Preface: Most of the photos in this post are from the Nikon, and most were taken by this goofball below. She really enjoyed taking photos on this trip, and it kept her engaged (and motivated) while we walked from dawn until dusk. And honestly, as I’m looking through them tonight, I’m realizing how refreshing it is to see our trip from another perspective – and to occasionally show up in a photo or two. We’re actually a pretty silly team, and we really enjoy hanging out and exploring together – I think it shows here. I’m going to add a smattering of of them throughout this post – so get ready for more people, (and more animals)! I’ll put together a more in-depth post soon on the whole trip.
Well, I didn’t plan to miss posting last Saturday – but we vacationed hard, right up until the last second of last Saturday night. I’m pretty sure we were on an airport shuttle back to our car when Saturday flipped over into Sunday. All I really remember at that point was how very cold it was compared to where we had been, and how much I longed to submerge my sore, cold limbs into a steaming body of water in the middle of our second floor. That did happen less than an hour after leaving that shuttle, and I nodded off a few times before M came into the bathroom one last time to make sure I hadn’t toppled over completely. We slept until 9:30 the next morning. Hard, recovery sleep. Deep and dreamless sleep. Own bed sleep.
The trip was great. Everything went as planned, and when it didn’t, it seemed to go better than planned. Not without moments of being tired or hungry or whiny or worried and stressed about other things, but mostly without those. We seemed like a good team, a strong one, up for most anything.
Outside of the regular, predictable beach vacation, I rarely run when we travel. I like my familiar routes and ruts along the way – they help me zone out and turn my brain off for a change. Running in a new, unfamiliar place feels like more than brain on mode – it feels like hyper on mode. I have to keep track of where I’m headed and how to get back, watch out for unfamiliar traffic patterns, try not to get distracted, take in all the visual stimuli – not to mention setting an early alarm, getting dressed, and exiting a hotel room without making a giant production.
But a few days before we left, E asked if she could get up and run with me a few times over break to stay active and in soccer-shape. That changed everything for me. All of a sudden I had an extra pair of eyes with me, and more motivation to set the alarm and get out and explore.
Because here’s the thing. I love to travel, and I also love finding great places to stay while we do. But I don’t love a hotel room. I don’t love the availability of a television, the way it’s so dark and our internal clocks get thrown off, the way we all wake and stir at different times, and the sleeping ears turn on in ways they don’t have to at home.
There are few hotel bathrooms that can accommodate more than one person getting ready at a time, and so that means the first person to get ready (usually me) is left pacing around waiting on the rest of the chain. My head is already into the new place and I’m ready to go. I usually duck out of the room a few times – to get coffee or check on something in the lobby, or walk outside for fresh air. I get really impatient.
When we’re at the beach (besides having a larger condo where everyone can find some private space), we’ve found a great balance between those of us that like getting up early (only me, and only on vacation!), and those of us that like sleeping a little later (everyone else, because they have to get up earlier than they like every other single day of the year!). I set my own alarm timed to just before sunrise, slide silently out of the condo, catch the sunrise, run and sweat for an hour or so, return back to our place, carry down the beach furniture to save a good spot, make a pot of coffee, grab some peaches, return down to the chairs, and sit for a spell. When I finally head back for a real breakfast, everyone’s eaten and is getting on swimsuits, and I have the kitchen to myself!
I’m not sure why I didn’t ever translate that idea to our other trips, but this year I did, and I noticed how nice it really was. Everyone else woke a little later, worked out in the hotel gym a bit, showered, maybe headed out for breakfast somewhere, texting me where they were headed. I’d return to the room, shower, and catch up with them and we’d start our day. Brilliant.
Later in the week, I realized how easily this new pattern fell into place. And on our last day in Charleston, as I ran ten solo miles before returning to an empty hotel room and shower, I realized how important that time is to me. I carve it out differently in real life, to the point that it feels normal and expected. I don’t take it for granted – I am completely aware of what a privilege it is to be able to set up the majority of my days in the way that I need them to be organized – and, for the most part – those days perform as planned.
But it helped me see both what a gift that time is, and how crucial it really is to balance out the rest of the craziness – regular life, or that special kind of hectic – a family vacation.
While I was running, I thought of how much support I get from a partner who bends his calendar around my own more often than not.
I thought about how both girls continually rise to the occasion on any adventure we spring on them, and how crazy enjoyable they are to have around most of the time. Even when things are a little off, they right themselves again, and we laugh so much more than we cry.
I thought about how much beauty and nature and fresh air and movement teaches me and cares for me and inspires me and restores me.
But I’m mostly thinking about this sheep that F captured in a dozen brilliant photographs over the course of ten or fifteen minutes of observation. There were a half dozen baby lambs in this area, and there was a lot of activity going on all around. And this sheep has its back up against the fence in a patch of wool-warming sun, and I am that sheep, eyes closed, deep breath, catching up with my thoughts and then moving past them.
I turn forty-four in a couple of hours, and today I got to slide back into my regular Saturday morning routine, which I treated as a sort of send-off to forty-three. I have lots of thoughts on getting older that I’d love to dig a little deeper into another time, but for now I’m still thinking about our trip – the gift of being together with (and sometimes apart from) my favorite people on earth.
(And also thinking just a little bit about E discussing the principles of a good selfie with Juliette Gordon Low.)