Mid Life should be a time when we are finally able to carve out a little “me time”. Yet statistics show that it is a time when we are often struggling with multiple responsibilities. We may still have children at home. Sometimes those children are, in fact, children. Sometimes they are adult children who for whatever reasons have had to move back in to our homes. Or maybe we don’t see our kids as much as we wished we were able to. That empty nest can be a lonely place. Our parents are aging and perhaps need our assistance. Retirement plans may have collapsed along with Wall Street, forcing us to use that traveling money for everyday expenses. At the point in life that some time away would do wonders for our mental health, we find that our disposable income has to be used for the necessities.
Last week I found myself in desperate need of a change of scenery. Even though our retirement accounts have been recovering rather nicely, we are still being careful of our savings. I am responsible for my father’s nursing care four days a week, and even though he has been rapidly regaining his independence and my duties don’t take up much time, I still have to commit to being there. The answer? Day trips! It’s amazing what a day trip can do to relieve stress and give you a fresh perspective.
Living in South Central Pennsylvania has its advantages. Just over an hour west of my home is Gettysburg and the beautiful surrounding mountains. About an hour to the south is Baltimore Maryland, with its lovely harbor and wonderful neighborhoods, each with their own distinct personality. We have Hershey to the north, and Amish country to the East. This day I decided to head across the Susquehanna River to Lititz. My husband was unaware of where I was taking him. The drive was lovely, and the town itself was charming. Interestingly, though we had driven through we had never stopped and looked around. We ended up going to the historic pretzel factory. It’s really no longer a factory, but a gorgeous old house that is now more the museum for the original factory. The working factory has been modernized and is currently producing pretzels in Reading. We acted like kids on a school field trip, taking the tour and learning to roll our own dough. We sat outside on a bench, in the unseasonably warm March sun, and ate fresh from the oven pretzels. Then we drove a few blocks to the Wilbur Chocolate Factory. The smell was enough to send me into a state of nirvana. Our little trip only lasted a few hours and cost us under $100, including bags of take home pretzels and chocolates, but the benefits were much greater than I expected. We’ve decided to take turns planning mini surprise trips, destinations unknown until arrival. The planning of said trips and their itinerary is in itself a way to mentally escape stress.
While it’s good to “think big”, maybe sometimes we get so stuck on that all or nothing idea that we miss the little things. I’ll admit that I would love to go on a long weekend escape, but until life allows for that to happen, it seems a shame not to take advantage of all the little treasures that are well within a few hours drive from home.