Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Weekend Warrior // How I Rediscovered My Love For Short, Simple, Mini Getaways

Before I start on what will undoubtedly be a long post full of introspection, I want to provide an explanation for the pictures, in case you're wondering what they could possibly have to do with what you're reading.  They are all from our mini getaway to visit my sister Morgan, her husband Josh, and their dog Isis (aka the "Bean" in Bubby and Bean) in Indianapolis last weekend.  The trip was quick, uncomplicated, and really, really fun.

A few months ago, I posted about about a little two-day spontaneous adventure that Robbie and I took to Galena, IL.  It was a short trip to a location only three hours away.  It was ridiculously easy and super laid back, and we loved it.  We loved it so much in fact, that we both discovered a strong and newfound appreciation for the uncomplicated, minimally planned weekend road trip.  Maybe you're rolling your eyes as you read this, because, you know, everybody likes weekend getaways and it's silly to feel like I had sort some of epiphany in realizing that they're fun.  But since the day I turned 18 and left home, I've been in the "travel means jet-setting around the world" camp.  So for me, finding enjoyment in (and even preferring) these simple mini trips is a new thing.  Actually, I take that back.  It's not a new thing.  It's a rediscovery. 

When I was growing up, my parents were weekend warriors when it came to travel.  We never went to Disney World, or on week-long journeys to the south to escape Chicago's cold during spring break, or wherever most families go on vacation.  We went camping, or on day trips to offbeat museums, or on adventures in small Illinois and Wisconsin towns.  My parents were pretty free-spirited and certainly weren't against a traveling lifestyle, but short, unconventional road trips were their thing.  My sister and I adored these trips.  They meant sandwiches in the car and picture-taking sprees and fun little shops and the chance to use our imaginations.  We were kids, so maybe the fact that the travel times were shorter resulted in less boredom, or maybe we just weren't able to comprehend the fact that we were somewhere just a few hours from home vs. a long way away.  Regardless, these trips were major opportunities for exploration in our minds.  We looked forward to them for weeks in advance, and continued to talk about them for weeks upon our return.

As I grew older and hit my teenage years, my childhood fondness for the weekend road trip began to diminish, and was replaced with an insatiable case of wanderlust.  In addition to being enveloped by the unavoidable angst phase (ie the farther away from my parents, the better), I started to feel suffocated by my limited experience with any travel that extended beyond a few hundred mile radius.  I wanted to see the world.  I studied French in high school (and went on to minor in it in college), and daydreamed about spending time in Paris and backpacking around Europe.  I wanted to travel the U.S. too, and I wanted to do it in every possible way - car, plane, bus, train.  All of it.  I wanted to see and experience everything, from New York City to San Francisco, from the Rocky mountains to the Redwoods. 

By the time I got to college, I'd never been on an airplane or seen an ocean, and I just couldn't fight the urge any longer. During the school year, I worked part time jobs and made clothing and jewelry to save up for my travels.  And every chance I had to go adventuring, I did.  I finally flew to NYC, and explored Colorado, and went swimming in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  I never turned down the opportunity to accompany friends to new places.  I remember being beyond excited to graduate my senior year - not so I could be done with school, but so I could have more freedom to plan even bigger and better trips.

After college (and up until very recently), my excessive case of wanderlust remained.  I literally built my career around travel when I started Mountains of the Moon.  My main source of income at that time was selling my clothing and accessory designs at music festivals throughout the country.  Over the years, I scheduled trade shows and fashion shows that allowed me to travel to new destinations.  I even moved to 9 different states within 12 years so that I could fully experience spending time in different places.  And of course, every extra cent and piece of free time I had was put toward seeing more of the world.  I visited Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Mexico and Canada, and continued to travel the U.S.  When I met Robbie, our mutual love of exploration made my travels even more frequent.  His career (Stage Manager for a band) was based around travel as well, and through careful planning and saving, I was able to accompany him to places like Australia, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Jamaica and Mexico.

