A Needed Adventure

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Where are we going on this adventure?

Having spent the past few months burning the inextinguishable candle at both ends, a disconnect from responsibility was in high demand and well-timed.

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We recently spent five days in a beautiful 1930s CCC-constructed cabin in Oconee State Park, South Carolina. The cabin was cabin-dream perfection—wide heart-pine floors, a smoke stained stone fireplace, a screened-in porch overlooking a lake, and even a loft room for the kids to climb up to as we prayed they wouldn’t shove one another off the wall ladder.

I smiled at  my wife immediately upon arrival, reading her  thoughts: this was way better than we expected. We took a chance on booking this place--a Black Friday special the South Carolina state parks were offering that seemed too good to be true, so we weren’t really sure what to expect. As soon as I walked in, I saw all the memories we wanted to make with our kids—s'mores by the fire pit, fishing in the lake, and games around the large dining room table.

Five minutes into unpacking the car, future nostalgia was dragged back into chaotic presence  by the screams of our two year old, who had already fallen off the loft ladder, followed by complaints from our nine year old that he wasn’t going to sleep alone in an unfamiliar place, followed by the aforementioned two year old pointing above the fireplace and asking where the TV was and the Chickfila?

Kelly and I heaved deep sighs and kept unpacking, trying to tune out the combined whining and surliness of our kids who were exhausted from five hours of fighting over the ipad in the car.

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It’s taken me longer than I care to admit, but I have finally learned to adjust my expectations to reality when it comes to adventures, especially family adventures. For me, getting OUT is about the closest thing to relaxation and rejuvenation that I have. I don’t much care where or when, but the excitement of being in a new place—exploring new paths, trying new things—this is what stimulates and inspires me almost more than anything. It's the inspiration from exploration that gets me. There’s almost nothing greater than driving twisting mountain backroads, stopping at dilapidated buildings covered in kudzu, or pulling over to take a picture as I see the sun hit a stream like something straight out of heaven. However, this is NOT the case for Kelly, who suffers from almost debilitating motion sickness, which my son struggles with some too.

So this trip we took a few of those roads—I drove 15 mph and pulled over almost constantly to let annoyed drivers pass. But we also went to more toyshops than I ever would, because that’s what my kids wanted to do. We explored fascinating places like Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel, Isaqueena Falls, and the culinary delights of the Mountain Rest Café ,where you order your burger based net weight. We visited old favorites in Clayton, Ga. and Highlands, N.C.

There were lots of meltdowns, myself included, as we dealt with the inevitable frustrations that come along with being out of your comfort zone for an extended period of time with your kids. But what I’ve learned after all these trips is to choose to remember the laughs, the joy of Anson reeling in a trout, the song Rebekah would not stop singing every time we went hiking (we’re going on a bear hunt…), the few hours I had alone each night by the fire with a cigar and a drink, the time that Kelly and I had to really talk on the six-hour drive home (yes, six, not five. Thanks GPS), and the absolute satisfaction that comes from embracing the adventure—forcing the growth that comes when you step outside the norm—and the hope that one day my kids learn to rest in it as much as I do.

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