Lily Bart, House of Mirth
A villa on the Amalfi Coast, and a envelope full of pocket money, and no company. Give Lily Bart days and weeks to spend to herself, riding a bicycle from tiny seaside town to tiny seaside town, up and down the rolling coastline, spending her days finding deserted beaches where she’d swim with nobody looking. She would find a restaurant that she liked best and every night she would go and get a table for one and sit there with a carafe of wine and eat a different item off the menu. The waiters would flirt with her, and she would flirt back, delighted, but she would never bring company, and she would have an unending supply of good books to prop up against her plate of spaghetti while she ate.
Achilles, The Iliad
A trip to the 21st century. Prague, maybe, or London, some big city where he can wander around being a bored tourist, snapping his gum, picking his nose in cathedrals, snapback on crooked and hopping from foot to foot, looking for a basketball court.
Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, Captain America
Hiking in the Lofoten Islands in Norway. They’d get dropped off in one of the fancy Stark jets and then disappear off the face of the earth. They have big backpacks of tents and sleeping bags and woolen sweaters whose style hadn’t changed for hundreds of years and Steve’s mom’s compass, reclaimed from the Smithsonian. They wouldn’t bother with any electronics, because it didn’t particularly matter if they got lost. Steve brings a stack of postcards and writes to Natasha and Sam, keeps them bundled up for whenever they finally reach a town. They spend days climbing up sheer cliffs and setting up their tents beside remote lakes. It’s too cold for normal people to hike, so they never see anyone else. Sometimes they go days without talking, but Bucky usually whistles.
Stephen Black, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
He goes to Greece and spends days paddling in his austere bathing suit in the shallows, bathing the old aches of his feet. He makes friends with the locals, many of whom, as ever, are in love with him, and who find his polite standoffishness charming and baffling and try to feed it out of him. None of the food turns to dust in his mouth. He sleeps restlessly most nights but whenever he wakes up it’s just the gauze curtains fluttering with a sea breeze, and in the morning there will be fresh markets and flaky pastries and people laughing and flirting with him. He is often asked to dance, but never forced.
Marge Simpson, The Simpsons
A gambling holiday to Monte Carlo, with a rich benefactor who prefers to remain gently unknown (but is probably one of Homer’s aunts). She leaves her room immaculately clean for the first two days, until she daringly leaves a towel on the floor and comes back that night to find a new, fluffy one on the rail waiting for her. It entirely makes up for the fact that she’s lost about $10,000 so far. She barely leaves the casino except to go on two guided tours and one souvenir shopping trip, at which she runs into Edna Krabappel. They get on quite well. They have dinner together most nights.
The rest of the cluster would make a formal agreement not to require her help in beating anyone up for a week, and then ship her off to a villa in a small Mexican town. Lido would occasionally pop in to help her with the language, but mostly she’d wander mute and watchful around warm streets, buying armfuls of flowers to take back to her room. She’d stretch out in the sunny backyard but wouldn’t bother going through her routine much: instead she’d find a hammock to lie in and swing, eyes half-closed, drowsily watching the lives of others play out without any need for her to take control. Her dog would come with her.
Harry, Ron and Hermione, Harry Potter
Nothing to do with camping. You know how Hermione always came back at the beginning of each book brown and grinning from summers in the south of France? Not that, either, it would probably remind her of her parents too much. I think the Golden Trio should go to New York and spend a week sloping around Brooklyn in the summer, eating ice creams and throwing up peace signs in front of the Statue of Liberty. Ron would like the food. Hermione would like the art. Harry would like the way no one knew Voldemort’s name.
Jessica Jones and Malcolm Ducasse, Jessica Jones
Jessica and Malcolm go to Australia. They travel down the East Coast in a very old camper van. Malcolm wears board shorts and Hawaiian t-shirts; Jessica swelters grimly in all black and insists that they stop at bad pubs every night so she can have cheap whiskey, as Malcolm won’t let her have any in the car. They sit on beaches. They clamber through rainforests. They call Trish, dutifully, once every three days to check in. Malcolm gets a bit of muscle definition back from a week of learning to surf on the Gold Coast.
One day they’re eating a gloomy picnic of fish and chips on a pier and a pod of dolphins skim by. Jessica says, “This is bullshit,” and Malcolm nods and yawns and stretches, salt drying on his skin.
Sméagol, The Lord of the Rings
Sméagol goes on a group tour catered for the over-60s demographic called The Magic of Andalusia! There are bright sunny days and informative talks about the Moorish architecture in Granada and a full day spent cheerfully being shown about limestone mountains and pine forests in Cazorla National Park. He makes friends with everyone else in the group and starts a series of rowdy bus songs that everyone harmonises on. Sméagol likes the company best. Gollum likes the seafood.
Bertha Mason, Jane Eyre
She goes home. On the ship crossing she stands at the prow and the wind feels like it’s ripping all the cobwebs and cold and ash out of her mind. She doesn’t sleep very much; instead she wanders the ship at night feeling out all the doorways, checking which ones open for her. She finds the lifeboats. She has a secret pack, and a plan.
Elena and Lila, The Neapolitan Novels
Less of a holiday and more of a corporate retreat, lots of team building activities, lots of cheerful strangers, lots of learning to articulate emotions. They’d probably pike out about halfway through; Elena would give a long, constrained speech about how she felt it did not entirely suit her, nor her friend, and how to understand whether that made it more or less worthy, and would then feel incredibly guilty about having done so. They would go and get coffee in a cafe overlooking flowerbeds. Lila would systematically rip apart the personality of everyone else involved. Elena would listen, and smile with less of an ugly twist than usual.
Ishmael and Queequeg, Moby Dick
A fancy resort somewhere in Thailand. The faker the better. Give them an ocean so flat the idea of sailing is ludicrous, so clear you can see right to the bottom, and populated only with shining – and small – fish. Give them a clean, white-washed room, with a little shelf for Queeqeug’s alter and a king-size bed for the both of them.
Mikaella is an Australian writer based in the UK. When she remembers, she makes shy jokes on Twitter.