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A trip Up North: Why doing nothing, for once, means everything

I stand on the deck in my pajamas and look out over the lake, the only one awake in the house.  For a few moments I just take in the view, the quiet, the stillness of the early morning.  

The water like glass, no boats cruising, kayaks paddling, not even a row of ducks making their way along the water.  

A blue jay chirps in a nearby tree, a loon calls in the distance and the sun shines through the clouds overhead. 

In this moment I pause and breathe in deeply, playing back our memories from the past week.  In a few short hours we will put our clothes back in our suitcases, load the life jackets, fishing rods and books back into the car and drive south on 75 towards home.  

Our vacation is almost over, but before it ends, I want this time to reflect on what this trip has meant for me and my family. To look out over the lake one last time as a reminder of the joy of just being together.

Like many from metro Detroit, we like to head Up North to vacation in the summer.  We rent my cousin’s cottage that sits along a private lake near Gaylord. The three-story home has an upper deck with great views of the entire lake, a sun room below for when the afternoon gets hot or the nights buggy.  A dock for fishing, kayaks, paddleboards and a paddle boat.  A fire pit for bonfires, a nearby swimming pool and park with swings, monkey bars and a merry-go-round. 

Once we are there, we never have to leave except for food.  And that’s the goal. The cottage is the vacation.

This was purposely meant to be a low-key trip. No major plans, no big agendas, no “to do” lists or activity boxes to check off.  A chance to slow down and focus on spending time together. 

Both my husband and I work outside of the home, often on opposite schedules, going days, sometimes weeks without getting a day off together. Combine that with our son’s after school activities, family obligations and regular chores and duties around the house, it can feel like we’re always running at a fast pace and often in different directions.

So this opportunity to get away and relax has been incredibly appealing to me. 

Seven nights of cottage life, eating outside, grilling, fishing, enjoying the lake, reading for pleasure, playing games, and laughing ourselves silly.  

Don’t forget the cottage hair, don’t care attitude. I never bothered with a blow dryer or make up, opting instead for ponytails, and baseball hats.

I read two books cover to cover.  I can’t remember the last time I did that.  My son read five books. One afternoon, the three of us and another family of four we were on vacation with were all in one room, each of us curled up on a couch, chair or floor with a book.  It was lovely. 

My son and husband fished off the dock morning, noon and dusk. No matter how many times my son tangled his fishing line, my husband would fix it for him. On this trip, Liam finally learned to bait his own line, touching the worms himself. 

The lake is small enough we could watch the kids paddleboarding or kayaking around it from the shore of the cottage.  We could hear them laughing, or playing out their make believe scenarios, turning the lake into a playground for their imaginations. I would look up from my book, listen and smile witnessing their fun.

Liam and his cousin swam the length of three football fields from a floating dock on the other side of the lake back to our cottage, just because they wanted to see if they could.  Then Liam did it again the next day because he had so much fun the first time. 

I loved the mornings. A cup of coffee on the deck overlooking the water, a book in hand and my dearest friend sitting next to me.  We talked about life, it’s ups and downs, our children, our careers, our dreams, drifting in and out of conversation as we read, catching each other up on our worlds. 

The vacation was not without screen time. We binged watched Stranger Things with our son.  We let him indulge in his favorite video games.  The time he spent outside and away from the digital devices far outweighed his use of it.  And after all, vacation is supposed to be about indulging.

We have done our share of higher-end vacations, but this trip is a reminder that we don’t need adventure, luxury or a hectic itinerary to enjoy our vacation. Don’t get me wrong, those trips are very nice, but vacation is about the people you’re with, slowing down from life’s frantic daily pace and spending time together.   

Looking at pictures of our smiling faces, I don’t know that we will wait a whole year before returning to the cottage.


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