Mary's Adventures in Wonderland

It’s time for some new adventures.

I know a lot of my friends and family think I’m already pretty adventurous. After all, Mike and I have visited about forty countries and all seven continents. We just returned from Antarctica, where I suited up in my polar gear, jumped in and out of Zodiac boats and hiked in the ice and snow to see penguins. And I did it without embarrassing myself too badly: well, we won’t count the time I stepped into knee-deep slush and fell on my ass, hiking poles waving feebly in the air. Or the three, count ‘em, three attempts to get up out of the slush, which was well-mixed with penguin poo. Mike just stood there and laughed. I had to be power-washed when I got back to the ship. No, I am not kidding.

The truth is, while I love new experiences, I am pretty timid about physical challenges. Mainly I fear making a fool of myself. I’m a short, pudgy woman in her 50s with bad knees, and I’m all too aware of how silly I look when I do certain things. I manage to push myself outside of my comfort zone from time to time by thinking of myself as the mild-mannered alter-ego of a slightly eccentric superhero, or the world’s least likely super-spy.

Starting in mid-March, Mike will be heading off on a bona fide adventure: hiking the 2200-mile Appalachian Trail, which will take five or six months. I’ll go out to Georgia with him for a few days and see him off, but after that, there is no reason for me to rattle around in our Colorado house by myself, especially during the worst part of the winter. So I’ve decided that after Mike leaves, I’ll be heading to California, where I’ve rented a lovely house in Santa Monica for a month. Yes, while he is eating rehydrated Hiker Chow and slapping away mosquitoes, I will be sitting on the patio, drinking a glass of white wine as the sun sets over the ocean. (Don’t worry, I’ll think of you from time to time, possum.)

Since Mike is doing his bucket list hike, I have a perfect opportunity to try some new adventures of my own. At first I thought about going to a spa resort like Miraval or Canyon Ranch. Spas can be a great way to kick-start a healthier lifestyle, but they are wildly expensive and, in my experience, lacking any sense of humor. I’m feeling a bit too whimsical for much navel-gazing, and while I’m fine with increasing my kale intake, life is too short not to eat the occasional cupcake, too.

Recently I got an email from LivingSocial, which for the uninitiated is similar to Groupon: lots of random stuff to do, eat and learn, all at about half price. I almost never find anything worthwhile on that site for Colorado Springs, possibly because it is the world’s most boring city: yay, another coupon for 50% off steak and potatoes! Half off dry cleaning, woo hoo! However, it occurs to me that there are probably dozens of deals on spa treatments and exercise classes and other healthy stuff in Southern California.

Well, “dozens” turns to be a slight underestimate: there are 451 results just in the Health and Beauty category for the west side of LA. Even when I narrow the list to locations within 5 miles of Santa Monica, there are still 80 options. What? You mean all those jokes about image-obsessed rich bitches in SoCal are true? Okay, maybe not totally true, since everything is marked down.

Just in case I can’t find quite the right combination of hedonism and self-righteousness on LivingSocial, there are hundreds of other deals on Groupon, AmazonLocal, Travelzoo and Lifebooker. Turns out LA is bargain heaven, and I do love me a bargain. (Rumors that I am just plain cheap are unkind, but possibly a little true.) I quickly realize I can easily create my very own quirky DIY “spa month.”

The first offer that hits my radar is for two weeks of organic vegan meals, delivered, for $140. I’m not a vegan. But the meal service has great reviews and I figure it might be an interesting and healthy way to eat controlled portions for a couple of weeks. Plus there’s a coupon for an extra $25 off, and I love, love, love coupons. I will buy ridiculous stuff just to use a coupon. C’mon, you’ve got to admit, two weeks of “spa” meals for $115 is an awesome deal. And that money I’m saving will buy a lot of In-N-Out burgers if I get too famished. I click the Buy button.

Okay, if I’m going to be virtuous with the vegan regimen, I need to make up for it with some serious pampering. How about kicking off the month with a spa day at a fancy hotel? I’ve noticed those show up on Travelzoo frequently. Sure enough, I find one at Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey that includes a 60-minute massage and 60-minute organic facial, two add-on treatments, valet parking, and access to the pool, whirlpool and eucalyptus steam room. That sounds pretty decadent. And it’s $130 off – that’s serious ice cream money, baby.

Now for the tough part: getting fit. I dislike most exercise. No, let’s be honest: I hate all exercise. I am definitely a couch potato at heart, and would much rather read about exercise than actually do it. It’s true that I enjoy yoga, because I am strangely limber and find it easy, and fortunately it counts as exercise. You basically can’t walk two steps in Santa Monica without tripping over a yoga studio. In fact, I think daily yoga is legally required for all residents. So that will be no problem.

Um, what else? In the past – okay, it was high school, that’s the past, get off my back – I enjoyed taking dance classes, so I’ve been meaning to try Zumba. Really. Any year now. And I’ve heard great things about Pilates from my friends, but it is intimidating because it involves mysterious and terrifying machines. With all those pulleys and straps, the resemblance to a torture rack is very likely intentional. I can just tell those machines will give me ample opportunity to become a hilarious, entangled mess. But maybe a few private lessons will save my dignity.

There are 223 LivingSocial results for Sports and Fitness in the Westside. Sickening, isn’t it? I look through them all, read lots of reviews, and find a few yoga, dance and Pilates studios that don’t sound too scary. Then I carefully bookmark the most interesting ones for later consideration. There is no point in committing to such things without first sitting around and giving it some serious thought, right?

Just as I’m about to push back from the computer, I notice a highly-rated fitness studio that offers interval training classes several times a day, located literally one block from the house I’m renting. A 10-class package is $40. I cannot think of a single excuse: “too far away” – nope! “too expensive” – nope! Crap, I’ve got nothing. I buy the damn package.

So my “spa month” is starting to come together. I’ve decided I’ll expand it to include other, non-spa activities that are new, different, or just sound fun. There is a deal for the trapeze school at the Santa Monica Pier. I’m not committing to it, but you never know…