Saturday, April 23, 2016

My own weekend retreat

I'm a firm believer in at least occasionally taking trips all by yourself. Even if - especially if - you have a partner/signifiant other/spouse/whatever who you usually live with and travel with. There is something incredibly refreshing about leaving behind all of your normal chores, responsibilities, work, having space to do what you want to do when the mood strikes you. Plus the space to be yourself - a reminder of who you are without your other half around. My favorite vacation ever was the solo portion of my time in Paris two years ago. I'm dying to bring Tim back with me someday, but I don't think that trip would have been what it was if I'd had another person with me.

Back in February I went on a Wildbride retreat. It was literally life-changing for me (I wrote more on that over here on the Wildbride blog). But I knew as time passed it would become easier to fall into old habits that I don't really want in my life. It's helpful to step back and recenter. I unfortunately can't force a Wildbride reunion every few months, but I also don't need to be around other people for a lot of the introspection I'd like to do. Thus: my very own Wildbride-inspired solo retreat in the Sierra foothills, with just a corgi to keep me company.

In some ways it was very different from my Wildbride experience, and less life-changing (which really wasn't a surprise). I had to spend more time making sure Tumbles was happy and exercised (corgis need a lot of attention!). I got to make my own agenda, shift things around as I pleased, spend plenty of time reading and writing and sitting with my thoughts. I also got way more alone time, of course, which was good for thinking through things but also took away the incredible, inspiring mutual support that was at the heart of Wildbride.

But in some ways it was similar, mostly because I planned it to be. Time in nature, surrounded by forest and water. Lots of journaling and thinking about life from a more distant vantage point. A lot less time on the internet (but still some time to catch up with Tim and snapchat when I could get a signal - I'm not perfect at this alone thing!). Hearty, home-cooked food, tasty coffee and wine, a cozy cottage. And making dream boards, which is maybe my new favorite way to kind of reset and align myself in the direction I want to be going in life.

It was hot the weekend we were there (80F - definitely above my comfort level). But I wanted to spend time outside, for my sake and for Tumbles. I managed to find info on nearby swimming holes online, but it was pretty vague - a bridge that wasn't on Google maps and that didn't have clear directions online, some extra directions from there involving markers along the road and a hard to find pull-off. Plus, there was no phone reception anywhere near where I was staying - just some hit or miss wifi in the cottage, and I was totally disconnected once I left the property.

In the name of adventure, I decided to try it out, a bit scared that Tumbles and I would end up lost and stranded, unable to find our way back or call for assistance. I found a point on Google maps that looked like the intersection of a highway and a river that I wanted and set navigation. (Side note: bless offline Google maps, which made it so much easier to navigate both ways without phone service!) Miraculously, I'd guessed correctly and found the spot after a beautiful 30 minute drive! I went to a few different spots along the same creek, most of which had other people there on a hot Sunday. The next day we ventured back, and my favorite spot was now deserted. I took the opportunity to climb out to a rock, strip off my swimsuit, and slip into the water naked. Such a freeing experience, being naked in nature, all alone (except for Tumbles, who is never far from my side). It was wonderful, being in the sun, surrounded by water and rocks and trees, no other people around.

I even took a few photos to kind of capture the Wildbride spirit, although my tripod doesn't come close to Liz's skills. I feel like the idea still comes through, though. Femininity. Nature. Strength and confidence.

It wasn't all beautiful and easy. I got hit with loneliness on Sunday evening at sundown, when I still had over a full day left. I was tempted to leave the next day, but fortunately it passed and Monday was a great day, and I was able to enjoy the solitude again. Earlier on Sunday, after hiking around, I began finding ticks on Tumbles. Over several hours (and with an unplanned bath with human shampoo), I found sixteen ticks on her. *shudder* And on Tuesday morning, as I was packing the car to leave, she rolled around in something unimaginably disgusting on the ground and had to get another bath before we could head out. I think those things mostly served to make the transition back to city life just a little easier :)

I'm hoping to do these little weekend retreats every few months. It's nice to have a chance to reset, be alone with my thoughts and nature, contemplate my life and goals and priorities. I'd like to mix it up - maybe somewhere next to the beach this summer, a snowy cabin in the winter. Perhaps another trip back to the redwoods sometime, since the Wildbride location was so gorgeous! And in the meantime, I have some great memories and new intentions to hold on to until it's time to plan the next one.

PS. The cottage I stayed in was an Airbnb, and it was seriously the best Airbnb experience I've had. So cozy, such sweet, welcoming hosts, and fresh milk + bread to boot. Find the cottage here.