by | Sep 18, 2016 | The Writer's Life | 5 comments

by Sonja Stone

Pick Your Poison: Five-Star Resort or Skin-Your-Own Dinner

Miraval Resort and Spa, Tucson, AZ
Miraval Resort, Tucson

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m an all-or-nothing thinker

My extreme nature also applies to vacations. I’m either digging my own latrine and building my own shelter, or I want to be at an all-inclusive five-star spa where my every desire is fulfilled before I’m consciously aware that I have one.

Go Big or Stay Home

For those of you who follow our blog, you may recall my favorite adventures are the Survival Courses I’ve taken with Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS). 

In case you missed it, you can read about it here: THREE SECRETS FROM A LIFELONG LEARNER (WHO HATES SCHOOL)

Breakfast of Champions: a freshly skinned mouse
I loathe redundancy, so I won’t rehash except to say my most recently completed course was your typical family vacation: mother and child out in the wilderness fighting for survival. We learned to build a shelter that kept us warm through freezing temperatures, made fire, and flint-napped obsidian into a tiny scalpel to flay the mouse we caught in our deadfall.

Home away from home.

At the other end of my vacation-preference spectrum is the week I spent at Miraval, one of Tucson’s all-inclusive destination resorts and spas nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. I filled my days with classes: meditation, yoga, health and wellness, equine experiences. In the evening, after a sublime four-course dinner, I’d retire to the spa for facials, mud wraps, and Thai massage.

You see what’s going on here? On the one hand, I’m sucking a shard of meat off a tiny chipmunk leg; on the other, I’m ordering a second flourless chocolate torte garnished with candied violets and edible gold leaf.

Obsessive Thinking Doesn’t Take a Vacation

Currently, my all-or-nothing nature has me deeply entrenched in finishing the first draft of my manuscript, the sequel to DESERT DARK. As a result, I can’t remember much about vacations. I haven’t eaten a home-cooked meal in months, I’ve only a vague memory of the warmth of the sun, and I’m forced to set daily alarms to remind me to take care of life’s little details: appointments, showering, picking my kid up at school.

Ground Zero, NYC
World Trade Center
The last time I left my office was early July, when I flew to Manhattan to attend ThrillerFest, where I met my blog sisters in person for the first time! Thankfully, I traveled with a friend who had the foresight to add a few days to the end of our stay. We walked the entire island; sightseeing, people watching, enjoying the quintessential New York experience. It’s an amazing city, and so different from Phoenix, which is low and sprawling. Manhattan felt like a cocoon; a vibrant, crowded, electric cocoon.

As the manuscript deadline hurtles toward me, I must stay focused on the task at hand. I’d like to say that the second it’s done I’ll get in my car and drive somewhere—the mountains, the beach. But the accumulating list of ignored chores will take precedence, and the guilt of ignoring my family for the last six months will likely trump my obsessive desire to get out of Phoenix for a few days.

Ah, vacations.

What’s the most extreme vacation you’ve ever taken? Do you prefer adventure, or is lounging on the beach with daiquiri and a great book your idea of the perfect week away?
Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Karna Bodman

    Oh Sonja, I do admire your "courage" to take on those challenging outdoor adventures (what does chipmunk taste like?)… and surviving a "Survival Course" is something I have never contemplated. I do like your spa idea though – would love to join you there sometime. I relish a warm bath at night. (In fact, my husband once observed, "Karna figures it took mankind about 4,000 years to develop a good hotel room, and she doesn't really want to go back into the jungle). In any event, it is obvious that you put so many of your terrific experiences into your great novels. Right now I am reading DESERT DARK – and getting to know your characters, especially Nadia, as they navigate their own challenges at "spy school." Love it! Thanks for posting.

  2. Sonja Stone

    Karna, thank you so much! I'm thrilled you're enjoying DESERT DARK, and I'll take you up on that offer to meet at the spa! After my deadline, of course. 😉

  3. Francine Mathews

    I love the IDEA of spas. Then, an hour and a half into a visit at one, I start hyperventilating about everything I'm NOT doing. Maybe if I pushed through to hour two, I'd relax!

    I'm pretty impressed by the life skills your daughter's learning, Sonja.

  4. Chris Goff

    A dead mouse! Yewww! I love to camp and I love luxury, but your post made me think of my mother. My dad loved to go camping and he had me and mom. After much cajoling on my part and his, my mother finally agreed to camping up near Dillon Lake (that was before the boom, pre-Copper Mountain and Keystone, when Frisco was just a sleepy little town and I-70 didn't go through). Her only condition was she not have to do anything. We jumped on the deal, took off for the mountains and when we arrived at the campsite my mom got out her lounge chair, a book and a Tab and parked herself in the sun. My dad and I struggled to put up the tent, gather wood for the fire and — true to her word — my mother did nothing but eat steaks my dad grilled, drink her Tab by day and martinis by night, read her book, and work on her tan. As I remember, my dad and I did a lot of camping and that's the last time my mother every came along. Of course, she was always up for condo-camping!

  5. Gayle Lynds

    You skinned a mouse?????