Life as Vacation
The snow kept falling, the wind was blowing, but the views were stunning. Black tree trunks contrasted with the stark white snow, the shadows outlining the rolls and billows on the snow banks. I was alone on the trail, watching carefully as I walked, placing my feet along the packed snow, following a cross-country ski trail that someone else had made. I knew some of the sections of the trail had cold wet water under the snow. Soon the wind abated, the snow stopped falling and patches of blue sky appeared. I had to squint to protect my eyes from the blinding glare of sunlight reflecting off the fallen snow. The trail turned to the right, past a stand of trees, and a blue lake appeared, a bright blue surrounded by white and the dark green of the cedar trees. I stopped to munch on my snacks and drink water.
Walking in the deep snow was tiring. It was much harder work than following the same trail in the spring or summer but the views were stunning and worth the effort. I had become hot with the work, but now that I wasn’t moving the air was cold and I had to button my coat again. After a break I continued the walk for an hour, then returned slowly to my car. Was I on an exotic winter vacation? Not really. That morning I had woken early, fixed a quick breakfast for the sleeping family and me, walked the dog and then driven an hour north and to a higher elevation to find a winter walk. Coopers Rock State Forest was our family’s favorite local summer hiking spot, and I thought it would be beautiful in the snow. Only the first section of the park was open for cars, and we only had one parking area. Local cross country skiers loved to use these trails, and I saw their tracks, but on this beautiful day I only met one person as I was getting in the car to return to my home. That afternoon I was back in our normal daily life.
I have yet to be able to travel as I wish, exploring the many other countries and cultures that can be found on our planet, but that hasn’t stopped me from living an adventurous life. Every place has something interesting, something beautiful. All our states have history, state parks, and adventures in waiting. Someday I will get to rent houses in Argentina, villas in France, and hopefully haciendas in Spain, but for now I love to explore the local landscapes.
Adventure can be just around the corner, such as the day that my husband and I decided to go for a walk in our West Virginia neighborhood. We followed the road that goes past our house to the main street of our tiny town, crossed the creek on our covered bridge, and followed the small road up the mountain that borders our town. At the top of this hill is the local cemetery, and here among the graves you can look over our neighborhood, our houses and the school. On the other side of town tall green mountains reach up, and above that is blue sky. Back on the road we explored, not sure what we would find. Walking beyond the cemetery we passed old homes with pastures for backyards, the very pastures we could see looking up from our backyard. Elevation changes are extreme, and it was interesting to see the clearings and the cows that looked down at our house. We walked on, and the small country road wound around hills and looked over the creek we had crossed earlier. After a time there were fewer houses, we were walking along fields and woods. As we fell in elevation I looked up to see that our blue sky was being covered in storm clouds. The air temperature dropped, and we could smell rain. There was nowhere to go, so we just continued, and quickly we were engulfed in a serious rainstorm. The rain was so heavy that we could barely see the trees. Kevin and I ran to stand under a large leafy tree, but the shelter was only imaginary. In just a few minutes the rain stopped, the sky cleared and steam began rising from the road as the sun returned. Everything was green and fresh, and we laughed at the fun of it.
These are the daily adventures that I imagine would make a vacation in another country interesting, but I am having them wherever I live. We love the idea of a Stay-cation, as some people have called it. Imagine that your city or town is in an exotic location. Imagine that you have the opportunity to visit this town for only a couple of weeks, to get to know the landscape, the activities and the walks. What would you do, and where would you go? We have lived in 4 different states, and maybe that mobile lifestyle has made this type of stay-cation an enjoyable pastime. Right now I am enjoying walking, exploring and eating in my new town in SC, but I have had the same experiences in small NC towns, in the metro Atlanta area, and in West Virginia.
The last year we lived in West Virginia I knew we were leaving, so I rushed to explore new places. Last spring we picnicked at Black Water Falls, and walked around Pittsburg. I biked on rail trails along the Mon river, and tried new restaurants. Many people never go out and explore their area, and I think some of the reasons include being too busy with work or activities, as well as thinking that there will always be next year. Nothing happens without being planned for, without making the conscience decision to find the time. During the last year we were in WV I had started graduate school and was teaching classes as a teaching assistant. My husband had already moved south so in a way I was a single parent. Life is busy and it is important to keep priorities straight, my God, church, family and work responsibilities still came first, yet knowing that we would be leaving gave me a great encouragement to find time to get out and explore.
My favorite relaxation was just to walk my neighborhood, and that was easy to do after supper and before studying or grading exams and papers. I always work better after a brisk walk, it clears my mind and relaxes my body. Simply enjoying the pretty views was like a mini vacation, and I usually returned to the house ready to work. Sometimes between classes I would have a 2-3 hour break, time that was used to study and grade or prepare. At least once a week I would use that time to escape my office, leave the University grounds and get to know the areas around the college town. I would walk among the shops, or cross a bridge into the neighborhoods.
We tried local restaurants, avoiding the chains for the mom and pop places. My daughter’s favorite restaurant was on a side street, a small place easily missed, and run by a Japanese family that had settled in the area. The food was authentic, the waitress wrote our order in Japanese on her pad, and we were served with chopsticks. The TV was always on, tuned in to Japanese programming. The front window had a porcelain cat looking out at the passersby, and on one wall was a bookshelf filled with Manga, all written in Japanese. On the counter was a Daruma doll, a traditional doll that represents a person’s goals. This doll has large eyes, and is round so that when you knock it down it stands back up, symbolizing that nothing can knock you, the owner of the doll, down. One eye is usually colored in when you make a goal, and the other is colored in when the goal is achieved. This doll only had one eye colored. The customers spoke Japanese, eating here was a small vacation from our daily West Virginia life.
Until I can live in and explore local Peruvian neighborhoods, or spend a month exploring the Scottish countryside, I hope to always have my stay-cations at home. I suppose it is a matter of attitude, understanding that life is an adventure. As Bilbo Baggins says in The Lord of the Rings, just going out your front door can be dangerous; you never know where the road will take you.
“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”