Tuesday, July 5, 2011


“If you like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne. If you like making love at midnight in the dunes of the Cape, you’re the love that I’ve looked for. Come with me and escape.”

As the popular 1970s song by Rupert Holmes suggests, sometimes we all feel the need to escape. Possibly just for a few minutes or an hour when the pressure feels like too much, and sometimes for longer. I just returned from a week-long escape – and one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. I feel so relaxed and happy, and literally enjoyed every single minute of my time away. It’s so rare that we can say that.

This experience has prompted me to give some thought this morning to escapes, and which ones are healthy as opposed to not so good for us. I do plenty of both from time to time, and it is starting to become clear which ones really serve my well-being.

In our culture, television is often used as an escape, and while it may feel good for a bit to veg out in front of the tube, it rarely makes me feel more relaxed. In fact, the opposite is often true. I have recognized lately that watching tv up until I go to bed gives me strange dreams and less than restful sleep. Mini-escapes that have been good for me are yoga, taking a walk, reading, writing, talking to a friend or meditation.

Many people also escape into alcohol or drugs or food. While I like a cold beer or a nice glass of wine occasionally, I have found that I’m much happier when I don’t allow myself to be carried away by overindulgence. The after-effects are never pretty, and while this kind of escape might feel good for a bit, it is rarely all its cracked up to be.

We were talking on the drive home about how sometimes you need a vacation after your vacation because you come home so exhausted from travel and mile-a-minute sight seeing, trying to cram everything into a limited amount of time. I have definitely had vacations like that. We travel to someplace cool and want to see and do everything while we are there. It definitely doesn’t make for much relaxation.

I am a planner, and thus, prefer to plan each day’s activities in order to make the most of the time. My experience has told me that failing to plan often means that a great deal of time is wasted in making decisions each day – especially when trying to satisfy a group. It also has meant that opportunities are missed as tours or other activities sell out early.

However, over-planning can leave you exhausted as much as under-planning can leave you rudderless. Finding that sweet spot of having some plans for each day coupled with a good amount of free time for the group to split up and do their own thing or just lie on the beach with a magazine is key to a well-rounded escape. Of course, it goes without saying that finding the perfect group of friends to go with makes a big difference as well.

This past week paddling down the Green River was perfect for many reasons:

1. Ideal weather – neither too hot or too cold, no bugs, and sunny the entire time. Crazy wind on day three meant we didn’t make many river miles, but high water and fast current also gave us many opportunities to kick back in our boats with a beer in our hands and float rather than paddling hard through what is called Stillwater Canyon for a reason.

2. Great Group – everyone got along swimmingly, did their fair share of the work, discovered mutual interests in hiking, playing games and being goofy and found plenty to talk about. In my experience this is pretty rare. I feel lucky indeed to have such good friends to do trips like this with.

3. Good Planning – a six-day river trip takes a fair amount of planning on the front end, and again, the group divided tasks well from getting permits to gathering needed gear, planning menus and grocery shopping, packing gear and coolers in such a way to fit everything into four boats, etc. etc. Even divvying up the expenses at the end was fairly painless, and done over breakfast in an hour on the last morning.

4. Gorgeous Scenery – WOW! It is impossible to describe the stunning beauty of paddling through soaring cliff faces of red rock, and feeling most of the time as if we had the river all to ourselves. Swimming in Water Canyon in a beautiful blue-green swimming hole of the perfect temperature followed by lunch and a nap in the shady, sandy glen beside it was the perfect end to a perfect trip.

I have returned home from this escape with a busy few weeks coming up, and only a few days before a work trip, but I feel perfectly prepared to handle everything that is coming because I had such a good escape. I wish the same for all of you this summer as well.