One of my favorite things to do is plot out our vacations and weekend plans for the upcoming year. As I was sitting here thinking about the fun stuff we have in store for 2018, I was also reflecting on 2017 and some of the places/things I did that were most enjoyable. Right at the top of the list was a long weekend trip to Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trails with my husband and several good friends. We are planning on spending a whole week there this year!
But also at the top of the list was something that I hadn’t done for a really long time…taking a trip alone. Toward the end of 2017…I knew that life was going to get a little crazy (although I had no idea just how much life and responsibilities would shift), so I did something that felt like a bold move. I made reservations to go to Galena, IL alone.
I got to thinking…I had not really had a weekend TOTALLY alone in years…like probably not since I met my husband, Brian (who is fabulous, by the way!). Sure, I’ve had weekends away with girlfriends either vacationing or scrapbooking, but not time to just be alone, by myself, away from it all to relax and regroup. Everyone probably has differing ideas and opinions on this: I know several girlfriends that do this at least once a year and others that would never dream of going somewhere alone for a whole host of reasons (guilt, kids, spouse, expense, etc.). For me, it seemed like the right time to do it.
Two things pushed me toward this particular trip: (1) I would already be in the Quad Cities and helping care for my mom post-knee replacement surgery (late Nov/early Dec). (2) I’ve always wanted to go to Galena, IL during December because they have one night during the holiday season that they have an event called Living Windows and Night of the Luminaria. Last year (2017) this fell on Dec. 9th, right after I was scheduled to be at my mom’s. The Living Window display is where local shops on Main Street can have a live window display. Each display has a number and visitors can vote for their favorite display (they have even had a live wedding some years, although not in 2017). Starting at dusk, they also have thousands of luminaria set up all throughout Main Street, the downtown area, and over the river in Grant’s Park. The photographer in me, and the kid in me who loves Christmas, has always wanted to go check it out so this was perfect timing. So I booked a room at the B&B we had gotten married at, Cloran Mansion, which is like a second home.
Pictures of my room at Cloran Mansion:
By the time I arrived for the weekend on December 8th, I was rather desperate for the time away to gather my thoughts and have some quiet time. My mom’s knee replacement surgery mid-November went okay, but the short story is that she had some fairly major complications. She was in the hospital for a week, skilled care for several weeks and now needed to move to assisted living as she just wasn’t healthy enough to live at home alone yet. I was stressed over making the right decisions, traveling back and forth to help with Mom care, and Christmas was coming quickly…it was a recipe for a meltdown. LOL…so I made my “escape”…
Friday night I knew I wanted to pick up some wine – both to have a bottle to drink in my room while relaxing, but also a few bottles to take home. I headed down to Main Street with no real plans other than picking up wine and finding something to eat. I ended up doing a wine tasting (met some fun ladies there for the weekend compliments of their boss!), walked around shopping at some of the stores, and landed at Galena Brewing Company for dinner.
Saturday morning I slept in and enjoyed meeting other guests at breakfast; the food is always amazing and typically so big that I just snack in the afternoon and have an early dinner. I took time to relax and read for several hours before heading downtown for to do a little shopping.
I had some time to kill before the Living Windows started at 4pm, so I decided to eat a late lunch/early dinner at Fried Green Tomatoes. For me, eating out alone feels awkward, especially at a nice restaurant. This time I made a conscious decision to enjoy a lovely meal by myself and I had my cell phone to read or browse the web if needed; it was not bad at all!
Off to view the Living Windows! They were amazing and fun; it was also a treat to watch other people, especially the kids reactions to the windows. They encourage folks to interact with those in the windows which is fun. I am so glad to be able to experience it!
I ran back to my car as the sun went down to grab my camera & tripod. All the luminaria were set out and volunteers were finishing lighting them. It was truly beautiful. These are just a few of my cell phone shots…they don’t really do it justice. I was also amazed to learn that it’s all volunteer driven as far as lighting of the luminaria.
That night I went back to my room and felt like a kid again; it’s so refreshing to just participate in an event and feel the joy of the experience. I stayed up late reading, snacking on homemade cookies from the Mansion, drinking some wine, and enjoyed a soak in the Jacuzzi tub. I had plenty of quiet time to do whatever I felt like doing in the moment and time to process everything on my mind and just be still.
For some it might seem impossible to do something like this. For me, it doesn’t necessarily need to be somewhere expensive or even away from home. I have a friend who does an annual “staycation” where she does similar things but stays home versus going away. I did a mini-staycation last year when my husband was out of town for 2 days, although for me, it was hard to relax at home as I was tempted to do everything else (laundry, cleaning, etc.).
What I know for sure is that for me, it was a fabulous experience and one I hope to start doing every year for at least a couple days. I was better able to deal with the curve balls life was throwing me at the time and I went home a much happier girl!
For 2018 I’m considering combining an alone trip to coincide with the next 24in48 weekend which falls in July! What could be more fabulous than combining two of my favorite things…reading and getting away from it all?!?!
Links to referenced places/websites:
- Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails
- Cloran Mansion: the B&B I stayed at in Galena, IL and where we got married
- Galena Visitor Information
- 24 in 48 website: https://24in48.com/