I shared in my last post that our family goes to Santa Barbara for my husband’s work trips about once a year. We use the time to visit family and friends, but the main purpose is work, which means a lot of things are out of our control. We’ve had to troubleshoot quite a lot over the years, so let me share some of the unique challenges we’ve had and how I’ve reframe how I think about work travel generally.
My family makes trips to Santa Barbara for work and to see friends and family once or twice a year. My husband still works remote for the university and when we first moved to Modesto we were optimistic that our visits would be well-timed, quick, and fun. But we are well into the third calendar year of the pandemic and none of the trips have been very well-timed or convenient, but there have been lots of moments for fun.
I’m excited to document what it’s like to travel and do an extended stay with a young family. This is a unique type of travel because it’s not a vacation! These trips are typically open-ended, meaning we don’t know when we can return home and have to extend the stay one day at a time to fit the needs of Nick’s work. Our last two trips were 8 and 11 days long, but were projected to be 5 and 7 days long, respectively.
My partner puts in much longer hours on these trips, around 10 hours, but it’s not out of the question for him to do a 12 hour day. When working from home he works a typical 8-5. His trips might loom on the horizon for months, but we never know the precise dates until a week or so before, which makes planning really hard. (He’s had to take emergency trips solo, too, as it’s just the nature of his job.) It’s also important to remember that usually I am not solo-parenting at home, but it feels that way on the trip. We live out of a hotel room, have one car, sometimes have to keep up with school, and have had very limited access to services during the pandemic (no housekeeping and no room service).
Tips for doing extended stays with a family:
1. Buy your food from the grocery store, and only eat out when you must or when it’s been planned.
It’s expensive and emotionally and physically taxing to eat every meal out, particularly with little kids who don’t want to wait or sit still, and those with food allergies. Generally, I don’t think eating out at restaurants with my kids is fun. There, I said it. Now you know I’m not a cool mom.
We are back in Santa Barbara for Nick’s work trip. It’s been hectic commuting for work and back up to Solvang where my in-laws live. They’re kindly putting us up and hanging out with Rory all day while Nick works and I play. I hitch a ride to town and then see where the wind takes me. Literally. It’s super windy here and I feel like I’m getting pushed around!
Usually I try to plan what I’m going to do while in town–run errands, see friends for lunch, take walks at the beach or on campus, write, etc. Sometimes I over plan and end up feeling like I’m pressed for time (or stuffed because I scheduled two lunches on the same day by accident). I approached this trip a little differently. I decided that it was really important for me to have alone time. I wanted to work on the novel I’m trying to finish, have time for blogging, and squeeze in some good old fashioned journaling. I brought some novels, which I have yet to crack.
It’s been great not feeling rushed, but I miss seeing ALL of my friends! I know it’s not possible to see everyone over the course of a few days unless you can get a firm commitment ahead of time. I’ve become more acutely aware how little flexibility most of my friends have in their daily schedules, and I’m trying to honor that by not putting pressure on anyone. I’m left with a lot of free time, and honestly, I am trying to fill it with writing. But so much of writing is also spent avoiding writing…
I’m working on reframing these unscheduled hours as serendipity space. It’s a concept I heard about on the Edit Your Life podcast. It’s the idea that if you over-schedule yourself, you miss out on serendipitous opportunities, those little happy accidents that only happen by chance and can’t be planned. One example of that on this particular trip occurred when I sent a random email to my friend Jamie who also moved away from Santa Barbara not long after we did. Our partners still work for the university remotely, and we both have family in the surrounding areas. Over the course of our exchanges I mentioned we’d be in town in early February, and then out of nowhere she turned out to be heading here for a memorial service. We agreed to play it by ear, and if it worked out that we could meet up, we would.
Jamie and I were able to meet for coffee yesterday, and catching up after not seeing her for two years felt great. In a lot of ways we follow along with each other’s lives in our new towns and new homes, but there’s so much we don’t say on social media and it was nice to talk about those things. We both tend to be fairly private people, but we know which topics we reserve for face to face (or at the very least, in the privacy of a text or email) that only a long friendship can inform. If I had filled my calendar with appointments and plans, I never would have been able to say yes to meeting with Jamie.
Serendipity space is the kind of practical magic anyone can create if you’re willing to leave blank space on the calendar.
Image by Jess Watters via Stock Snap.
We are half way through November! I wanted to check in with how I’m doing on the fall I designed. Have you tried this out yet? I’ve written about it multiple times (here and here), but it’s a subject that I still really love. It’s a tip I learned from the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin. I get such satisfaction from making a plan and sticking to it.
1. Enjoy the season by going to an apple farm or pumpkin patch with my family.
We took Rory to a small apple farm in one of the next towns over. It was quiet and had a little playground, and was a quick and easy outing. We could have stopped there, but we upped our game and went to Apple Hill in Placerville, CA this weekend!
It is something I grew up doing and I LOVE IT. It allows me to go wild and buy tons of apples and apple products.
If you want to look at actually stunning Apple Hill photos (and not my quick, unskilled and unedited ones), check out this post about Apple Pantry Farm from Farm Tots and peruse the apple hill tag for other great posts.
I’m back with my fall bucket list! I really love this concept I heard on the Happier podcast (episode 67), and I had success with it this summer so I thought I’d do it again for fall. Having been born and raised in California, I’m not sure I’ve experienced a true autumn, but I love the concept of warm drinks, crunching leaves, and cozy nights.
I never thought it would be time to say goodbye. Summers here are often long and crop up in place of spring and extend well through fall. But this year we seem to be having defined seasons. I wrote about spring in my spring capsule wardrobe post—it was mild and rainy, sunny and never hot. And then a switch was flipped and we had so many days of 100+ degree weather in a row. When I look at the forecast I don’t see anymore 90 degree days on the horizon. I feel like I need to mourn the season a bit, because I finally got used to summer.
I’ve been at a loss about what to write lately. There’s a lot going on with me, with friends, with family. It’s hard to process everything, and maybe that’s the problem—I can only process it bit by bit.
I was listening to the new Lana Del Rey album and working on a project when I suddenly realized the song I most wanted to hear was When You Say Nothing At All by Alison Krauss. The music couldn’t be more different, but it’s a good analogy to talk about knowing what you want and knowing how to get it. For me it was as simple as acknowledging my feeling and switching a song on iTunes, but for everyone it will likely be a different process.
Last week we took a family trip to Santa Barbara. Nick had to do some work at his office, and we wanted a getaway and a chance to catch up with family and friends. We ate well, laughed a lot, and spent quality time with loved ones. In short, it was awesome. I want to bottle up the feeling of vacation and bring it home with me, which is why I’ve been mulling over the idea of creating a bucket list of summer activities.
Part of me hates the idea of committing to yet another list. I’ve been listening to the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft for a bit, and Gretchen’s idea of designing your summer really spoke to me. You can listen to her talk about it here and here. Rather than create a list of things I have to do, I’m making a plan to do some things I can’t wait to do.
The wait is finally over. I can now share that we are finally in possession of our new house! After moving 375 miles, some heartache, a lot of waiting and patience, and just a bit of compromise, we landed our dream home.