After the “lockdown” of 2020, most people I know started planning their vacation after a few weeks of receiving their second dose of the vaccine.
I don’t know about you, but my social media feed these past few months has been flooded with pictures of people vacationing stateside, in Europe, Hawaii, and other gorgeous places. I love seeing happy faces—a great reminder of good days isn’t long gone.
With my autoimmune, we fall under the “still-cautious” category of travelers. We can’t control what others do, but we can choose to visit places where we feel safer. Given the COVID-19 resurgence and the Delta variant, we chose to not hop on any planes or travel internationally. So, in the summer of 2021, doing road trips was our mantra. It seemed less stressful and easier to plan.
We figured we’d focus on national parks and lakes. We booked a cottage on the lake in Maine. The idea was to hike in Acadia National Park and spend a week close to nature and eat fresh and local food. New England charm is special. But then Hurricane/Storm Henri hit Maine, altering our travel plans.
My husband and I are doers. The change in plans sucked, but we quickly realized that we could either waste time whining or come up with alternate ideas. Given that we couldn’t travel north, we spent a week in the mountains, two hours west of New York City. It just so happens that we like mountains and lakes more than we do oceans or sandy beaches.
The weather was cordial, the food was farm-to-table, there was tons of history all around, beautiful trails, top-notch woman-owned bakeries, and the scenery was drop-dead stunning but underrated. As a result, there weren’t many tourists (or natural calamities) hitting this place.
With my book, A Piece of Peace, coming out, I couldn’t be completely disconnected. But I did take a few days off from my day job and my clients and that was rejuvenating. Every opportunity that we had, we hiked, walked, saw new places, moved our body. We spent time in an art studio, visited an art gallery, did olive oil tasting, and supported woman-owned restaurants and cafes.
Because we weren’t in a rush, we spoke to locals and connected deeply with some small business owners. Human connection is quintessential for my happiness. We even got Ayurvedic massages and treatments, which was such a treat given the weight of the pandemic stress on all our shoulders.
It was freeing to plan things on the go. Be it adventure sports or dessert tasting or gazing at a lake or painting in an art studio. Sometimes we cooked; other times, we ate out. Supporting women-owned businesses is important to me. Every art studio, gallery, tasting, restaurant, or bakery we entered was owned by a woman.
I had the time to do the research and stay true to my principles. We can’t overlook the importance of emotional health, can we? Toward the end of the trip, we drove up to see friends and family. The hugs and big meals together were heart-warming. The vacation and I felt complete.
It was such a memorable break and different from anything we typically do. Sure, we were tired by the time we got back to NYC on a late Sunday night. But I noticed that I didn’t feel stressed about catching up on work or life. I was exhausted because we had been active but didn’t feel depleted.
My Monday morning seemed more under control than it usually does after I have been away. The work-from-home option might have also had something to do with it.
A few days later, I said to my husband, “This was my absolute favorite summer.” When I spoke to a cousin as well as a friend of mine, they said the same thing: summer of 2021 was therapeutic, fun, grounding, enriching, yet it didn’t go away in a blink.
In the pre-pandemic days, every summer, we traveled to Europe for a few weeks. It was a no-brainer. Summer also included smaller getaways to New England and other cooler parts of the country. We played tourist and then returned to playing employee of the year. The first couple of weeks after returning from vacation were exhausting at work. Everyone around me seemed stressed about playing catch-up. Now when I think about it. Was it FOMO? Or did we really need to catch up that deeply?
This time around, I was mindful, not reactive with my time. I didn’t have too many meetings scheduled the week after my vacation. It was a productive work week, but aside from necessary meetings, there was nothing on my calendar. I made no plans to meet with anyone or catch up on the phone. I didn’t feel the need to share our experiences right away.
I had intentionally included two days to reground at home, let my body rest, and start to embrace my routine. I had consciously planned my weeks prior and post vacation to keep my mind-body nourished, not rushed. That meant, we got to watch the U.S. Open tennis tournament live after we returned from our trip.
In summers prior to this one, there were endless barbecues and socializing. With rose and prosecco pouring, the interactions weren’t necessarily meaningful. Summer was loud, and it went away in a blink. Either we were traveling and experiencing new cultures and countries, or we were party hopping. We existed in a heightened state with continuing assault on our nervous systems. Summer always felt too busy.
Why summer of 2021 rocked
I am an extrovert who recharges around people. I am also an introverted writer and healer who needs “me time” to renew. I like speed, but I loathe being rushed. Summer of 2021 offered me a balanced life where I was able to give myself the same love and affection that I give others.
I also enjoy living a life where there is time for work and fun every day. I don’t enjoy putting pressure on one season or a vacation to tide us over for the rest of the year. Balanced lifestyle must be integrated into every day of the week.
All throughout the months, we met with friends and family. All throughout the season, I also carved out time for nothingness. We hung out with only the people we really wanted to see. There were no gatherings that we attended out of social obligation. As a result, the time spent together and conversations were deep, fun, and healing. We were truly present for life, people, and ourselves.
How often we forget that it’s not just the food that we consume that makes a difference to our well-being; it’s also the company and conversations.
We can’t live mindlessly and then take a two-week vacation and expect to feel rested and healed. We can’t overlook the power of pause and recharge on a daily basis. We can’t put the pressure on one season, like summer, to heal us for the rest of the year.
I loved summer of 2021 because I got to savor every moment of it. It also taught me the power of community and the power of solitude.
If you can be okay in your own company, you will be wonderful with others.
“Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is an adequate perception of the world.” ~ Hans Margolius