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From Strong Roots…..

Grow Mighty Girls

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#healdsburg

Surreal

With our bags packed and our intentions clear, we set off for our first post-COVID jaunt, headed to Sonoma. We found the most affordable flights out of an airport that is a three hour drive from our home. Luckily, the flight didn’t leave until early afternoon, giving us time to sleep in a bit before hitting the road. The sky was blue and the roads clear when we set off on our way (definitely not a guarantee here in early spring). All signs were indicating that luck would be on our side.

We arrived at the airport early, parked our car and proceeded inside. Having not flown during the pandemic, I was curious to see how air travel would feel. The processes inside the airport were basically all the same, except that, as expected, everyone was wearing masks. The lines all looked longer because of the distance between people but they moved along just about as (in) efficiently as usual.

In my mind, I was trying to normalize this adventure as much as possible, both for myself, and for my girls. I wanted proof that the outside world was still there, and still humming along as usual. I had to admit, though, that things didn’t seem quite normal. First, the airport read more like a ghost town than a bustling transportation hub. There were empty seats to sit on and an abundance of bathroom stalls to choose from. While this actually makes flying more enjoyable, it also makes it…..well…. weird. Second, many of the retail shops and restaurants are shuttered, leaving a lonely Hudson News and a solitary Starbucks to provide preflight refreshments. The final clue that something wasn’t quite right was the repeated announcement to “Please wear your mask IN and ON the airport”. Ummmmm……IN and ON the airport??? Are there people ON the airport??? Weird.

Regardless, we quickly adapted to our surroundings. We’ve had practice after all. The planes were maybe 50% full (weird). The flights were quick and drama free. The layover was painless and baggage claim and rental car pickup were efficient. Again, weird.

After some fumbling with the navigation system of our rental car, we entered in our destination and took off for Healdsburg. By this point, it was dark and pouring rain and I was really thankful I had driven these roads a few times before. Needless to say, it was still kind of stressful. I managed my stress successfully with a playlist curated by my 14-year-old, Gardetto’s snack mix and some Mike and Ike’s. Road trip food of champions. Finally, I was starting to feel a little more normal.

It’s a nearly 2 hour drive from San Francisco to Healdsburg. By the time we arrived, we were tired and hungry. We were also really, really lucky because my sister had driven up from San Francisco earlier in the day and had already settled into our AirBnB and was well on her way to cooking us dinner. Our little house for the week was situated on a quiet country road and the navigation system delivered us there flawlessly. We stepped inside to delicious aromas and a well-plated charcuterie board. My sister handed me a glass of wine. Bliss.

It felt surreal that night to sit there, vaccinated, in a vacation house, with my sister and daughters, talking, plotting, eating, drinking and laughing. It seemed surreal that just a year ago, we were hunkered down at home, alternating between worrying, crying and trying to hold it all together. It seemed surreal that I could, finally, gingerly, sit down, and take a breath.

Reset

A little over a year ago, the world was shutting down. We didn’t know where we could go, what we could do, how to be safe. Supplies were purchased, tears were shed, plans were canceled. For many of us, there has been no travel. It has now been 13 months since I stepped on an airplane.

For a long time, I simply had no desire. It was too risky to sit in airports, share space on planes, or contemplate navigating lodging and food and activities in a manner that was going to be safe. It felt too irresponsible to my patients to knowingly put myself at risk and then return to caring for them. It was all too hard.

Two months ago, with the protection afforded by a COVID-19 vaccine, I began to contemplate traveling again in this world. It’s far too soon for me to leave the country, but perhaps I could venture out a bit. I thought about my options (still somewhat limited), but decided that what I really wanted to do was visit my sister. She lives in San Francisco and it occurred to me that a wine country getaway might be just the ticket. I texted and asked if she might be interested. There was no hesitation in her affirmative response.

(COVID caveats: I am fully vaccinated. My sister has had COVID. My two daughters, traveling with me, are presumed to be non-immune. So I still wanted to be as safe as possible.)

(COVID caveat #2: No judgment here, please, about any choices we might have made. I tend to be thoughtful and conservative with what I am willing to do. I also recognize that we all have different levels of risk tolerance. I firmly believe that we all need to make the decisions that are both societally responsible and best for ourselves and our individual circumstances.)

With agreeable travel partners secured, the planning commenced. Our target area: Sonoma Valley. I’ve been to both Sonoma and Napa on previous trips and find Sonoma a little more approachable, a little more affordable, and a little more willing to accommodate the presence of my tween and teen daughters. We didn’t have a specific location in mind, choosing more based on available accommodations than on any other criteria. I searched AirBnB and narrowed the list down to 5 potential candidates. They all boasted various amenities. All had hot tubs (a must for this trip), at least 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms (another must), and all had been afforded multiple positive reviews. One had a pool (would it be warm enough to use it?), a few had spacious decks, most had beautiful outdoor spaces, one had a game room complete with pool, foosball, Pac Man, and backyard chess. I decided to let the girls choose. Not surprisingly, perhaps, they voted for the property with the game room, well situated in the little town of Healdsburg.

We secured our rental property, purchased plane tickets, and sent grocery requests to my sister, who would be driving up from San Francisco and procuring our provisions on the way. The girls and I excitedly debated the merits of various outfits, shoes, and accessories (half the fun of the trip is in the planning, right?). We scoured the weather forecasts. We brainstormed activities to enjoy while we were there. (The details of which will be reviewed in future posts.)

As we planned this trip, I thought a lot about my intentions. It had been a long, hard, emotionally taxing year. I was spent, both personally and professionally. I was struggling to feel mindful. I was struggling to feel passionate. I was struggling to balance everything. I was going through the motions and I needed to rectify that.

I often have lofty visions of all that I will accomplish when I travel. You know, sleep enough, eat healthfully, meditate, exercise, see all the sights, spend quality time with everyone, learn photography, etc, etc, etc. This time, though, I needed something different. As I pondered my needs and my intentions, I arrived on one very simple thought. I just wanted to be present. To exist in the moment, whatever that looked like. And sleep. I needed sleep.

It’s a pretty big deal for me to have my focus so narrowly defined. But I felt for sure that it was going to be exactly the reset I so desperately needed.

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