In my long short story, The Man Who Dated his RL Boss (Without her Knowing it), protagonist Nicholas Harding, who goes by the avatar name Cando Paravane, is the manager of a winter holiday resort in Second Life. The idea of virtual vacations fascinates me: an escape from an escape from reality; a second life within a second life, if you will. If we’re agreed that the best thing about SL is the sense of immersion in a place you get when you’re doing things in it – and I think we should be – why shouldn’t vacationing be one of those things that you do there?
In fact, why shouldn’t vacationing be one of the main things that we do in SL? Cheap enough that a few days away is within reasonably easy reach of most residents, potentially lucrative enough that a good income could be earned by resort owners (assuming a ready supply of holiday-makers), I’m surprised really that there aren’t more holiday destinations in existence on the grid. I suppose the important question has to be, Does an SL holiday feel like an RL holiday?
To answer that, we have to consider what the key ingredients of an RL holiday are. I propose that they are (or at least include) the following:
- a change of environment (usually an attractive environment of some description);
- a change of routine;
- good company, if you like being with other people on holiday; solitude, if you don’t.
Of the three of these, I think point (2) is the most important and impactful when it comes to SL vacations. After all, there are plenty of attractive regions to visit in SL and you can chose to visit them at any time with or without friends, and you can do so without making any sort of change to your usual SL routines. For an experience to be a vacation rather than just a visit to a pretty sim, it has to be experienced in a different way from your usual SL behaviour. For example:
- you need to spend more than a day there;
- you need to spend all of your SL time there whilst you’re there;
- you need to give all of your SL attention to being there whilst you’re there.
In other words, whilst you’re on your SL vacation, you log in and out of that location, you don’t visit any other regions and you don’t message people who aren’t in that region with you. This last point I suppose is negotiable – plenty of people these days do continue to text their friends whilst on vacation (though, personally, though, I try very hard to keep this to a minimum).
But where to go? The blogosphere is chock-full of fashion blogs, but how do you find out what the latest must-visit holiday destination is? It is good fortune for us all, then, that Minerva Moon-Korobasen has started up a new blog dedicated to this very subject: slgetaway.
Min – who, in the interests of transparency, I will add is a good friend of mine – identifies her own set of preferences for the perfect SL vacation:
- Gorgeous, explorable landscape
- View of the water: ocean, lake, river, waterfall
- Animals and birds everydamnwhere \o/
- The house (or cabin, cottage, trailer, tent, yurt, etc.) is separate and “far enough” from other nearby rentals
- The rental is completely furnished with high-quality, consistent decor, including animations
- Some prims available for adding personal items
- Easy rental process, and easy to add partner and guests
- A central location to see available rentals and meet with the manager and maybe even other guests if I’m in one of my rare social moods
- Small, clever details of verisimilitude
- Helpful, kind, and polite managers (and I give back the same!)
I don’t think I would care to argue against any of those things. And so, just before I stepped back from SL for most of August, I decided to follow Min’s advice and have a short stay (two days) at her top recommendation: Kidaka Resort. I can’t really put it any better than Min does when she says that Kidaka pretty much sets the standard for SL vacations. It has absolutely everything I would ask for from such an experience. Situated on a stunning African savanna, the resort includes individual lodges to stay in, a main lodge with restaurant, bar, pool and spa, numerous beaches (public and private), and lots of wildlife to look at. Everything is high quality mesh, and absolutely nothing stands out as an incongruous addition. It all fits together, and it all fits together perfectly.
A note about those lodges, which can be rented by the day. The owner has bent over backwards to make these feel like real hospitality. This includes little signs (eg, no-smoking) a complimentary bath towel and more. You even get a small prim allowance so that you can rez your open suitcase on the floor. It really does feel like you are staying somewhere.
Ok, so there are a couple of improvement suggestions. First, it really doesn’t seem like it would be all that hard for the owner to put make the parcels individual lodges sit on private so people can’t look in at you from the outside – they’ve gone to all the trouble of an ejection system, so this feels like an odd omission. Second, I really wanted to book my trip a couple of days in advance, but there is no booking system – you just have to turn up and take a chance on there being something vacant (there are also a couple of skyboxes – though I don’t really see the point in these – and a couple of beautiful glamping tents). Part of the whole deal of a vacation is looking forward to it, so if you don’t know for sure that it’s going to happen you’re going to miss out on all that sweet anticipation.
But these are extremely minor gripes. As Min says, Kidaka “sets the standard by which I will judge all future SL getaways.” I will definitely be returning.
See also Cait’s review of the resort here.