Eventually, like all good things, the wanderlust (finally) began to fade, and the big, jet-setting trips (for the most part) came to an end.  I could probably attribute this to several factors, the main one being that, well, I grew up.  I should clarify that I am by no means implying that lots of traveling means you're not grown up or that growing up means you have to slow down on travel.  I just mean that I hit a point where I felt like I'd seen and done a lot in my life so far, became bored with living out of suitcases, and started appreciating much simpler things than I ever had before (like the blissful comforts of just being at home).  My interests started to change too.  Suddenly all those postcards and passport stamps and plane ticket stubs - as much as I will always appreciate them and wouldn't change a thing about the experiences I've had - seemed much less interesting than planting a garden, decorating my home, and hanging with my husband and friends on a more local scale. Robbie seemed to hit this point right at the same time as me, on an even greater level.  I'm sure the fact that his job keeps him traveling half the year plays a big part in it, but like me, he's traded in travel books and planners for home-based projects and an overall simpler way of living.

The thing is, I'm pretty sure that once you aquire a case of wanderlust, it never really goes away.  So despite our recent enthusiasm for sticking closer to home, our desire to get away from time to time remains.  And here is where the point I've been trying to make with this long-winded rambling comes in.  From my teenage years through my early 30s, I had an insatiable thirst to journey as far as possible, as often as possible, and to spend as little time at home as possible.  Then, out of nowhere, I realized something that many of us realize in our adult years, despite swearing up and down for the majority of our lives before this point that we'd never feel this way: my parents were right.  Yep.  They'd spent their late teens and early 20s traveling far and wide, only to discover with time that there is an undeniable magic in exploring close to home.  Of course the obvious factors that would inhibit world travel came into play for them as well (things like having kids, and the fact that big trips cost an awful lot of money).  But they made the conscious choice to take lots of small, short, more local getaways, rather than saving time and money for the big annual vacations that the families of my friends always took growing up.  And I get it now. 

So after all this time, I've rediscovered something that I knew as a child, but forgot about for many years while I sowed my wild oats: simple, mini-getaways are the ideal vacation.  They are low-commitment, take very little planning, and cost very little money.  They don't create the same type of post-vacation depression and panic ("omg, I have so much to get caught up on") that big trips do.  They allow for all the things that people love about road trips (like getting to see cool things you wouldn't normally notice, and getting to stop and go as you please) without all the things that people despise about road trips (being in the car for excruciatingly lengthy amounts of time).  There is no jet lag, no checked baggage, no airport security lines.  And best of all, mini getaways have to ability to re-teach you how to discover bliss in the everyday. 

It's true.  Mini getaways have some sort of special power that subconsciously re-wires your brain to remember how to enjoy simple pleasures.  It's easy to feel thrilled and inspired by seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Mayan Ruins and the Great Barrier Reef.  Really easy.  (Trust me, I've seen them).  But when the big trip ends, the come-down just plain sucks, because your house and your job and your town are just so not thrilling in comparison. With mini-trips, those extremes just don't exist.  You still get to feel thrilled and inspired, but by smaller, everyday things - like driving through a massive wind turbine farm or getting to try a new restaurant.  And even if the thrills are so tiny that you normally wouldn't appreciate them, you do on mini-getaways, because you're technically on vacation.  Plus, when you get home from a mini getaway, instead of feeling let down by your everyday life in comparison to what you just experienced on a big trip, there is almost a trickling over of noticing (and feeling grateful) for the small things.  At least for me.  I've noticed that when I go on a weekend (or even day) trip, where it's impossible not to take an interest in my surroundings, when I get home, I notice and appreciate more little things in my everyday surroundings too.

One example of this is a field of daisies that we drove by on way back from Indianapolis last weekend.  I couldn't stop staring at the field as we drove by it, feeling almost overcome by how beautiful it was.  When we got home, I noticed myself staring in a similar way at a patch of flowers outside of our house.  I've been passing by this same patch of flowers every single day for months now and I don't think I ever noticed they were there.  But because our mini getaway allowed me to clear my mind and really acknowledge the beauty in the little things I came across, suddenly that patch of flowers became a daily treat for me - something I now feel grateful to be able to look at.  It's true.  Maybe these mini-getaways that I find myself loving so much these days are even more powerful than I thought.

