The Importance Of Being Away

I’m writing this from the mountain house of dear friends near Sewanee, Tennessee. This visit follows several days in Atlanta on business.  My wife met me there, and then we stopped in Andersonville and the FDR Warm Springs Little White House on the way up here.

My wife and I love road trips together.  We have a destination, of course, but we also have a GPS, so seeing an interesting looking road and spontaneously taking it is not unusual.  It gives us a chance to eat in well reviewed but unusual places.  In Georgia, we stopped at a barbecue place where our car was the only sedan in the parking lot.  Every other vehicle was a pickup truck.

Also, we inevitably have those spontaneous, re-grounding, intimate conversations during which we catch up with each other in ways we seldom grab the time do at home.  Maybe that’s the point: We don’t have to grab time when we’re away together; it just flows.  We’ve found we don’t need big, long trips, major breaks from the daily routine.   We like them occasionally but what really restores us is a series of brief getaways throughout the year.

At a time when the old normal would be to have retired, we’re still going strong.  We both still work full time.  And the primary way we know to work is flat out. Then there is the rest of our lives: friends, running a household, volunteering, entertaining at our home, exercise, grandchildren’s extended visits, hobbies, and just plain keeping up.

How do we know when we have gone too long between short trips together?  The level of our treasured, candor-filled communication dips a bit and plain old busy begins to take over.  Two days is too short.  A week is too long.  Somewhere between 3 and 5 days is perfect.  We’ve developed an entire system for packing, which suitcase we share and which are ours alone.

We’ve tried, of course, doing the same by staying home and disconnecting from the world.  It doesn’t work.  The unbidden, unfinished and unbegun tasks interrupt our thoughts and seep into our sense of freedom.

It takes discipline to make these trips happen.  Our schedules are full.  Someone has to be hard-nosed and force the calendars to fit around our trips instead of the other way around.  Someone has to make at least a few reservations and scout out what’s especially interesting at our destinations.   Sometimes that feels like work, but it’s always more than rewarded by the experience of getting away together.

What is your version of our short trips?

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