Moving Forward with a Back-to-Nature Stay
A reflection on retreating to the forest, and how slowing down and soaking up nature might just be what we all need to help us heal, reflect, and move forward.
Words and photos by Gale Straub
Sponsored by Yonder
For the last month, I texted my sister every few days: “3 weeks!” “12 days” and “tomorrow!!”
I must’ve been 10 years old when I last counted down to a getaway. I used to keep track in my diary the number of days until I’d visit my grandparents or spend our annual family week away at Lake Winnipesaukee. Looking back, I craved excitement, the bustle of loading up the car, something out of the ordinary. These days I crave all that and more: time in nature, time together with my twin after a challenging year.
There was a period when my twin sister Lora lived 3,000 miles away in California. In a poem, she wrote that we were balancing coasts, I in Boston, she in Oakland, as if we might tip over into the ocean if we lived on the same side of the country. Then, I had the feeling that she’d been called away from the right coast to the left. I never pictured a world in which we’d live within an hour’s drive from each other but be separated by a pandemic.
While I work from home in New Hampshire, Lora is a full-time server in Boston. In June 2020, the governor deemed her work essential and she went back to her half-empty restaurant, putting on a brave face and reminding patrons to wear their masks when they got up to go to the bathroom. Her exposure was high as she bounced from her apartment to the restaurant and back again. Like everything else, the pandemic deepened foundational cracks in the restaurant industry that had been growing for years: long hours, inconsistent pay, stories of harassment, and no HR to report those stories to. And like a lot of families, we went months without seeing each other. Ultimately, we were eligible for vaccines at the same time despite the non-essential nature of my own work. And the togetherness countdown began.
We booked two nights, courtesy of Yonder, at a darling little cabin nestled between the Catskills and the Shawangunk Mountains in the Hudson Valley of New York. It was an entirely new-to-us area to explore and the nature getaway we both (but especially Lora) needed. When it was finally zero days away from our departure, I zipped down to Allston and scooped Lora up. As we drove west on I-90 (we’d drive clear across Massachusetts), we marveled at the novel feeling of being headed somewhere special together. Lora noted that it was the first time in a long time that she wasn’t either in the restaurant or her apartment. Even the drive felt like an exhale.
My trip got me thinking. It’s tempting, after a year of grief, anxiety and restrictions, to want to jump right into the kind of travel we planned before the pandemic. Our past selves might have envisioned cross-country flights or an intense week-long backpacking trip. But slowing down and soaking up nature might just be what we all need to help us heal, reflect, and move forward.
Here are my best tips after my first back-to-nature stay of 2021:
Book a nature-rich stay
Booking with Yonder meant I knew before we arrived in New York that the cabin would place an emphasis on outdoor time. The location was within a short drive of mountains, waterfalls, streams and trail heads. The property was secluded in the woods with a large deck, grill, fire pit, tennis court and pool. We would have been content staying on site the whole trip if the curiosity to explore didn’t pull us away.
While my sister and I chose a private cabin, Yonder offers stays and experiences at farms, vineyards, ranches and other nature-rich destinations. There’s a kind of restorative gentleness inherent in these stays that we all could benefit from.
Try not to over schedule your trip
After not seeing each other in so long, Lora and I had to consciously restrain ourselves from packing too much into our two days together. Instead, we let the hours yawn and lengthen. She slept in late while I got up and made coffee on the deck, listening to the leaves rustle and spotting birds. While there were a lot of full-day hikes we could have chosen from in the Shawagunks or the Catskills, we opted instead for a couple of short excursions to local waterfalls instead. That way, we were able to slow down and take in our surroundings rather than feeling rushed lest we miss the end point. Plus, the meandering drive between trailheads meant soaking up the sights on backroads, too.
Bring your grounding practices with you
If you’ve spent a lot of time at home this past year, it could feel overwhelming to leave. It can be helpful to bring your routines with you on your getaways. Lora and I relaxed with hot beverages in the morning, brought journals for writing, and cooked nourishing meals for dinner. Neither of us wanted to feel exhausted at the end of the day; we wanted to feel filled up.
Pay attention to your senses
A getaway can be an escape from your everyday life and a return to your body at the same time. It’s easy to get distracted on vacation, but our little cabin invited me to engage with my senses and connect with my body. Sitting on the deck, I took in the newly green trees and grass, smelled the recently rained-on earth, and listened to bird calls. It all made me feel extra grateful to be there.
Carry the feeling home
As life-giving as time away is, you can carry the nature-connection back with you, too. The pandemic has underlined our need for nearby nature: whether it’s a walk around your neighborhood, gardening, volunteering for a cleanup or learning more about local land trusts. Immersing in nature for a few days is a reminder to make time and care for it every day.
Want to discover the benefits of a nature-rich getaway experience with Yonder? Get $100 off your first stay by using the code SHEEXPLORES100 at checkout. New listings are being added all the time.
Note: This blog post was made in partnership with Yonder, but opinions are our own. Yonder is a purpose-driven company built on the belief that reconnecting with nature will restore the planet and humankind. Many of Yonder’s hosts, known as Stewards, demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and offer nature enriching experiences for all — so it’s much more than a place to lay your head after a day of exploring. Learn more at Yonder.com.