I took a break last week from my incessant doomscrooling and constant obsessing about the upcoming school year, for a family vacation. A week away would surely be the ticket to recenter, refocus, and find my chill again…right? Since Tahiti was out for this year, given the COVID-related travel restrictions (well that, and our bank account), instead we settled for a week away in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula where my parents have a lake house (a much more budget-friendly option).
If you haven’t been to the Upper Peninsula (the “U.P.” as Michiganders affectionately call it…or is it Michiganians?), it’s beautiful—pristine lakes, unspoiled forest land, and plenty of wildlife (#PureMichigan). But it’s also in the freaking middle of nowhere. I mean, if you try to Amazon Prime something there, you can forget about two-day shipping—it takes at least a week. And the nearest Target is over 80 miles away!
Packing ALL the Things
Preparing for our time in the sticks took some serious packing. My family literally wears the same three outfits all summer long (don’t judge, I do laundry occasionally) but suddenly when the suitcases come out, I start debating if I’ll need one formal dress, or two. I finally narrowed it down to my most casual ball-gown (we’re headed to the wilderness, afterall), three swimsuits, enough clean underwear to change it four times each day, and some socks. Then I added bug spray (although U.P. biting flies don’t seem to be scared of a little DEET), Benadryl (to treat swimmer’s itch), and salt (in case of leeches…trust me on this one). And that’s just for me—I had to go through the same process for each of my kids. Needless to say, packing was exhausting.
The car ride was an adventure in itself. While my husband is our family chauffeur, I have the dubious distinction of serving as the family attendant. Basically, that means I’m in charge of doling out snacks (because someone is always hungry), sorting out the car activities (because someone always wants a toy they can’t reach), and managing the playlist (because someone always wants to skip to the next song). COVID added a fun twist to our usual road tripping—we brought along our own portable potty seat to avoid crowded rest stops. You haven’t lived until you’ve peed on the side of US Highway 2 with black flies biting your ankles (if you’re lucky, that’s the only place they’re biting).
As I said, the U.P. is beautiful, and there is no shortage of fun—boating, kayaking, swimming, and fishing. But all that time outdoors means sunscreen. A LOT of sunscreen. If you haven’t put sunscreen on an oversugared (thanks, Papa) and overexcited three-year-old who just wants to get back to playing and does not have time to reapply the recommended every two hours, just imagine trying to put sunscreen on a honey badger.
Hush Little, Baby (Please, for the love of God!)
After all that fresh air and sunshine, the kids are bound to be tired. “They’ll sleep well tonight!,” everyone commented with a smile, watching them splash in the water. And at first, I (naively) thought they were right. In fact, I was already planning a quick bedtime for the girls, then enjoying a leisurely glass of wine on the deck (doused in DEET), waiting for the sunset. Two and half hours later, with my overstimulated kiddos bouncing from bed to bed, their giggling taking a hysterical turn, I instead downed my cocktail like a shot and got a quick glimpse of the setting sun out the window while whisper-yelling, “I will NOT tell you two again to quiet down!” (Spoiler alert, I did tell them again. Many, many, many times). On the bright side, staying awake three hours past bedtime did mean they slept-in most mornings—I felt so refreshed with that extra seven minutes in bed each day!
Home, Sweet Home
Like all good things, our vacation came to an end, after a week full of swimming, sand, sunshine, and sugar (again, thanks Papa) and it was time to head home. So did I find my chill? As it turns out, I don’t think I ever had it to lose in the first place (#IHaveAnxiety). But the car ride home was a lot more peaceful—mostly because the girls were so exhausted from their week of fun (and their erratic sleep schedule) that they both conked out just after we crossed the bridge (The Mighty Mac, for those non-Michiganders… or is it Michiganians?). And we’re already planning our next trip to the U.P. Who knows, maybe next time I’ll find my zen?
What’s your most stressful vacation story?