I don’t have many days off given my travel schedule. Thus, I don’t take vacations, especially those that involve even more travel. When I have free time, I like to stay close to home. I don’t mind driving a bit if there is a reward at the end of the journey. Fortunately, a couple of short hours will take me to the beach. Here is where you will find me on a rare day off. I am susceptible, as much as anyone else, to fun in the sun. All you have to do is be prepared.

You know what you need: sunglasses to shield your eyes from the inevitable glare, sun tan lotion that lasts for hours, a thermos or a cooler for your water and snacks, a large towel, and a good beach umbrella for shade. A fold up beach chair is optional, but the umbrella is a must. I have a reliable one that doesn’t let me down. It doesn’t have to be huge, but enough to cover your body if you are prone to sunburn. Unless you have recently acquired your summer tan, you will want to be cautious. Don’t think that the suntan lotion is enough unless it has a high SPF. Use the umbrella for extra protection.

I like an umbrella that won’t turn inside out. I hate it when the metal spokes bend. I also like a waterproof fabric that can hold up to the elements. I want to be able to fold it up quickly when it is time to go. I have had many cheap versions with negative results. I learned my lesson. Now I have quality which you need, even at the beach. Don’t assume that just anyone one will do because you are sitting on the sand.

Recently I made a new friend at the beach because of the umbrella. She came over and asked me if she could share it. She was getting rather red and said she would have to leave if she didn’t get some protection. I was glad to oblige. The umbrella is a bit small compared to a city rain model, but we fit together by getting close. It made it easy to talk and also have a snack from my filled cooler. We found that we had a lot in common. I was happy as a clam that she asked for my mobile phone number and email address. Would she contact me in the future? I hoped so.

The new female friend did contact me and we got together once again. I credit the umbrella completely. It is hard to meet new people, especially if you are sitting all my yourself on a small patch of sand. If you want more than sun protection, by all means get yourself a nice umbrella and make eye contact with passersby. Every day at the beach is glorious, but some are better than others. I love a respite from work and all the travel that is required.

I travel for business and the world is my oyster. I am not always confined to certain locations. This makes for a lot of adventure and exploration. I have my favorite places and my most detested haunts. In essence, I have a few stories to tell. Life is never boring on the road. I usually take international flights and stay for at least a few days in a local hotel. Not wanting to spend a fortune, I tend to go the budget route. As a result, I have stayed in lodgings that are less than desirable. If you are picky, you won’t want my list of global hotels, especially those in some third-world countries. I don’t always go to metropolitan cities like London or Paris and stay in the famous inns such as the George V or the Connaught. It makes for some interesting times, however, and I don’t want to complain about my choices. Someday I will try the five-star hotels for the purposes of comparison; but frankly I already know the difference.

I have stayed in average places that don’t empty your pocketbook, and some were rather strange, if not weird. I remember (not fondly) one with an above ground pool in the front. You couldn’t miss it. Being highly visible was not the problem. I have seen that before. It was the people who frequented it that were at issue. I don’t know if they just wandered over from the neighborhood to swim or were guests staying on the property. If they were, I am the epitome of normality. I don’t know why they were in the water day and night as an above-ground pool is not that wonderful. They are usually just a simple tank, sometimes with a filter and a heater, and therefore nothing special. You can’t dive in and it is even hard to climb in and out.

Back to the bathers. I did say that they were odd. They seem to be middle age and not young as one would expect. They also seemed to know each other and were playing some kind of tag game that is usually associated with children. They were yelling a lot, but it didn’t seem to be hostile, but rather with good cheer. I started to wonder, but became even more inquisitive when I saw that all the men had beards and were wearing skimpy Speedo bathing trunks. The odd part is that they all looked alike. How strange I thought. I really wanted to ask them questions but I knew there would be a language barrier. I made up stories in my mind as an explanation. Perhaps it was some kind of eerie swim club that had pool privileges. In any case, I personally would never consider entering the water with this band of oddballs. Occasionally, the air was punctured with belly laughs. Were they telling jokes? I never found out as I didn’t want to draw closer to this weird bunch.

