on his phone, and never even glanced at the surfers just yards away and directly in front of him.

Everyone else in the park was elsewhere. I’d love to believe that they, like me, might have been posting photos to help thaw their winter friends. I’d love to believe that all the people in the park were sharing their version of paradise. But I fear that they were trying to escape themselves. That reality is just as ugly even when you sit just yards from the beach, beauty staring you in the face.

I’m back at home now, and honestly, it’s nearly impossible to escape from the polar vortex outside. Ice is forming inside my windows. Our vacation feels distant, dreamlike. It’s tempting to read my email, text a friend, flip through my Twitter loop, anything to avoid looking at the snow piles outside and wondering how long it will be until I see grass again. Reality is hard to take and escapes, even real ones, are only temporary.

Still, if you’re reading this from paradise, text me a photo.

22 thoughts on “Where are you right now?

  1. I know exactly how you feel about needing an escape from Winter. I got the opportunity in December to jet off to Belize for eight days on a mission trip and the weather was so much more agreeable. On our last day we made a trip to Hopkins Beach and i posted some pictures as you did, to give those keeping up with our journey at home a piece of our experience.

    1. I think you’re right, and I am definitely guilty of paying too much attention to my phone, but it was sad to see it in such a beautiful place.

  2. I still have an “undereducated” phone. One reason I’m reluctant to get a “smart” device is the way I see how distracting they can be to other people. Sure, there are times I think it would be useful to have one, but I’ll pass for now.
    For me, the camera is the tool I use to separate. I have to remind myself to stop taking pictures and be part of the picture.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean with the phone! Whenever I’m with another mom who is taking a lot of pics of her kids, I try to grab it and take a picture of her.

  3. I’m trying to be more present in my life and resist the siren call of the smartphone, but sometimes it’s hard, when I can instantly take an exotic vacation via Pinterest.
    Sometimes though, the escape is good for you. Like you said, polar vortex and all.

  4. For them it’s home, not a vacation! I’m going to Puerto Rico in Feb. Can’t wait. It’s WAY too polar vortexy for me.

    1. Totally true. Have fun on your trip! Definitely eat at La Estacion in Fajardo if you’re there, and Flamenco Beach in Culebra was amazing.

  5. We are taking the kids to florida in a couple weeks… it’s our first. I totally expect it to be better than the Griswolds. lol I’ll text ya pics! 🙂 Lovely post!

  6. Oh how I *wish* I was writing from paradise! But, I am not in a polar vortex, so I’ve got that going for me 🙂 It’s true that wherever you are, you still need an escape.

  7. When you live somewhere beautiful, you tend to get distracted by life and miss the beauty right in front of you. Those Puerto Ricans who were absorbed in their phones and completely missed a beautiful double rainbow would probably be outside building snowmen, making snow angels, and throwing snow balls if they were here right now. We on the other hand turn up our thermostats to “Caribbean Sauna” and try to avoid the cold except for the sprint from the house to the car.

    At least, I have to believe that, because otherwise we need to switch to one way tickets the next time we go visit on island.

    1. Ooh, I’m in Chicago too. So, we have the same name, live in the same city, and are both writers? I think the universe wants us to be friends.

  8. I’m in New Jersey. It’s cold, it’s gray and I’m going to visit Pinterest for some escape photos. 😉 But seriously, I know what you mean. That mini cyber break is oh so tempting.

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