The Best Summer Vacation I Didn’t Want to Take
For me, being strong and being vulnerable are the same thing.
The first year post-divorce kinda reminds me of playing dodgeball while blindfolded–things come flying
at you from out of nowhere and it’s duck or get pelted! I felt like I was playing a game and no one had told me the rules, just that the object was to protect my kids and myself in that order and make it to the next break in the action. Like most survival activities, I just got better at deflecting shots that might take me out of the game and figured out the rules as I went. Hovering in the corner while humming and rocking back and forth? Not super effective.
After a year of massive life adjustment, a friend suggested it might behoove me to take a trip and relax. So I went on vacation to Sedona.
Because I figured if I waited for someone to go with, I might be too old for rock climbing, off-road jeeping, and desert hikes to something called a vortex.
The flying part was easy. The packing part wasn’t horrible. The car renting part was ??? only because I realized I’d never actually done it before. I was 35 and had never rented a car! The drive from Phoenix north to Sedona proved nerve-wracking as I generally suck at directions. The blue dot is on top of the red dot, and for the life of me, I can’t locate my destination as a rule. (My Indian name would be Cantfindthecornerofaboxwithaflashlightandcompass.) I arrived at my European-esque boutique hotel and explored the grounds before I decided I was definitely parking in the right spot and strolled in the grand Italian looking doors. Checking in went something like this.
“Yep” (forced smile)
“Your key, MAAM.” (Sorrowful consoling look like I’d just arrived from a funeral)
“Thank you” (more gracious smile) and a swift turn to find the concierge, less judgmental and colossally more helpful. This guy hooked me up with maps of hikes in the area, the best but lesser known places to eat, the yoga schedule, the local live music scene, and where to stock up on hiking food. Score!
After running all arrival errands, I brewed a pot of coffee, pulled out my newly acquired stash of Cool Things To Do, and hatched a plan. Structure with options seemed most comfortable, so that MO it was. Yoga every morning at 8 on the courtyard would get me up and out of my safe cozy hotel room, so that’s how I started every morning. Before heading down to stretch my stress away, I’d pack my day pack with lunch, water, first aid kit, and pick one “hike” map from the pile. As soon as I returned from mat therapy, I’d change clothes, lace up my hiking boots, and head out on the day’s adventure.
I hiked places that looked like Wyle E. Coyote and the Roadrunner might hop out of the scruffy landscape. I explored waterfalls and Hobbit-looking forests. I followed John Wayne trails and hiked to a beautiful rock church on a plateau. I hiked alone, something I’d never done before mostly because it isn’t exactly safe and consequently because I’d never had the hoo-ha’s to do it. It could’ve been dangerous. Sedona’s temperatures reach well into the hundred and teens in July and desert critters don’t identify as the cute and cuddly variety–more along the lines of matching belt and heels in my opinion.
Every day reaching the car felt like a massive personal accomplishment. I’d drive back to the hotel, read by the pool or in a coffee shop if it rained and enjoy the novel easiness of living in the moment so peacefully, with the sense that absolutely nothing was missing.
Each evening, and this is kind of embarrassing, I pretended in my own head that I was a restaurant reviewer so dining in a French bistro with 7 tables and a somallier didn’t feel, well I mean, creepy. Fake it till you make it and all that… I learned that not all men who strike up a conversation are creeps. I listened to people’s stories about what brought them there. I learned that my insides and other people’s outsides aren’t things to compare. And I learned that I was going to be OK, that I could do new things, and that I could enjoy doing those things even if they didn’t feel comfortable right from the get-go.
The last evening I headed out to watch the sunset at this vortex hole thing everyone kept talking about. It was called the Airport but there was no airport. There were families with popsicles, couples with picnic baskets and blankets, and there was me with my backpack. By the end of my weeklong foray into living more adventurously in my own skin, I was perfectly content to lean on the hood of my car and take in the evening.
The windy road away from desert paradise played like highlight film of my week there. I’d accomplished nothing tangible but oh so much personal triumph! While taking a vacation doesn’t sound like an oh-you-poor-thing deal, taking on something I didn’t know I could do proved to me that I could do things I’d never done before and that adventure was great medicine for my soul. Before my impromptu picnics on rocks overlooking waterfalls and off-roading in a jeep like the Old West meets Dukes of Hazard adventures, I didn’t know that hard things could be fun. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t surviving life; I was dazzled by life’s possibilities.
While I’m not suggesting you head off on some adrenaline-induced death wish trek in search of chest-beating confidence, it never hurts to dip one’s toe in to see that the water is fine. A wiser woman than yours truly once told me this baby elephant story. The baby elephant doesn’t go very far from its mom until it has to. Then the baby elephant takes the stage in all its majesty and is the last one to realize it’s not a baby any longer but the star of its own show. Bad story. Great lesson. You’re always the last one to know you’re more than OK. You’re thriving.
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