What do you do with a full week off in July that you didn’t ask for? Hop a flight to the Mediterranean? Or maybe Mexico? How about Colorado to visit friends you’ve been meaning to spend time with? Or maybe you just pick up a work trip and have mini layover vacations. The fourth is worth double pay, after all. A week off is a big deal amirite? But when you didn’t plan on having it, it’s a bit trickier to decide. This question is what I faced this week—the first week of July. Take the money? Take a vacation? Relax? I decided to do something a little crazy. To have a New England staycation and take in the best of the season. And Imma tell you about it right here.
It’s been a long couple months. Since returning from Colombia in April I’ve been working pretty much non-stop to get back to the level I’d like to be at for earning and saving. I love my job. I feel productive squeezing in my homework lessons while simultaneously getting paid time and a half for an eleven-hour red eye turn. I get a lot of social satisfaction from work, whether it’s exploring a different city on a layover or just gabbing in the galley with my coworkers. So the high-flying, the working a lot, really didn’t bother me.
Until it did.
You all heard about my very bad day at work, a few posts ago. And while normally things slide right off my shoulders and out of my memory, I’m still kinda mad about it. I reallllllly try not to hold onto things, but I’m still dealing with aspects of this trip today. And it was handled so poorly that I feel negative when I think about it. I had another trip full of reassignments and shenanigans shortly after. And I had a full straight week of delayed red eye turns. Every. Single. Night.
I love my job so much and I’m so easy going at work that it is easy to see when I’m at the point that I need a break. I noticed, towards the end of June, that little unimportant things were starting to annoy me. Like a super busy San Francisco flight where this guy would NOT sit in his seat and I had to say excuse me and make him scoot into a row, basically on top of someone, so that I could push my cart through. FOUR TIMES. Or like the aisle sitter ringing their call button to ask for a tissue when the seatbelt sign is off and they could easily get it themselves. Or having to repeat the same five snack choices to each person in each row because no one has the wherewithal to listen while I am listing the options for the person sitting directly next to them or to LOOK IN THE MENU.
Okay, you see what I mean right?
Ask my coworkers and they’ll tell you I’m pleasant and easy to work with. I come to work for nice easy days. I don’t sweat the small stuff. In our briefing before a flight I make sure everyone has their paperwork in case we have any unexpected issues in flight, and then follow up with “But we’re not going to need them, I don’t have hard days at work.”
When I start to notice myself not being myself—getting annoyed with people’s lack of common sense, missing the empathy that I try so hard to maintain while I work in what can be a scary or nerve-wracking environment for infrequent travelers, feeling bothered when I have to do the things that are literally my job—this is when I know I need a break.
I became excited about the prospect of staying home, doing nothing,
being outside in New England in the Summer.
This week that I happened to have off in the beginning of July looked so empty on my schedule. I had no plans. No big events for the Fourth of July. There was certainly not a line of people waiting to hang out with me. No bloated balance in my travel checking account beckoning me to jet-set somewhere exotic. It seemed like a waste. I’m on the go so much, and so often looking for the next best thing, seeking excitement, that I have looked at my free time through this lens for years. If I’m not “doing something” with it, then why have it at all?
When I first saw this empty space in my July schedule (in early June when it was made available) my immediate thought was that I’d pick up some productive trips. I’d work that blank space in my calendar. What do I need a week off for?
As the month went on, as the annoyances that are par for the course with scheduling piled up and as I found myself feeling more frustrated more frequently, I started to waiver on that decision. And by the time I began my last trip of June I knew I would not be working my days off. I didn’t care if it was a waste. Because I needed it.
But what would I do?
I’ll catch up on writing. I’ll catch up at the gym. I’ll catch up on homework.
I’ll catch up with friends.
Now we were getting somewhere.
Every New Englander knows how very precious the summertime is. We have such a beautiful season, but it seems to last mere minutes before the leaves begin turning and we’re back in boots and sweaters; admiring the foliage and dreading the impending winter. And when I started thinking about this, I became excited about the prospect of “staying home”, “doing nothing”, being outside in New England in the Summer. Taking in sea spray or pine trees or fresh cut grass with every breath instead of recycled oxygen and jet fuel. Wearing swimsuits and breezy fabrics and sunglasses and hiking shoes instead of stifling polyester blend and soul-squeezing compression tights.
Yes, I would be keeping my week off.
I would hike. I would go to the beach. I would catch up with friends. I would take full advantage of my favorite season; my favorite time to be here, at home, in New England. I called it my “New England Summer Week” and it was a smashing success.
It kicked off last Saturday with my cousin’s annual Independence Day party, where I get to see family, friends and old co-workers. I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years, met her adorable son, and realized with delight that despite the time apart, we still have that spark of friendship and can sit and talk and laugh while time flies by. I got to see family that I see only once or twice a year, see the joy my grandmother had playing yard games with her brothers—all united again. I got to hang out with my old coworkers, people with whom I spent the majority of my time for an entire five years. I told myself I’d be a better friend and sent a list of dates for a girls’ day with my long lost friends.