You say you live in Minnesota where it is freezing in winter. So cold in fact that Minneapolis is linked together as a city by enclosed walkways. Now that is formidable cold. When I say that it is often cold in Los Angeles where I live, people just laugh. But it is a dessert and arid; and in the winter, it can get chilly at night when that ubiquitous sun goes down. Snowbirds who visit southern California from Canada and the Midwest—fleeing the snow—are surprised sometimes by the degree of cold. Fortunately, the days are nice and they don’t complain too much. If you are from Chicago, a typical cold day in LA at 65 degrees is practically summer. It means a dip in the pool or the ocean. The locals, however, stay at home unless they like outdoor sports. You can ski in the morning in the nearby resorts and get to the ocean by late afternoon. That is the magic of Los Angeles. No one thinks of it as a cold climate but just look at those lovely snow-capped mountains. If you don’t believe me, just go to Big Bear. It is only an hour and a half from the central city.

I have a space heater to solve the problem of infrequent winter chills. It keeps me toasty warm and I don’t have to waste precious energy turning on my home heating system. It’s all about being green these days. Sure, who wouldn’t want a fully heated home, but the space heater works quite well for large rooms. My mother gave it to me when I was in college and it has been in my possession ever since. It makes an appearance a couple of times a year between January and March. If you are considering such a device, know that they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes from desktop models to floor designs that are a couple of feet high. It depends on the size of the room you want to heat. You can leave it on all night and still save money. I have come in from a night on the town, frigid to the bone, and languished in front of the heater to thaw out. My feet are most prone to the effects of the cold, especially if I have been out walking. I know you are thinking that LA people only drive, but this is not so. We also walk if shopping is nearby. The reason is the parking. Who wants to circle the block a dozen times looking for someone to pull out?

A space heater is therefore a godsend to those of us who dislike the winter in Los Angeles. It makes for a very practical gift. They sell them in hardware stores, and of course you can get an ideal one on line. Order now and you will get it in a few short days. You will never feel cold again.

I love to travel, even if it is for business. There isn’t much difference between going for work or vacation. It just means you have commitments at first. I can stay a few extra days and explore a region that was hitherto unknown. There are side benefits when your meetings and appointments are over. Now you have free time to enjoy yourself and to satisfy your curiosity about something you want to do or see in the area. I recently had to go to Lyon, France. It is a mid-size city with many sightseeing attractions. There is the glorious French food that is available in one star restaurants. I took the opportunity to tour the wine country; and of course I discovered some wonderful new wines. I had a case shipped home of a mixture of types. It will almost fill my new wine refrigerator that I installed in the den. It is average size and can hold a fair number of bottles. When I have guests over, I can entertain them in style since our beverage of choice is but a few feet away. I always have nuts out and often add cheese, crackers, and olives. The wine is always at the perfect temperature since I set the refrigerator for white on top and red at the bottom. I have dual control. This way you can put everything in one easy place. You don’t have to have a wine rack for bottles that don’t need to be cold. They take up a lot of space even though they can be attractive. I find the wine fridge to be enough for my needs.

The last trip I took to France was very special. I love going to various wineries and participating in local tastings. Each one is unique. They always include regional fruit and cheese and it is truly divine. If only I could ship some of that home, but alas it is not allowed. We do get imports at home so I make do with what is available. Those who have been to Napa, a top-tier wine region, will find it to be a different experience in France given the local customs and the foreign language. French wine was the first to be collected before California vintages took off. Nevertheless, I like to go to the source of my obsession and I will never abandon the great wines of France. There are so many varieties of grapes and you therefore get a good selection of types. I am so grateful I thought of getting a wine cooler so I can receive my shipment in style. It will be stored in a manner worthy of its essence.

I don’t need company to partake of my new wines. I can sit and watch a ball game or movie on TV all alone with a glass in my hand. You don’t need an excuse as you might just want to relax after work. You can read your emails, daydream, or enjoy some music.