I am all packed for camping in Maine, people.
This is a little embarrassing, because I am not leaving for another 2 days. Well, 2 1/4 days. But I am ready. I’d just go sit in my car and wait, if I didn’t have to work the next two days. I am that excited.
A couple of weeks back, I spent a whole afternoon at work (drafting construction details diligently the whole time) fantasizing about how I might spend the $800 flight credit I had, lingering around after our Hurricane Irene emergency flight change last year. I’d been planning all along to go see my sister in Belgium, but flights have nearly doubled since then; with the change fee, that wouldn’t get me anywhere close. So I settled on driving Route 66, which is totally on my Life List. That, or maybe visiting friends in California. I mean, it had to be far enough to make it worth the $800 credit, but not far enough that I had to dig into my travel budget. Which, just so you know, is the same as my health care budget, emergency fund budget, and impending car breakdown budget. Which is to say: not much.
The next day, I was surrounded by meltdowns in my immediate vicinity, and was temporarily caught in the crossfire. That night, still scraping meltdown off me, I was wailing, actually wailing in a parking lot, about how badly I needed a vacation, and how there was not one in my future, ever, as every single rare vacation day is reserved for family events, and well, that’s not a vacation. I have been piling activity on top of activity, double- and triple-stacking my evenings, packing in all the fun that can fit into the weekends, and rarely bothering to take a breather. Then, when I have little bits of free time, I’ve been feeling out of sorts, and at loose ends, and like I’ve failed to maximize the time away from my desk. I’m an introvert behaving like an extrovert, or at least the introvert and extrovert in me are battling for control. It’s kind of exhausting.
That weekend I went to church camp in the mountains. It was serene and quiet and blissful. The priest made a comment about how we tend to show up for church, and feel like we’ve gotten our marching orders, and rush off to the next activity, but rarely remember just to sit still and listen. To wait. To see what happens.
That was all the instruction I needed. I spent that entire afternoon in the same rocking chair, watching the sunlight on the lake, chatting with people strolling by, reading a book that had taken me six weeks too long because I hadn’t sat still. I sat. I rocked. I rested.
I got home that night, still wishing for days off and an open highway, and called the airline. “I have an unused flight credit. Do I need to travel by September, or just book a ticket by September?” I asked. “Honey,” the agent replied. “You need to travel by July 5.”
I was terrified to explain the situation to the boss, who went apoplectic, but only for a minute. We looked at the calendar. “I think you should go week after next,” he said. “Done,” I said.
I chose Maine. It’s on my Life List, and there’s a National Park, and I can camp without entirely wrecking my finances. Two weeks wasn’t enough time to gather a crowd to go with me; not enough notice to crash on anyone as a houseguest; not enough time to save up for a bunch of activities; not enough time to over-think anything. It’s just me, and a week of quiet time, and scenic drives along the coast. It’s one of those times when you say something you need, out loud, and the universe just hands it to you. I plan to do it more often.
Traveling solo, yes, but I have had a ridiculous amount of help. It’s just crazy, in the most wonderful way, how my friends will embrace a plan. My camping gear is minimal, but William and Julia brought me a camping pad and little chair and superpowered flashlight. Willow loaned me her compact and waterproof tent. Lovisa offered her hiking backpack. PJ and JJ loaned me some dry bags, because wow, it looks rainy next week. Sarah offered her husband for camping advice. Jamie and Chrisy loaned me a sleeping bag that rolls up teeny tiny, and some cookware and a camping cookbook. Then I got all excited about the idea of campfire cooking, because I love a challenge, and I have planned a menu and packed a ridiculous amount of food. I’m sure they have food in Maine. But I’m prepared anyway.
Julia asked me, with all of this good fortune and much-needed quiet time, whether I planned just to unplug, turn off the cell phone, turn off the computer.
“Hell, no,” I told her. “I am solo camping in the Maine woods with Sasquatch. I am not even sure I can start a fire by myself. I need you people to be on call at all times for the next week.”
And so you are. Don’t anyone log off. I might need you.