Yes, it's January. Yes, I have been looking at holidays I can't afford. Yes, I have been trying to cheer myself up with the notions of travelling in countries where it doesn't rain that much. Yes, I have been dreaming of days that are warm enough to go skinny dipping. Yes, I am like you in that everywhere I want to go is just too darn expensive.
But what the heck, I need some cheering up. With the year's 'saddest day' coming up very soon I need to make some serotonin to see me through 'till spring. I need to think about doing something really stupid that will make me giddy with happiness once the sun comes out. That's the way with January. We take flights of fancy on lovely 'mind holidays' to take our minds off yet another winter in Blighty.
So far this year I have whisked her away to San Sebastian for pinxtos and a romantic stroll along La Concha, one of the world's best urban beaches. I have taken off in my camper van to France - like I did last year - to watch the locals rake cockles in their thousands on the island of Noirmoutier-en-L'Ille. I have also mind-kayaked my way down the Contis River in Aquitaine. I have swum with dolphins and dived with sharks. I have even bought a beret and challenged the locals to a game of petanque. It's not without its risk you know.
Being spontaneous is the best thing about mind travel. Everything is perfect when you mind travel. There is no language barrier in that French rural idyll. There are no cockroaches south of the tropic of Capricorn or half finished apartments in the Canaries. Even the conversation with the bank manager to explain the overdraft is a walk in the park when you mind travel. The consequences are largely inconsequential.
Turning this wanderlust into air miles is a whole different kettle of fish. Once you have booked your flights, ferry or time away all you have to do is pay for it. After that you can do as many stupid things as you want - as long as you've got your small print (and by that I mean insurance) in place and the stupid thing is included in the price. As we all know, if you haven't, the consequences can be very real.
Last year I did a stupid thing which put me in hospital for a few hours. I was teaching my daughter to fish whilst on our camper van trip to Spain and managed to snag myself - with painful consequences - right in the face. On the first cast - to demonstrate the delicate art of casting - I allowed my line to snag and sent the barbed hook and lure spinning out over the ocean for the briefest of tantalising seconds before it whipped back towards me at speed and embedded itself in my cheek, just in front of my left ear. Despite the efforts of a flinching local fisherman to remove the hook with a pair of rusty old pliers, I ended up having it removed in hospital by three very jovial doctors. After that papers were signed (I had my EHIC card with me) and I was sent away with a shot in my backside that was bigger than the hook itself.
It could have been worse. And if it had ended up being more serious I would have enjoyed medical care, repatriation and all those other costly vital services that you assume will come with every holiday insurance policy. That's because sea fishing was an activity that was covered by my travel insurance. It was included in the price. But not all activities are. What about all those other stupid things I do on my holidays? If I was hospitalised in a freak petanque accident, fell off a rental scooter, got bitten whilst diving with sharks or choked half to death on Spain's finest tapas would I be covered?
The good news is that petanque is covered, perhaps unsurprisingly, by the travel insurance company I work with and use for my travels, my old friends at World First. Unlike other companies they cover a long list of the kind of stupid activities we all dream of when planning our trips at this time of year. Surfing and snorkelling are covered. Swimming with dolphins is also covered, as is diving with sharks, scooter riding and even alligator wrestling. What? Yes, you can actually get cover for alligator wrestling, as well as all kinds of other activities that you might want to do in a moment of madness on that trip of yours. Bungee jumping or canyoning? Fill your boots. Just check the small print before you go.
So go on, do something stupid. Take a chance on that tandem skydive, google that slack lining school, splash out on that ice holing holiday and book in that bobsleigh break. It's all covered, although, interestingly, I couldn't find skinny dipping anywhere. Oh well.