Andy and I took a vacation last week! We were gone from Sunday to Sunday, which is longer even than we were on our honeymoon. I'm not sure I've taken that may consecutive days off work practically since I started working after college, and it felt quite novel. We went to Greenville, SC with my parents a few months ago and were charmed by it, so we started out our vacation with a few days there. We had our inaugural experience with Airbnb, a website that lets people put their homes, or a room in their home, up for rent. We found a great deal on a room not far from downtown, which, in Greenville, is where you want to be. It was a room and a bathroom in a private home. The couple was there, but we could come and go as we pleased. It was pretty basic, so if you're looking for luxury Airbnb might not be the way to go. But if you just want to facilitate getting to a cool city you want to visit and need a place to lay your head, it's a good option! We ended up getting in bed to read at about 9:00 all three nights we were there and crashing early...maybe not everyone's idea of a good time, but it was nice to us!
During the days we hung out the co-working spaces associated with The Iron Yard. Andy needed to work some, and I used the time to catch up on some of those things you always want to do on your computer but can never seem to find the time to. (Well, some of them. I was not as productive or efficient as I would have liked, but it was my vacation, so it's okay!) Plus, I'm really interested in the co-working model but never have a chance to experience due to having a 9-5 day job, so it was a fun chance to try it out. I watched a workshop on Github and made my first pull request. I finally watched Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability...more to come on that in another post, because wow. We were having such a good time that we honestly didn't do anything else in Greenville! Plus Tuesday the weather was miserable, so it was nice to have a place to be.
It was a wonderful three days of getting up when we wanted, eating what and when we wanted (the list of places we ate is pretty impressive for just three days), and adopting a relaxed pace and spending time together, both of which are sometimes rarities in our normal life.
Then from Greenville we went backpacking for three nights. Yes, it was cold. But we did a late fall camping trip last year and learned our lesson about what gear we needed to bring, so we were well prepared. Wednesday morning we sat in Tupelo Honey Cafe in downtown Greenville (delicious, by the way) and watched big fat flakes of snow coming down for over an hour and thought, "What are we getting ourselves into?!" But as the magical radar predicted, the snow stopped and the day turned beautiful and sunny, so we set out. We hiked on the Foothills Trail, which runs about 80 miles in upstate South Carolina and Western North Carolina. It was probably the most beautiful place I've ever hiked, in part because it was the highest elevation! We got sweeping mountain views with nary a house or city in sight, though unfortunately we missed any fall colors there might have been. It was also some of the most difficult hiking I have ever done; on Saturday on our way out we had to hike up the highest peak in South Carolina, and it felt like an accomplishment! One afternoon when we got to our campsite I sat down (in my many layers) and realized, "I feel relaxed." And I wasn't sure I had felt relaxed in quite a long time. So that was wonderful. We had our Kindles with us (noticing a theme here?) and got in our mummy sleeping bags every night just about as soon as it got dark to stay warm and cozy.
From the trail we headed for a night of comfort at Chateau Elan, a winery and resort a little bit north of Atlanta. We had talked about going to Asheville for the night, but we couldn't convince ourselves that we wanted to drive farther away from Atlanta only to have to come back the next day, so this was a nice find. We figured out that the Foothills Trail is actually really accessible from Atlanta and had an easy drive south on I-85. Chateau Elan was a bit kitschier than places we normally visit. It's a little like Disney World for grownups, with multiple golf courses, a spa, and obviously the winery. It has an array of restaurants to suite any taste, including an Irish pub that was actually designed and built IN Dublin, then sent to Braselton, GA where the winery is to be re-assembled. Kind of kooky! But it was nice to have everything at our fingertips after days of carrying our possessions on our backs. We enjoyed long hot showers and PLENTY of food, not to mention a warm comfy bed. And then the drive back to Atlanta on Sunday was short and sweet. Even though we might not go back again, Chateau Elan was the perfect interlude between vacation, the trail, and home.
On Sunday when we got home I decided to soak up the last few drops of vacation, so I went to see Catching Fire (the second Hunger Games movie), pick up takeout for dinner (I'd been craving Pad Thai!), and make cookies. These were all delightful decisions, and going back to work on Monday wasn't as bad as it could have been.
All in all I felt quite rejuvenated from our trip. And isn't that what a vacation should do? Sure, it's great to go to a new exciting place and see and do all the things you are supposed to do there. But I think Andy and I both appreciated the concept of actually taking it easy on our trip. We didn't feel compelled to do any certain things because we have been to Greenville before and will likely go back again. And on the trail, your only responsibilities are feeding yourself, moving your feet one in front of the other, and staying warm! It seems like more often than not our vacations are for a reason--a family event, a friend's wedding, a conference--and so it felt like a revelation to go out of town just for the sake of pure enjoyment! And, I definitely want to do it again.
What's your idea of the perfect vacation? Have you taken much time off this year?