Something strange happened recently. I wanted to go somewhere—just get away for a few days before the stress of the new school year settled on my shoulders like sandbags at a CrossFit® class. I monitored the petsitting website obsessively, but nothing came up that tickled my fancy. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. There were plenty of great sits, but they were all in places I wanted to see with the husband, or else they were in the desert Southwest, and since I have trips planned to both Phoenix and Sedona in the next seven months, I worried that I’d be setting myself up for desert fatigue. Ditto for California. I’ve barely scratched the surface of that eminently visitable state, but since I’ve been to both Palm Springs and Sonoma County in the last six months, I knew a break from the Golden State was in order.
Eventually, it dawned on me to think outside the petsitting box. How about a “party of one” trip to Boise? There’d be good mountain hiking, I told myself. Wait! What about Santa Barbara? Hiking and the beach! Having long wanted to visit Santa Barbara, I was willing to overlook the fact that it’s in California (see paragraph one).
And this is where “something strange” enters the picture. What was strange was that the more I thought about hopping on a flight to get out of town, the more I just couldn’t be bothered. Yes, rapidly rising COVID numbers did factor into my decision making, but it was more than that. Since I knew I only wanted to go for a few days, it seemed like too much fuss to mess about with plane tickets, travel insurance, car rentals, and so on. I simply couldn’t muster up the energy. My attitude kind of shocked me—I mean, I call myself the Travel Architect after all. And yet, this wasn’t the first time I balked at the idea of a short trip to a faraway place.
Back before the pandemic struck, I was talking with a colleague at school and the conversation turned toward travel. Turns out, she had taken the previous Friday and Monday off of work and flown to Puerto Rico for a vacation. “Really?” I asked, nonplussed. “Did you leave on Thursday night?” Nope. She left Minnesota on Friday morning, flew to New York for a layover, and then on to Puerto Rico. Now I don’t know the exact details, but that had to put her in Puerto Rico mid-afternoon on Friday, leaving Saturday and Sunday as her only full days on the island.
Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, the fuss and bother of prepping for a trip like this—planning for a substitute teacher, arranging a petsitter for the bunny, boning up on my Spanish, as well as all the regular must-dos before travel—is seriously out of proportion to the number of days allotted for uninterrupted bliss.
Our neighbors, too, perplex me with their willingness to fly across the continent for quick getaways—Mexico, Arizona, Colorado are but a few of the destinations they have zipped off to for long weekends. Hell, as I write this they’re getting ready to jet off to California wine country for another long weekend of wine-tasting (I know this because I’m on cat-feeding duty while they’re gone).
Recently, our beloved couples-only destination in Jamaica tried to lure us into the short-n-sweet game. They emailed us an offer on a quick, five-night getaway. Five nights? That’s just semantic chicanery. What they really meant was four days, because we all know the travel days on either end don’t really count.
As you probably guessed, we didn’t take the bait. The first time we flew down there, the journey was so god-awful, protracted, and maddening that, once we finally arrived, it took a full 24 hours in situ to uncoil our bound-up musculature and stop sniping at each other. Were that situation to repeat itself . . . oh, who am I kidding? Even if the travel down there were seamless, four days just isn’t enough time to justify all the hassle, not to mention that it would leave me totally dissatisfied and frustrated that just as I was starting to truly relax it would be time to pack up and go home.
Not that there haven’t been exceptions:
- The husband’s long weekend in England in which he surprised his entire family by showing up unannounced at his grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration (the school calendar precluded a longer stay)
- Our four-day anniversary trip to San Antonio, (again, school calendar . . .)
- My three days in Seattle for my first petsit (I was so obsessed with trying out our new membership that I would have flown to Burkina Faso for a single overnight petsitting gig if that’s what it had taken.)
But for the most part, if an airplane is involved, the trip needs to be 5-6 days minimum, especially if a layover (*groan*) is involved. (For international travel, particularly over massive expanses of open ocean, I need a good 10-20 days.) So in the end, I scrapped my search for flights, threw a few things in my suitcase, and drove several hours north to what we Minnesotans call “The North Shore,” by which we mean the stretch of Lake Superior between Duluth and the Canadian border, where, without much effort, one can imagine one is in Maine.
A lobsterless Maine.
Admittedly, my travel time was equivalent to a plane ride to one of the coasts, but my TSA-free trip had advantages: I didn’t have to arrive at my driveway two hours early, stress about overhead bin availability, or worry about an inattentive baggage handler sending my luggage to Acapulco. And the security check was a breeze—just a brief (and not altogether unpleasant) frisking by the husband before I boarded the vehicle.
While on my short-n-sweet excursion, I did some hiking in that carpet of pine trees known as the Superior National Forest as well as at Cascade River State Park. (My sea kayaking excursion was scuppered by a Small Craft Advisory.)
The hikes were no 14ers, but in Minnesota, you gotta take what you can get.
As for my accommodation, I was none too pleased with the discrepancy between the view promised to me on the website and the view I ended up with, but the management and I worked it out. Additionally, I did some reconnaissance with the resort map and now I have an enviable list of which units have good views and which don’t—intel that could net me thousands. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!
Still, from my patio I could see the lake . . .
. . . and I was just a few steps from this . . .
. . . which enabled me to catch some spectacular sunrises.
And I hot tubbed and swam (not in the lake—Superior is f-f-f-freeeezing) and binge-watched The Path and read and did crosswords and just generally relaxed, free from the dish-washing, laundry-folding, litterbox-changing, grocery-shopping drudgery of everyday life.
I even went to a wine tasting which, in COVID times, is reduced to a DIY wine flight and which I probably would not have had the confidence to do by myself were it not for all the wine tasting experience I got in California earlier this summer. (I’m now a solid intermediate/advanced Class 2 Neophyte, if I do say so myself.)
At the winery, I got talking with the group sitting near me and, wouldn’t you know it, one of the women lives in Boulder, Colorado, and is friends with the manager of our favorite clothing store—Melanzana—in Leadville! This is not the first “small world” encounter I’ve had while traveling, either.
Read more: It’s a Small World After All
Though I’d love to live just a few hours’ drive from towering mountains, cactus-studded deserts, and sweeping red rock mesas, alas, I do not. I get to see those things when I have time for long-n-strong, but if I only have time for short-n-sweet, Minnesota’s Maine-impersonating coastline will do quite nicely.
Unless, of course, I get a hankering for lobster.
Which kind of travel do you prefer—long-n-strong or short-n-sweet?
How far—and via what transport—are you willing to go when you only have a few days for traveling?