This winter felt harsher than others. Maybe it’s the extra feet of snow that lingered in the Northwest, or just generally feeling discouraged as a young woman in America trying to stand on my own two feet. But spring is finally budding and there are sunnier days ahead.
When I was asked to come on the Teva Spring Escape with She Explores I jumped on the chance. I don’t travel by myself very often. It felt past due to go somewhere alone, to meet new people and stretch my comfort zone.
The idea of an escape is always alluring, isn’t it? Going into the world (especially without the comfort of a partner) tends to bring a shift in perspective, and I’m always startled by the self-awareness that comes from leaving the daily routines I’ve built around myself. We tend to feel differently about our lives when we escape them. We get to look back from far away, or look ahead at a different horizon. Sometimes an escape means pausing to breathe, or moving on, and sometimes the things we intend to leave behind find us more easily in different landscapes.
Sometimes an escape means pausing to breathe, or moving on, and sometimes the things we intend to leave behind find us more easily in different landscapes.
As I made the journey through SFO to Santa Barbara, I was confronted pretty quickly by all the anxiety I’d been carrying around. My weaknesses, my introversion, my mental blocks, the ways I’ve held myself back out of fear, how I’m still recovering from my parents’ divorce, the depressing impact of politics on female and environmental morale, the ways I wish I was different than I am.
As soon as I arrived, however, the activities started and I tried to throw myself into the trip. We were a mix of PR marketers, writers, editors, fashion junkies, and outdoors(wo)men. Together we hiked the Saddlerock trail into the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains for views of the whole valley and distant Channel Islands. We kayaked and paddle boarded the Santa Barbara Harbor, beach picnicked, toured, crafted, and talked about where we’re from and what we do. It was exhausting and exciting to spend full days with strangers and a strict schedule.
I felt energized by the physical activity and the blue skies were a balm to my winter-weathered spirit, but by the end of a 14-hour day, I also felt pretty wrung out and discouraged. I measured myself up to the new people I’d met, to the version of myself I thought I would be by now, to the work I want to do compared to what currently fills my days. I’m not where I thought I’d be, in both good ways and bad.
It all finally clicked as I lay on a yoga mat near the Santa Barbara Mission, with a group of women who had been strangers days before. The sun pressed into my scalp and closed eyelids and a breeze shifted the strands of hair around my face, and I realized: I’ve been running the last few years — using travel as an escape and an excuse from making any real commitments, or any significant progress. It’s ironic that it took another escape to confront the pattern.
This spring feels like a season to reckon with my weaknesses instead of trying to flee them. And it’s also time to get out of my head and into the world.
Making connections on the trip — spending time with people from different backgrounds in a similar field helped me feel more tapped in and engaged in both the work that I’m doing and the greater whole. I’m not alone in feeling discouraged, I’m not the only one trying to find my footing in a confusing age.
I’m not alone in feeling discouraged,
I’m not the only one trying to find my footing in a confusing age.
By the final day of the trip, I felt more comfortable in my skin. A few of us walked from our hotel to the Santa Barbara Courthouse. We climbed the tower and looked out over the green hills and distant ocean, over the sun warmed landscape we’d spend the last few days getting to know.
I thought about the most fulfilling moments of the trip — on the trail out of breath chatting with the other woman who brought a camera when we both lagged behind to capture different details, laughing about biker boyfriends at the Spanish tapas restaurant and finding unexpected common ground, taking a moment on the harbor to set down my paddle to watch pelicans skim over the water. While I’m always critical of myself for my quietness, I also know that I was the only one who looked up and noticed the bright kumquats startling orange against the blue sky as we waited for a ride.
Now that I’m home again sorting through photos and watching buds erupt from the dead looking branches outside my window, I feel grateful for those days away, a little more focused, and like I finally have my feet on the ground.
Hailey Hirst is a traveling writer/designer and She Explores content editor. She always takes the back roads and sends a postcard home from wherever she goes. See more from Hailey on Instagram and at haileymariehirst.com.
Editor’s note: This trip and featured shoes were given to Hailey courtesy of Teva as part of a social media promotion for their spring line, but these are her true and unbiased thoughts. This post includes affiliate links: when you make a purchase, you help support She Explores at no charge to you.