The Beauty of the Long Drive Home

Two weeks ago, we decided upon an impromptu adventure. A road trip.

Two days after our decision, I awoke to my alarm clock telling me it’d be hours before I saw the sun. But I packed our bags into the trunk, stashed away snacks for long stretches of road, and turned up the music.

First stop: Charleston, South Carolina.

We meandered streets lit with old-fashioned lamps, passed every stranger with a hello. We shared fried oysters and fried green tomatoes and Brunswick stew. I read Gone with the Wind overlooking Fort Sumter.

And after a few days, we moved on.

To Savannah, Georgia.

We stretched out on sun-dappled grass, Spanish moss dripping down close enough to touch. We watched laughing children race their bicycles around Forsyth Park’s fountain. And I only shared a spoonful of my shrimp and grits [and butter].

In a few days, we moved onward and traded jeans for shorts, jackets for short sleeves.

In Florida, we hugged relatives and friends we rarely see. We leaned over wooden railings to glimpse manatees and alligators and needle-nosed fish. And I cried as we packed up and headed closer to home.

Vacation fills every head with sepia-toned images of shell-spotted beaches, bare feet, and interlocked fingers. We need the slower pace, the time to be with one another, the disconnect from a world obsessed with business and politics and dinners without dessert.

We’ve all wondered watching a vermilion sunset, is it possible for every day to be like this?

But then we go about it the wrong way.

We rack our minds for get-rich-quick schemes.

We calculate the possibility of early-retirement. [I’ll never have this luxury, but I hear that some folks do retire early. Myth, perhaps?]

We whine about the career path we took because it paid well, the job we’re now shackled to, the town, the house, the mortgage we’ll return to in a few days.

And yet no one ever said life had to be this way, this hell we’ve created for ourselves.

Why can’t every day can be a vacation of sorts?

ONE. Relaxation

We pack lightly, stroll down boulevards, and swear that those stress lines between our brows look less conspicuous on trips away from home.

What if we simplified our lives?

What if we got rid of the clutter asphyxiating us?

That means the piles of once-read magazines that we’ll never actually read again. And the always accessible Facebook app that allows us to check on what our friends are eating for lunch. And the countless appointments we race around for.

Think about it.

TWO. Love

We rarely vacation with people we cannot stand to be in the same room with for ten minutes at a time.

We plan trips with people we love – family, friends, friends of friends who tag along at first but begin to grow on you after you catch them singing along to your favorite song.

Minus the tense moments where you find yourself going the wrong way down a one-way road, you lighten up and allow yourself to love wildly on vacation, seeing people clearly without the haze of stress, exhaustion, and grouchiness.

Remember to love well at home, laughing at mistakes, leaving tension and stress at work, picking up flowers or a forgotten dinner ingredient on the way home.

Think about it.

THREE. Variety

We don’t need to travel the world over to pass strangers on the street, to catch the subtle rhythm of a foreign tongue, to order exotic dishes and watch as the waiter smirks at your butchered pronunciation.

Begin a conversation with the girl next to you in line.

Drive a town over and walk the downtown streets.

Allow room for spontaneity in your schedule.

Think about it.

We’re not meant to live for that one week a year, we’re meant to live for every day.

The good days and the bad.

Vacations aren’t meant to make us miserable on the long drive back. They’re meant to invigorate us, replenish our souls with calm and laughter and adventure, so that we can take it all back home.

While I walked the streets of Charleston and Savannah, I yearned to be writing, to be a part of the life, the creativity I saw in every face, every musical instrument played on street corners, every curve of architecture in old buildings.

I might have caught a glimpse of tears welling within my eyes in the rear view mirror, but I drove well over the speed limit on the way home, each mile closer to my daily life, the life I knew wouldn’t be quite the same as before.

Because I wouldn’t let it remain the same.

I have plans, big plans for the days to come. And while I may not always be behind the wheel or dragging my suitcase or boarding a plane, I’m learning to fill my days with calm and laughter and adventure.

How do you feel on your way home from vacation?