Late September, we got home from a seven week excursion that ended in spending time with my two adult children and their families.
Wait! Weren’t you afraid of COVID?
Most of the time when my husband and I travel we pull a fifth wheel camper. Meet Sadie Mae, our camper.
Most campgrounds have always been set up for better privacy and distancing than any hotel or motel. While camping, we try to cook most of our meals over an open campfire – as long as weather permits. Our ventures to restaurants are few and far between. I know who cleans the camper: Me. I know the health of the people in our camper: My husband and I. Ok, there are two dogs.
We followed COVID protocol with masks, social distancing, and good hygiene; after all, my husband is one of those whose immune system is compromised.
Why leave your home during the pandemic?
We usually leave on an extended trip for escape from the monotony, stress, and responsibility of everyday life. I have always liked variety: As a kid, and even college student, I changed the arrangement of the furniture in my space consistently.
During our extended trips, my husband and I become more in sync with each other.
We live in a big wide world that we love to explore and learn about. We also learn a great deal about ourselves and each other.
An extended trip is a chance to live more simply. We take only what we believe is necessary according to the destinations and stops we have planned. If we forget something, we either improvise or, if the forgotten items is essential, we check out the shopping in the local area.
An extended trip gives us a chance to test our boundaries, to stretch the limits we have for ourselves. For example, we have wanted to try zip-lining but not found the opportunity. This trip found us trying the zip-line tour at Legacy Mountain in Pigeon Forge. (Check out their website HERE, but I’ll write more about zip-lining another time.)
What lessons were learned?
#1. I’ve learned to let go.
2019 gave my husband numerous health challenges, and I found it hard to even go out to do the grocery shopping without worrying about him. His challenges?
- Learning to live on dialysis (first peritoneal dialysis and later, but still, hemodialysis) was, and is, an ongoing challenge.
- Being foggy brained, confused, and “out-of-it” and later, after finding a new endocrinologist, learning that he was taking way too much prescribed insulin. When the new doctor found the magic number, he felt much better.
- Developing Vertigo and trying to get his nephrologist to agree that it was caused by the prescription Lisinopril (a drug for lowering blood pressure for people on dialysis). Change in prescription by the cardiologist allowed the Vertigo to disappear.
- Feeling nauseous most of the time (a little over five months to be more exact). We thought it might be due to the peritoneal dialysis, but in pushing for answers, our primary care doctor suggested a test to see how well hubby’s gall bladder was functioning. Gall bladder removed. Nausea relieved.
- And it all culminated in a heart attack that found him having a quadruple bypass and cardiac rehab that lasted until February.
By the end of 2019, however, I had become more of a care-giver than a wife. I hovered. I compensated. I advocated for his health and conditions with each and every doctor. I rarely left the house in case he needed my help.
As his health improved at the beginning of 2020, he pushed for me to return to my previous activities, and then, COVID hit.
We both needed this trip to relearn our ability to function as a couple and function as individuals. Although we did a lot together, we also ventured out as individuals: I hiked and hubby went fishing. Check out the waterfall on one of the trails into the Smoky Mountains behind me.
It is vitally important for everyone in your life, including yourself, to maintain independence and individual space. Yes, sometimes it is necessary to be the nurturer, but then, it is equally important to re-discover the who that is you.
#2. A life of simplicity is a life of less stress.
Living with only what you actually need creates a lot less stress. There is not much you really can take with you in a camper. Our kitchen is small but functional. In addition to the inside space, we also have a small outdoor kitchen and then, of course, there is the picnic table and campfire ring present at most campsites.
Our living room does not allow for clutter. Everything must have a space.
And the dining area and television are along the same slide out.
This trip the thought of simplicity informed the souvenirs that we purchased. For example, instead of buying an alligator skull skeleton or a rubber alligator and wondering where to put it, we purchased an Alligator Farm sticker for the back of the camper.
Living simply, I realized that I own far too much stuff – some inherited, some personally purchased, some received as presents. I desperately need to sell or donate much of what hasn’t been used or seen the light of day since I moved five years ago. The less I have the more relaxed I become.
Many times the amount of stuff we pack into a home creates stress. Maybe it’s time to evaluate what you are holding on to and why. Maybe it’s time to simplify your living space and donate or sell possessions that you don’t want, don’t use, or keep moving from place to place “just because.”
#3. I’ve learned to live WITH the virus.
My health is important to me – my physical, my mental health, AND my emotional health. Self-quarantining and shut-downs due to COVID may keep my physical health safe, but since it looks like COVID-19 is here to stay, I need to think about how to live WITH the virus.
To me that means that I need to wear a mask when near people or in a group. I need to stay home when I feel ill. I need to remember to social distance from other groups.
That being said, I also need to remember that human beings are social beings. To work on my mental and emotional health is just as important as focusing on my physical health. If I am going to keep my mental and emotional health positive, I need to stop living in fear.
I’m NOT saying go out and be reckless. I’m NOT saying go and sit in crowded places. BUT, I’m also NOT saying stay home – seeing no one – going no where.
On our excursion, we didn’t just stay at the campground. We stopped at the Alligator Farm
and The Pirate Museum in St. Augustine, Florida.
The number of people into these places was limited, social distancing practiced, and masks required.
We need to accept that everyone gets ill once in a while and that we should stay home when we are sick. We need to stop complaining about the simple measures we should take out of responsibility in order to stop the spread of ANY disease.
On the flip side, we should be eating with our health in mind, getting enough sleep, and doing what we can to boost our immune systems.
What we need to do for the sake of our mental and emotional health is to start smiling so that the sparkle in our eyes conveys our happiness. We need to start speaking in kind words and kind tones. And for heaven’s sake, STOP cutting people down or calling them names on social media when they have a difference of opinion that what you live by. In other words, don’t be the scissors that severs their last frazzled nerve.
#4. I’ve learned (somewhat) to relax.
Being confined to the wall of my house or just my own yard can cause stress. With a potentially deadly-to-my-husband virus that I could bring home even if I only go out for necessities can cause stress. Lack of face-to-face connection with people can cause stress.
Instead, I walked the sandy beach of St. Augustine and listened to the waves and the seagulls. I hiked the Smoky Mountains around Gatlinburg. And on my journey found this sign.
I learned to be calm in the racing waters of life just like the cairns I found in the mountain rivers. (NOTE: While we were there, the forest rangers put out a notice to stop building cairns and moving the rocks in the rivers because it can do damage to the flow of the river and the homes of the wildlife.)
Since stress weakens our immune systems, it’s time we learn the best way to relax. If that means a long walk or a hike in the wilderness, take it. If that means yoga or meditation, do it. If that means vegging for a limited amount of time on a video game, movie, or music, enjoy it.
#5. Being active is helpful to my physical well-being.
The COVID-19 shut-downs and social distancing found me losing the motivation to work on my physical fitness. The closed gym facilities and the early spring rains took away my motivation for the active lifestyle I would like. Not to mention the elliptical machine we ordered in April didn’t arrive until late September and then wasn’t usable until mid-November.
I was over-joyed to walk the beach and hike the mountains.
and hike the mountains
to enjoy such views as this.
If 2020 and the limits of the protocol of COVID resulted in a more sedentary lifestyle for you, it’s time to get moving again. Start with a walk to your mailbox or a walk around the block. Start with parking your vehicle a little farther out from the store than you used to. Start with walking around the inner perimeter of the store where you are shopping and then begin your shopping trip.