At 36 years old, I ran away from home.
The truth was that I had been under an enormous strain in my life, and I was breaking beneath it. I wasn’t eating well or getting enough sleep. I was stressed to the point that I was impatient with my children and unable to concentrate on my work. My finances were so strained that even fantasizing about a trip away seemed like an expense I couldn’t afford.
Yet, I successfully managed to fulfill that fantasy.
It wasn’t easy, but it did come together in a way that makes me really believe that the universe does have our best interests at heart.
First, my children’s father arranged to take my children on a nine-day vacation. This would be the longest amount of time I had been away from them, and I’d miss them terribly, but I knew that the trip would be special for them. And, I looked at it as an opportunity to get my stress levels under control. While I love my home, I knew that just having time to myself wouldn’t be enough. I needed to get away—to take a break from my routine and environment in a big way.
I was also craving nature. Deeply craving it.
I wanted to escape, but I also wanted to make my journey both an outer and an inner one. I began to consider where I could go for the absolute least amount of money and still get the most out of the experience.
This is how I found myself staying in a teepee at a campground, and taking a ferry out to the pristine Cumberland Island National Park in Georgia. I brought with me organic sunscreen and bug spray, a hand-stitched journal, and a pen.
I didn’t bring any of the nonfiction, self-help type books I’d been reading lately. I didn’t carry my laptop, although I intended to journey inward and write about it later. Anything I would write would have to be handwritten, and on the bedside table inside my teepee was a stack of books to read for pleasure only. I let the stress of my life drift away, and I headed for an island that would have few modern amenities, no entertainment other than nature herself, and hours to simply immerse myself.
I was only supposed to be on the island for a two-hour block, but I missed the first ferry while I spent hours wandering the trails on the island. I’d found myself on the beach that just so happened to be on the wrong side of the island that I was meant to be on for the ferry to depart. Once I was assured that I would not be left there overnight, I enjoyed the beautiful ruins with the wild horses, the peaceful estuaries and marshes along the boardwalk, and the pristine stretches of beach. I allowed my thoughts to turn inward as I walked, contrasting my inner experience with total mindfulness in my outer one.
The island was primitive and wild, and I began to explore how I was once wild.
I thought about how I’ve allowed life to tame some of that out of me, and I thought about how I could reach back inside myself and unearth the person I used to be before I allowed the stress to eat away at my peace.
Running away to the perfect escape allowed me to see that I was still there, underneath all of my burdens. I’d returned to nature, and I left it feeling stronger and calmer than I had been when I arrived. I didn’t look for entertainment or distraction on my journey. I just looked for that core of myself amid the natural beauty of the world around me.
Why is it that we equate running away with being cowardly or weak?
Of course, I didn’t run away without first making sure that my children were cared for. I didn’t have to give any notice at work because I work for myself. I had no partner to discuss this with, so no one else was left in the lurch. But even if we work out all of our responsibilities in advance and take the time for ourselves, our society still views taking a rest as something only the weak need to do.
But we all need this.
Those escape fantasies? They don’t have to be fantasies.
If we spend hours at work dreaming of sipping a mai tai on the beach with a book, we need to find a way to make that happen at some point in our lives. If we dream of camping out and spending an evening stargazing, we should do that. Our souls are highly individual, and what we need is going to differ from person to person. But whatever we choose, we all need to allow ourselves the time and space to rest, to recover from stressful situations, and to heal.
Running away isn’t for the weak. It’s for the ones who know when they’ve had enough and are smart enough to realize that they need time to restore themselves. Sometimes, we just need an escape hatch so that we can take a deep enough breath to cope with everything coming at us.
So, plan the perfect escape. Arrange for childcare. Look for affordable accommodations that fit your particular budget. Take the time off work, or find a way to work extra or trade shifts to cover it. Figure out exactly what it is you need and how best to achieve it. Maybe heading to the ocean isn’t feasible, but a nearby lake might help. Maybe a spa day won’t fit into the budget, but one affordable treatment might do the trick.
We need to figure out how to make our escape fantasy an escape reality and spend that time coming back to ourselves. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive or action-packed. It only has to be about giving ourselves what we need so that we’re a little less stressed when we go back to our normal lives.
I escaped to a teepee a few minutes from the beach. Where would you escape, if you could?
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Callie Rushton