Dreaming of a Perfect Christmas Town

It’s that time of year again, when every television channel seems to have a different holiday-themed made-for-tv movie on constant rotation. The plots are strikingly similar; someone returns to their hometown (or visits a quaint small town, or their car breaks down and they’re forced to stay in a picturesque village). They reconnect with old friends or a long-ago boyfriend, or they meet someone new who reminds them what life’s really all about (family, home, integrity, not being a big time lawyer/banker/moneymaker).

As I was re-watching a movie I’d seen last year, I thought about these impossibly perfect holiday movie towns. These places where people can make a living running a quaint little shop even though the entire population of the town seems to be about 10 people. I admit, I get sucked in every time. And when I really thought about it, I realized I was drawn more to the idyllic small town settings than I was to the stories themselves.

If you’ve seen one or two of these movies, you know how each one will end (happily ever after, of course). But I still tune in, every time. What can I say; I’m a sucker. I want to escape into those tiny towns, with Main Streets and mom-and-pop shops and waitresses who know my name. And really, the settings are the most magical part of the stories; at least, they are for me. Whether it’s a mountain town or a seaside resort or a desert village with twinkling lights wrapped around every cactus in sight, these holiday movie towns are like idealized versions of the real places. And, if I’m not careful, getting lost in the fantasy can set up expectations that are sure to fall short when I visit an actual mountain town, or seaside resort or desert village.

Expectations. We all have them, about everything you can think of. And for travelers, it’s so easy to build up a special trip or a dream destination in our minds, until there’s a level of expectation that is almost unattainable. I know I’ve done that once or twice (or, ahem, every time I travel).

Whether the expectation comes from a film or a book or just your own imagination, it can be hard to face the reality of a long-time dream destination. But it’s important to remember that the reality is almost always better than the fantasy version, as long as you keep things in perspective.

Some of my favorite places have been accidental, spur-of-the-moment detours to spots I’d never heard of before. And some of the towns I had wanted to visit forever didn’t live up to the hype I had created. Sometimes I wonder if they fell short because of the visions I had carried around my head for years. It can be impossible to live up to a dream, because in our dreams there are never late trains or sketchy hostels or broken backpack straps.

It’s important to dream about faraway places because dreams can spur us on to action and make our long awaited trip-of-a-lifetime a reality. But it’s best to keep the expectations of perfection where they belong: in the movies.

What’s one of your dream destinations, and why?

Find me on Twitter @StephSpitler

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