Catching up with the BEST former coworkers and friends
And family hikes in Maine <3
After the party, I drove, with my ten-year old nephew/co-pilot, straight up to Maine and spent three glorious days at my parents’ house. A vast yard lined with trees, a freshly planted little garden, the quiet—part of the package in a one-traffic light town, no neighbors in sight, the fresh morning air, and the deep velvet black of a night sky void of city lights. These are the things that called to me, that I looked forward to soaking in while spending time with my favorite people.
We went for a hike in Sanford. Swam in a river. Ate junk food and watched very bad Adam Sandler movies. Sipped coffee in the quiet of the morning, on a rocking chair on the porch, while the sun lit up the yard and then turned from warm to sultry. I drove 40 minutes to visit another friend who lives in Maine and was treated to a delicious salmon dinner cooked by her beau. I did a little homework. I talked shop with my mom, the other flight attendant. I wore sweatpants and a bathing suit and hiking shoes. We laughed. And when I left on Tuesday, my heart was full and dangerously close to overflowing.
Wednesday I had a beach day with a girlfriend I haven’t seen in person in months. We chose a quiet little cove at the end of a lane in Beverly, where she lives. The weather was perfect and we caught up on each others’ family, friends, love lives, work, and travel. We waded into the water, never a break in the chatting, surprised to find how warm it was. We had dinner on the rooftop and watched sunset with her neighbors. By the time I left to go home it was midnight. We’d spent all day and evening together and I don’t think we stopped talking for more than five minutes. What you’d expect from the best girls’ day.
The Fourth of July started with a hike in a beautiful conservation area just twenty minutes from my house that I never knew existed. My mom was in town, so she and I grabbed coffee and then hit the trails, enjoyed the shade from the trees on that hot, hot day.
After hiking I went to see another girl friend who I haven’t seen in forever. I got the tour of her new adorable house, got to float in her pool, pat her dogs, and partake in a long overdue catch-up session. And in two-for-one luck, another friend from high school happened to be visiting at the same time. Our time was short but it was a foot in the door and an excuse to call or text more often and to plan a longer visit.
And finally, I ended the night sitting on the rooftop of a brownstone on Beacon Street, huddled close with people that I care about, some old and some new, watching with awe the incredible Boston fireworks display and feeling very lucky and content.
I could have ended my New England Summer Week right then a happy girl. But somehow there was more for me.
Friday I rallied two girls I work with—one a longtime friend and one a newcomer to the area in need of showing around—for a trip to Gloucester for another beach day. We were turned away at two different beach parking lots, completely full on the scorching fifth of July, but finally found a place at Long Beach in Rockport, a smaller option and an old favorite of mine. It made me think of one of my best friends from high school, who lives in Colorado now, and the many, many summer days we spent there. The place was packed, but the tide was going out and the weather was perfect. I got to know the new friend, who I met literally three weeks ago, in passing, on the shuttle to the airport at 5:30 in the morning. I got to see the other friend outside of work, outside of polyester, and catch up with her. And we all got to know her sister, who came along for the fun. We hung out on that stretch of sand for hours, went swimming, marveling again at the warmth of the water, and came home happy, sleepy and sunburnt.
And this morning I got up early, hit the gym (for once), and then drove up to New Hampshire with my dad to visit that side of the family. My aunt and uncle have a campsite at a place that makes them feel happy, relaxed and at peace in the summertime, and my cousin and her family were visiting too. I got to see relatives I haven’t seen in an embarrassingly long stretch of time. We ate pizza, we asked each other about our lives, jobs, travels, about the kids. We went for a dip in the lake, and I got to play with a very cute pup. We ended the visit with a discussion about acid reflux, a popular topic with all of us.
The visit was long overdue, and even the traffic and the rain on the ride back didn’t bother me.
So here I am, on my last evening of my last day off before New England Summer Week comes to an end and I go back to flying the friendly (at least friendlier) skies. I’m more tired than I thought I’d be. I’ve written hardly at all, done less homework than I wanted, and made it to the gym only twice. But I went hiking. I went to the beach. I spent time with extended family on both sides. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years and friends I hadn’t seen in weeks, and it felt so good I vowed to get better at keeping in touch. I started a new book. I took long drives and afternoon walks. I cleared my head. I wore bikinis and sandals and sunnies and sweatpants. I took in the beauty of this tiny section of this big country that I call home. And boy, oh boy, I’m glad I did. I’ve decided New England Summer Week is going to be an annual tradition. This season goes by quickly, like so many of the best things in life. and if you don’t shed the polyester and breathe in the ocean breeze and take long, slow looks around, you might just miss it.