For about three months, I've been planning on joining friends, some old and some new, for a trip to the mountains this past weekend. As a travel writer, I have a hard time taking a casual weekend away. This trip was no different. I had called the Chamber of Commerce in Blairsville, GA, where we were headed, long ago looking for suggestions on the best things to do in town. I had called apple orchids, scoped out hiking possibilities and state parks, and even toyed with the idea of going horseback riding on our weekend adventure. Then the last two weeks, life started to unravel a bit.
The day before Halloween, I was injured in a surfing accident where a longboard became much too closely acquainted with my forehead. I ended up in the ER with a giant knot on my head and what was diagnosed on follow-up as a concussion. I was instructed against any vigorous exercise for at least three weeks. There went hiking and horseback riding.
Last week, a very divided country tried to process our Presidential election. It has been a tough one. It may be because I am older now, and I am slightly more in tune with the weight of such decisions. But frankly, I think the "toughness" came from the likelihood that this is the most stressful election our country has been through in my lifetime. Some people were happy with the result. Others were devastated. I think it's safe to say many were surprised. Whatever your reaction, I think it is fair to estimate the process of enduring this election has left us all exhausted.
To add to that exhaustion/stress/sadness/whatever you want to call it, the day after the election, my best friend and her husband had to put their dog of 16 years to sleep. Then I got the news that a childhood friend of mine had passed away the same day. I thought about forgetting the mountains altogether. Vacations, even weekend get-a-ways, can be stressful. The last thing I needed was more stress. Instead, I decided to forget my original mountain weekend plan, but not the trip altogether.
My friends and I left Charleston Friday afternoon and navigated winding roads up into the mountains of Georgia to meet the rest of our crew. We got up there around 8pm, and there was chili waiting for us in the crock pot. We spent a few hours catching up with our out of town friends, and then we crashed...pretty hard. I woke up Saturday morning with the start of a head cold. Maybe it's just going around. Or perhaps my body was reacting to the stress of the past couple weeks. I questioned again whether or not I should have come. I realized shortly after, it's the best decision I could have made.
I could hear people rustling around upstairs, but I stayed cozy in bed for a long while. When I did go up, there was a pan full of bacon and eggs ready on the stove. I brewed myself a cup of hot tea and headed out to the porch. I was met with fall colors, smiling faces, and no itinerary. I don't know if other folks on the trip came with a grand need to just relax in good company, but it seemed like perhaps that was the case. It didn't hurt that we were tucked into the side of the mountain close enough to hear the squirrels bounding through the fallen leaves, but too far away to hear the closest neighbors.
When we did go into town, it was a fairly laid-back affair. We stopped at a local coffee shop with saddles for seats and a slogan that read "Just Be Happy and Have Fun!". We strolled around downtown stopping in shops, buying vinyl records, leafing through the pages at used bookstores, and petting friendly dogs that belonged to friendly (and patient) locals.
The only other stop we made before heading back to the mountain house was to the grocery store to pick up some college football watching snacks and some meat for the grill. We made it back in time to watch our team lose a close game, but not before yelling at the television a number of times while passing around chips and salsa and a tasty cheese plate.
Since we were with friends, we had folks who could commiserate with us. We bemoaned play calls and injured players while we sipped wine and ate pork tenderloin and fresh veggies. After dinner we circled up and played a card game while we cracked each other up, having to stop play multiple times because we were laughing too hard for the next person to take their turn. Then we watched as four other football teams in the top ten lost their games Saturday night before we went to bed. At least our game wouldn't be the only upset of the day.
I slept in even longer the next day, and took extended quiet time to just talk with the Lord before I spoke with anyone else Sunday morning. Our second day was even more leisurely than our first. But again, we took time for the important things. We ate together. We read. We told stories. We took pictures and enjoyed the scenery. We recharged our batteries by doing "nothing".
Of course we weren't doing nothing. We had taken some important steps. We removed ourselves from the day-to-day distractions. We got in our cars and drove hours away from them. We got good sleep. We focused more on the people in front of us than emails or social media. And we surrounded ourselves with natural beauty and friends that make us belly laugh. Belly laughing is important. Sometimes you need to unplan your vacation time.
Audra Gibson is a Christian, photographer, surfer, and a lover of music and teriyaki steak bites. She doesn't like to be cold, and she's a bit of a cheese snob, but that's not her fault (she was raised in a gourmet cheese shop). Traveling Ink was her little brain child and she's very happy that you're here. She'd be oh so happy to recommend her favorite restaurant in town, take pictures of your family, or organize a night (or weekend) of fun for you.Website: www.audragibson.com