Travel Hack 2019: Have a Staycation in Someone Else's Home
Here we are, two seconds into the new year and it’s somehow April First. I’m no mathematician, but those days must have lasted milliseconds, and worst of all is we’re never getting that first quarter of the year back. We are reaching a point in the year where we can start to see if our resolutions are materializing or not. At that kind of speed, it’s a hard most-likely-not-materialized from me. Weeks can go by before you start to notice the repetitive habits that form in your life. Especially in winter months, it’s easy to spend evenings eating, lounging, and watching. As an artist, it’s the easiest thing in the world to say “I’m tired, I’ll paint another night.” or “it’s dark out, I can’t go shoot.” Pair that with the pressures of maintaining a household and the rare free weekend is filled with laundry and cleaning before you can think twice to take a break. Time is fleeting, so when you want to make the most of it sometimes you have to grasp it tight in your grip, and that’s what we did with our stay(away)cation.
I knew I was wanting to dedicate more time to my creative impulses. I love to read, write, draw, paint, hike, shoot... so why am I not spending my nights and weekends doing so? I make the mistake of deciding that “relaxing” is somehow different from investing in my hobbies. I use a bad mood to derail all of my creative efforts. I didn’t know how to curve this habit, and took drastic measures. I needed a complete artist retreat. So, we took to Airbnb and found the most inspiring atmosphere we could, and planned a weekend of seclusion dedicated to spending time doing the things we always make excuses not to do. And it was magical.
The location was easy to agree on: Somewhere in the mountains, where we could step out and hike at a moments notice. Somewhere not too far so it wouldn’t make the long weekend daunting, and lastly somewhere that was beautiful enough on the inside to keep us inspired and avoid cabin fever. We found a great mix of these criteria in our Thomas, WV apartment. On the longer end of a comfortable drive, 5 hours, we happily conceded due to it’s perfect location in a revitalized artist town on the edge of the Monongahela forest which boasts some of the best hikes in West Virginia. Not to mention Tip Top, one of the “best coffee shops in the state” just a few doors down. The apartment itself was loaded with up-cycled gems and quirky, colorful personality that amuses and excites the eyes. Super small and cozy, but fully functional, we could completely hide away in this place and never set foot outside. Just see for yourself.
As if we would hide away though. The hikes were a perfect refresher between mornings spent reading and evenings cooking and sketching. Blackwater Falls was an intense, cloudy afternoon climbing down rocky mountain sides in perfect sweater weather.
Blackwater Falls State Park
Our Douglas Falls outing was an afternoon of soaking up sun(burn) on a railroad-turned-trail in 70 degree weather. Once we reached the roaring waterfall and turquoise pool, we sat to have snacks and a refreshing beer.
All of these gorgeous environments didn’t necessarily make creating any easier, though. Still I would find my mind preoccupied with annoyances from my day-to-day life. My mindset was what was different though. I told myself that I was absolutely not allowed to not draw, and if I felt too upset, then I’ll just have to use blues and reds instead of yellows and greens. And so I drew, and instantly my mind began to clear. It just reminded me that this is something I can accomplish just as easily in my own home, and deciding to “relax” is no excuse not to create. I love to paint and draw because they relax me. Taking the pressure off of what I produce and making it a priority can go such a long way in my day to day life. While it may take a greater level of effort and energy to sit down and exercise creativity, it gives you a tangible sense of reward and satisfaction that no other kind of relaxation can. You literally produce your own happiness. Combined with the exertion of hiking and exploring, all of the physicality of the weekend left me exhilarated instead of exhausted. By Saturday night, I felt that I had accomplished more for my mental health than I had all year, and didn’t think the weekend could feel more complete. (Another life hack: if you still need to feel more complete, completely stuff your belly with snacks as pictured below)
To boot, while our shoulders were still sore from sun, we woke up Sunday to a snowstorm. We may not love scraping ice off the car, but it was beautiful to see, and was a poetic end for the weekend that really had it all. Let this be a lesson that sometimes the simplest things deserve the most effort. Sometimes drastic measures are totally worth it to achieve a simple means.