Man coming back from vacation is the WORST. It almost makes me wonder if it’s worth going on vacation because going back to your daily routine is just too hard. But I think it’s a reminder of how important it is to take time off and, if anything, we need to take more time off. What constitutes ample time off is relative to who you ask or where you live. In the U.S., if we compare our time off to most of Europe, it pales. Their standard seems to be 4-6+ weeks off, while we get 2 weeks off in the U.S (if that). But, if we compare the U.S. and Japan, a country that doesn’t seem to have much of a work/life balance at all, 2 weeks might sound like a luxury. In any case, I live in the U.S. and I wish I lived in Europe! If, for no other reason (which of course there are many), for their generous vacation time.
I went to Michigan for a week with my boyfriend over the summer and it was my first week off of work in a year and a half. I realize that complaining about not having enough time off is a luxury these days when I should simply be grateful to have a job. And I am VERY grateful to have a job (for the moment at least). But I think we still need to uphold the importance of time off for one’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being, if one’s job is labor-intensive.
The week in Michigan was very much needed, and fun and relaxing and all of the things that a vacation should be. We went to Traverse City, Beaver Island, and Mackinac Island. We drove to Traverse City and took ferries to the two islands. It felt quite safe, as everyone wore masks and all of the places we went to provided hand sanitizer. Each place was different and we stopped at some unexpected places along the way, which were lovely surprises!
The setting of Traverse City is beautiful, on a bay of Lake Michigan. It’s a great place if you like water activities – sailing, kayaking, etc., and maybe an even better place if you like wine! There are several vineyards and wineries where you can sample the fruits of the land. We also stumbled upon a cider place called Sutton Bay Ciders that has an incredible view of the bay! Back on track, we went to a winery called Mawby, which specializes in sparkling wine and is nestled in a rolling vineyard. Next stop was Hop Lot, a brewery in a forest-like setting. The beer and pretzel we got were delicious. We explored Leland, a small historic fishing town, and got some amazing smoked whitefish at Carlson’s Fishery.
Back in Traverse City, we grabbed dinner at The Little Fleet, which is a parking lot full of food trucks and a bar that serves very tasty cocktails. The food trucks offer a variety of good eats and it was a fun spot to people watch. There were also lots of dogs all getting up close and personal to get to know each other. We checked out Grand Traverse Commons, which is an old mental hospital that has been converted into shops, restaurants, and apartments. Trattoria Stella was a real treat – Italian fine dining in a wine cellar in the basement of the former mental hospital, with a high quality menu and excellent service.
If you like biking, kayaking, and beer, Kayak, Bike, & Brew is the activity for you! It’s a four hour tour to four breweries and you get to each one by bike and kayak. You get some exercise, try some beers, and meet people on the tour. It’s a fun time!
We stayed at a goat farm Air B&B one night just outside of Traverse City, which was my favorite place that we stayed at. It’s no secret to those who know me that I LOVE goats and that I dream of having a little goat farm of my own someday. So it was really cool to get to spend some time with the goats and run around in the pasture with them. I even got up at the crack of dawn in the morning to watch the milking! The guest suite in the farmhouse was modern, minimal, and clearly Scandinavian-inspired. It was perfect – the kind of place I’d like to call home in my future. The farm also had a couple cows, chickens, and vegetables. Oh, and we were greeted by amazing goat cheese, crackers and jam.
Beaver Island was an experience. It was quite remote, which we knew before going, but I think it was even more remote than we had anticipated. There are a few main roads that are paved and lit, but most of the island is made up of a forest with dirt roads throughout that are not lit at all. Driving on these dirt roads at night felt like we were driving towards our death in a scary movie. We had a very interesting and hospitable Air B&B host who gave us a tour of the island and told us about the island’s history, including its spiritual nature. He even made us breakfast one morning! I don’t know if I would have taken notice of the island’s spiritual presence had he not told us about it, but there clearly seems to be an energy of sorts there. I am not a spiritual person so I can’t say much about it, but there was a special feeling on the island. Our host owns a meadow, Tara’s Meadow, which, after discovering it, is what drew him to stay on the island after visiting out of curiosity for its history and spiritual nature.
The island’s shores are very pretty and serene. The water is crystal clear! The beaches are rocky though. There was plenty of social distancing on the beaches – two to five other people besides us at most. Having a beautiful beach to ourselves was amazing. We made our way from one beach to another around the island’s perimeter, and each one was more beautiful than the last. We went on a couple hikes, and visited Protar’s Home and tomb. Feodor Protar was an Estonian immigrant who became a healer on the island and is highly revered there even now long after his death. The temperature was a little chilly, despite it being the first week of August, but our Air B&B host told us that it was unusual for it to be on the chillier side at that time of year. So unfortunately the water was cold, but the Beaver Island locals didn’t seem bothered by it. We watched the most beautiful sunset at Donegal Bay, and it was just so colorful and picturesque.
The ferry ride back to the mainland is a little over two hours, but it’s a nice and comfortable ferry. Charlevoix is home base for the ferry, which is a cute town on the harbor, if a bit touristy.
The charms of Mackinac Island stand the test of time. I had been there once before as a kid with my family, and it was mostly as I remembered it. If you haven’t been, or don’t know about it, there are no motorized vehicles on the island. So you have to get around on foot, bike, or horse & carriage! There is something refreshing and endearing about seeing everyone ride around on bicycles and ‘parking’ them to go into shops. I will say that seeing the horses truck along with a carriage full of people or luggage made me sad, but hopefully they are strong enough to handle it. We rented bikes and rode all the way around the island (which is 8 miles), as well as on smaller trails throughout the island. One thing I noticed this time that I hadn’t noticed when I was there the first time was the variety of the island’s landscape and vegetation. I didn’t realize how wooded and hilly it is! It’s beautiful. I wish we would have had more time to explore the island and take some hikes because the trails looked really dreamy. We visited a couple historic forts and Arch Rock.
We stayed at a bed & breakfast that apparently is quite haunted. My boyfriend likes scary movies and stories, so we bought a book about the hauntings of Mackinac Island. It turns out that our B&B is one of the most haunted on the island! Just my luck…I don’t like spooky stories and I couldn’t sleep. We played a really fun and beautiful game of mini golf right on the water at sunset with glow in the dark golf balls. The island was crowded with tourists, but not as much as it normally is. The crowds can be unpleasant, so I’m glad that it wasn’t to full capacity.
On our last day we stopped at Sleeping Bear Dunes as we were leaving northern Michigan. It was a rainy day, but we still hiked up to Pyramid Point through a beautiful forest full of birch trees (my favorite). Seeing them in all of their glory made me so happy. The rain and the fog made it all the more magical. The view of the lake from Pyramid Point is also quite stunning, with the vastness of Lake Michigan sprawling out before you. We were really lucky with the weather all week and the last day of the trip was our only rainy day.
Please remind yourself of how important it is to take time off, and unplug and recharge and adventure! I know that I’ll need to continue to remind myself of this.