Photo: Jenny Bristol

Note: I wrote this last summer but never published it!

Sometimes you can learn a lot by getting away from it all. And, by “it all,” I mean your house; your daily, weekly, and monthly responsibilities; your normal routine. I always gain perspective when I spend time somewhere else, especially when there is time and opportunity to soak up something new or novel, something very different from at home. Be it the scenery, political climate, surroundings, people, or activities.

I recently had the fortunate opportunity to house sit for a friend in California near the coast. Other than a few hurried trips to Tucson to help my daughter get to and get back from college, we haven’t left town for anything significant since before the pandemic started. So leaving the state and getting a week to (mostly) relax and do fun things was a huge opportunity. It also helped that both of the kids are adults now, and pretty good at taking care of themselves, so we felt free to leave them at home to care for our pets.

We’re only a few years out from potentially being empty nesters, depending on the kids’ plans, so we are always thinking about possibilities for our future, our next chapter and what we want it to look like. There are some givens, like I want to be near the kids, and I want to travel. But this trip has reminded me of just how important travel is to me, to get a literal change of scenery a lot more frequently than every three years. The level of precautions we’ve been comfortable with during the pandemic has meant we’ve been fairly tethered to the house, with one diabetic cat making it even hard to have quick jaunts anywhere, even camping.

But going to California has given me the distance and perspective to realize just how stagnant my life had become. How much I need variety in between the routine and sameness. How much I am driven to explore and grow and develop. How much I miss connecting with people. Though we inhabited their house for a week and spent quality time with their dishes, couch, yard, and staring at their wall art and LEGO builds, we didn’t get to see my friend and her family, passing like two ships in the night on the days of arrival and departure. Still, it helped me feel connected to someone outside my house in an interesting way that I hadn’t felt in a while.

This trip also reminded me (I need to be hit over the head with this regularly) the importance of rest. It’s so hard to rest when you’re surrounded by so many responsibilities and tasks all day long. You really do need to leave home in a way that makes it impossible to tackle some of your projects to be able to rest. I’d gotten to the point where I couldn’t think clearly, couldn’t express myself in words, felt constantly stretched to the limit. A week away helped that immensely, though two weeks would have helped me heal even further. Perhaps another time. Perhaps there is another friend who needs house sitting.

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