I’m on Highway One South, on Monterey County’s winding, coast-dangling right lane at 11p.m. at night, my two-month old daughter screaming from her dark, back seat confinement, and I’m finally eating a cold, grocery-store deli sandwich, hours past hunger. That was my weekend getaway rock bottom. BBE (Before Baby Era), it was pretty straight-forward to hop in the car for an overnighter, but this traveling-with-newborn business required a whole new level of preparedness and it was time to get my act together. You will be relieved to know that I am now a professional adventurer, organized but not annoyingly so.
The following tricks have allowed me to become more spontaneous and joyful about hitting the road and to wring the pleasure from every hour. After 33 getaways in 6 months, many alone with an infant, I am proud to say that almost nothing stops me from exploring and adventuring these days.
Schedule Smart: Leave on Friday evening (afternoon, if you can ditch work early and avoid traffic), so you have a full, luscious Saturday to enjoy. Brunch is a getaway requirement. Get back early-ish on Sunday. Yes, you want to drain the cup dry on a getaway but this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you want to be the kind of person that always has a new adventure under their belt, you can’t burn out. Getting home Sunday afternoon gives you time to unpack and get off island time before Monday morning.
Passion Project: What do you like to do? Plan around that. Sounds basic but many people plan a getaway around vague interest in a destination. I find it is a much deeper pleasure to focus on something you enjoy and then you have a reason to keep exploring that passion. It could be as simple as eating barbecue. It could be seeing plays, collecting porcelain dolls, kayaking, foraging wild edibles. I love to hike, and there is nowhere in California that doesn’t have an intriguing path to follow. It gives the trip an arc and keeps me from wasting time doing things I don’t love (sorry, but if I have to spend an afternoon antiquing, I’d rather be home binge-watching The Sopranos) just because that’s what’s on Main Street. It can also be a bonding agent with your travel partner or a ways to claim some alone time (Mommy needs her crystal-browsing time, kids, you go ahead to the ice cream shop).
Style Section: What’s your style? Hip? Quaint? Rugged? Luxurious? I always find my lodgings first and let the weekend spill out from there. Most of us search online for hotels and other travel details and knowing your keywords is a great shortcut to finding your people. If you aren’t sure, look at the website for a hotel that you never wanted to leave, that made you feel like you were living the life you were actually born to live. Check out their adjectives and them steal them for your Google search.
Encapsulate: Build yourself a capsule ‘wardrobe’ for travel. Since I love to hike, I keep my hiking boots, wool socks, fanny pack (don’t judge), water bottle and hat, together in my closet. I always have a swimsuit in my weekend bag because you should never let a pool go unplunged, I have an outfit that is great for general tooling around and a versatile dress for evenings. I don’t necessarily keep all these things in a rucksack at the foot of my bed, but I have them in mind so that when it is time to get ready, I don’t have to take a day off of work to plan a two-day jaunt. You could have a go-list in your bag so you just have to check things off. This tip is about removing the impediment to fun in your mind called ‘packing is a hassle’.
The Journey Is The Destination: Just like everything that happens on your mat is yoga, the minute you leave your front door, you are on your trip. Especially on a short trip, maximize the commute. I always pick one little spot in the way that I am excited about- a cool coffee shop for a road beverage, a fabulous bookstore for poolside entertainment or a special overlook to catch the Friday sunset. Select a new album to set the tone or get an audio book, pack some chocolate, anything to make drivetime vacationtime.
Ask Questions: Probably obvious but super important. When you meet people with whom you connect or are in a spot with which you feel an affinity, ask them where to have dinner or where the best swimming hole is or what museum exhibits are thrilling them. The world is full of glorious and life-altering experiences, it’s really more about tuning in to what excites you.
Marissa Guggiana is a fifth-generation native of Sonoma County and the celebrated author of 33 Getaways from San Francisco That You Must Not Miss. Growing up in Northern California has nurtured her passion for exploring her surroundings and she is thrilled to share some of her favorite discoveries with us.