If you're still reading this, you rock, and I'm thinking you should probably reward yourself by taking a mini trip of your own.  Seriously, just try it.  Whether you're a world traveler or a homebody, I'm telling you - a quick, inexpensive getaway, even for just a day, can do wonders for your soul.  I hope that I can squeeze a few more of them in this summer, because they've become one of my absolute favorite things to do.  Also, mom and dad, I'm sorry for all those times during my teenage years that I told you I was deprived and possibly even permanently damaged by our lack of major family vacations.  Because as you know, I was determined to make up for it and then some over the years, and ended up - by choice - right back where we started.  Mini getaway club forever!

P.S. Absolutely off topic, but only 1 large, 1 medium, and 3 small sponsor spots remain for July.  If you're thinking of sponsoring next month, now's the time to book. :)  All spaces are first come, first serve (upon approval). More info here.

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  1. Ah! What a lovely trip. I live in Bloomington, IN and travel to visit my parents in Chicago quit often. This means I pass the sea of windmills all the time! So beautiful at night when they are all lit up!

  2. Thank you for this. As we live far from much of our family, a great deal of our "vacation" time is spent traveling to visit them. Living in Oregon, there is much to explore and wonder at in a few hundred miles radius and we need to do more of that. Plus, we can take our dog with us. :-)

  3. I love this!!! I feel like I used to be like that too, like I couldn't just be content with finding things close to home, I had to travel far to feel excited. I think once you realize you don't need that, life is just better and you appreciate the small trips!! :-)

  4. Hi! Just found your fascinating blog...and of course, it turns out that the post up right now seems written for me! Ok, mini getaways coming up!

  5. these pictures are beautiful. makes me want to plan a mini getaway.

  6. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post! Agree with all of it, and congratulate you on "growing up"! Just don't evet lose the urge to discover new things - whether they are close by or way away! Tthanks for the read, the pics and above all the shots of your canine neice!

  7. I just went on a little getaway recently, too, and there's nothing quite like it. It's not stressful like most other travel is and is so much fun. Especially if you don't plan to much but just take opportunities as they come. That's not to say I don't love to do big trips, but mini-getaways are much easier all around.

  8. aww such a lovely post :)

    the photos are gorgeous


  9. Great idea, lovely post & stunning pictures!!

  10. melissa, wonderful photos that support your well written prose! now you have me contemplating. i like how you rediscovered that feeling from your childhood. :) maybe one day you can show us some of the places you've been, from your wanderlust days?

  11. Yep, I read all of this. I guess (as you said) I rock. ; ] But more than that, you rock for writing this!

    I definitely enjoy the little trips--especially because I am a total homebody and am happiest and most comfortable at home. Seeing a bunch of new/old places can be a wonderful thing. Big trips are next one my list though. I have yet to travel anywhere in the world (other than the continental United States) and I am itching to do so. Perhaps it will be later in life. But until then I will totally join you in experiencing what the "in between" places have to offer. : ]

  12. Thanks so much for your comments you guys! I'm glad to see there are some other weekend trip warriors out there. :) xo, m

  13. I love a good weekend trip! I also wouldn't turn down a trip to Europe, since I've never been across the pond. :-)

  14. What a great article! Love your blog !Thanks a lot for sharing , it is really useful to me!

  15. We were just talking the other day about taking some small trips where we don't have to fly, like to NYC or Philly. We are trying to save money now so probably no huge trips on the horizon. Plus, my passport is expired and I keep forgetting (and not wanting to pay $100) to renew it.

  16. okay, so i couldnt agree with everything you said in this post anymore. im soooo glad you were able to re-discover this truth. one of my favorite things in the world to do is to take a mini day trip with james, blaring our music, finding random fields, random thrift stores... etc. driving down dirt roads off the main path. watching the sun glow through the grasses as we drive by. it does make you see things in a new light. the small things. and they matter so much. this is a beautiful post. and goodness gracious is bean a gorgeous pup! i always wondered what the 'bean' was :)


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