Unplugged

There’s a difference between being tired and being relaxed. Learning the difference and actually putting it into practice will make or break a vacation or a day off. I was reminded of that yesterday while visiting with one of my cousins at a long-overdue family reunion. We were talking about our favorite camping locations when she said, “When we first started camping, I was always so tired, and then I realized, oh, this isn’t tired, this is relaxed.”

Oh yeah.

Later in the afternoon my husband and I loaded up our 15-foot 1967 vintage Norwin travel trailer and headed west on I-80 to one of our favorite campgrounds. The COVID lockdown had its challenges, but for us, it gave us permission to unplug. Once we discovered the value of unplugging on a regular basis, we didn’t want to go back to the old 7-day-a-week grind. We found this pull-behind camper on the Facebook marketplace and brought him home. His name is Louie. We know that because it is painted on the back end.

We are new “camper” people. My husband is an outdoorsman from the word go, but it’s taken me time to adapt. (Like seventeen years.) Tent camping was, well, how should I put it? Not fun. It rained almost every time we went somewhere. Even with an air mattress, my hips hurt in the mornings. I froze at night but would wake up early smothering for the lack of airflow until we got the windows unzipped. We live in the Midwest with summer humidity. That same humidity infiltrated every article of clothing before we ever got to put it on. All said, tent camping was an epic failure for me.

We graduated to a 1980s popup camper. It was a cheap purchase from a colleague who was trying to unload it. We used it twice and understood why she wanted it gone. Inefficient, crowded, and needed work. Lots of work. Granted, it kept the rain off and we were up off the ground, but we had to sleep on these cheap mattresses that literally hung out the ends of the camper. The boards supporting the mattresses were as hard as the ground. And it took for-EVER to set the thing up. We used it twice before I sold it for twice the money in a garage sale.

And then came Louie. Louie changed my camping fate. He restored hope. It is adorable. The previous owner restored it to 1967 with a 1950s flair. It is bright white with turquoise accents. We built in a bed that requires no setup. It is comfortable. We have a 1950s retro, look-alike dorm-sized refrigerator with a freezer. The microwave is built-in and it works. There’s a window air conditioner to prevent my clothes from soaking up humidity and a heater if we camp late into the season. The hard shell protects us from the weather, and it is electrically savvy with plenty of outlets and USB connections to keep all of our devices charged. After all, where is the motivation to go on a long hike if you don’t have a watch counting your steps and measuring your activity for the day?

Louie is fifteen feet long and easily pulls along behind our SUV. We pull into the campground and park next to these massive, high-tech RVs with satellite hookups, running water, and 60” television screens. People peek out their fancy blinds and stare at us, wondering if we are homeless looking for a place to park for a night. Believe me, we’ve seen them peering out at us. It is rare anyone talks to us for the first day or so, and by day three we are packed up and headed home. We have yet to make friends at a campground. I think people are afraid of us.

And we love it. Set up takes twenty minutes. Well, it takes my husband about that long to get it leveled and secured. It takes me less time. All I have to do is plug in the electrical cord and if I feel so inclined, I clip the sun awning on the side and wait for him to secure the tent stakes that hold it up. That’s it. We are ready to relax; to camp; to kick back.

We camp from Sunday evenings until Wednesdays because my husband is a pastor who needs to be at church every Sunday morning. Pre-lockdown, we worked all seven days of the week. Between my work and his Sundays, we never had a day off together. Ever. Louie gave us a chance to rethink our weekends and we gave ourselves permission to be creative. I own my own business. Three businesses, to be exact. Two of the three are mobile-equipped. I can take my work wherever I go, and it is rare I work 8-hour days. The third business is a retail establishment and I have excellent folks at home who keep that running even if I’m not there. But if for whatever reason, none of us could open the store, I have no qualms about putting a sign in the window that says “gone fishing” – literally.

Our delayed weekends have become a necessary reset. Without them we find ourselves getting more than a little antsy. This weekend was a long time in coming because we had to postpone two different times for two different reasons outside of our control. Our goal is to take Louis somewhere every other week. And we try to stay within an hour from our house – another lesson we learned. We prefer a shorter drive in exchange for more downtime upon arrival. And the pack-up and head home is much more enjoyable when we’re close as well.

By the time we arrived at the campsite yesterday we were both overdue for our regular dose of R and R. Not to mention the fact that the season is getting short, and we want to take advantage of as many more trips as possible before the weather changes. The dog bounded out of the car and explored as my husband and I started into our twenty-minute setup. My family reunion had dug into our normal departure time, but we were still plugged in and leveled before dark. We were just thankful to have Louie all to ourselves for the next few days.

And then came Monday morning. One of my accounts for work needed attention. I knew in advance that was going to be the case and was prepared. What I didn’t realize, however, is that this campground has no connectivity. Like. None. No internet. No cell service. Nothing. I couldn’t call anyone or get online. That meant a trip to town.

I chalked it up to a lack of research and took my laptop into town. Figuring I would only be there an hour, two at the most, I didn’t eat breakfast. Four hours later I returned starving, hot (because I’d been working in my car on the computer and on the phone most of that time), and a little off kilter. So much for the R & R I’d hoped for. The same, urgency I’d left behind ended up following me. And I fell for it. It is not unusual for me to work while I’m camping. What was unusual was that I was not sitting in my lawn chair or at a picnic table while I worked!

While I was gone, my husband fished, hiked, and napped. So did my dog. When I got back, they were ready to rest. I was ready to go hike the trails and catch a glimpse of the area. We did go on a hike a little while later, but I missed the one around the lake because they did that one without me.

After supper, I washed the dishes and wished I could check the weather online. I wondered what the best availability for a tee time at the golf course might be for next week but couldn’t look it up. My hubby went back to the lake for a round of evening fishing and I was ready to catch up on social media and maybe skim the emails I’d ignored while I was in town.

We sat in front of the fire after dark and I ruminated over what time we would need to leave on Wednesday to get me back home before my late afternoon appointment. When I didn’t fall asleep right away that night, I couldn’t play a game on my phone. I hadn’t even brought a book along because I’d planned to use my free time writing, but I am in edit mode on my big project and creative mode on three others. I need the internet to complete all of those tasks. I was tired, but I couldn’t sleep.

I was not relaxed.

I was unplugged. Literally. And I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Louie provided the perfect home away from home in a beautiful setting. This is a beautiful campground. And I almost missed it because I was forced to unplug.

That night we tipped our fancy zero-gravity lawn chairs all the way back and gazed upon the heavens. We could see layers upon layers of the Milky Way right overhead. The vastness of the universe offered a feast for my eyes, and I almost missed it. The fawns that were born last spring are all grown up but still sport white spots on their backs, and I almost missed them. The hoot owls and the hawks were exercising their calls, and I almost missed them.

Because I couldn’t unplug.

I am reminded of a story by Theologian, Rob Bell. It comes toward the end of his “Everything is Spiritual” lecture. He is teaching from Genesis where God is calling Moses to come up the mountain and stay awhile. The Hebrew word used in the ancient language literally means to come here and stay. Rob says the Jewish rabbis interpret that verb literally which means God not only wanted Moses to climb up the mountain, but he wanted him to climb up there and then STAY with HIM, the Great I AM.

Rob goes on to describe how God knew that even while Moses was climbing up the mountain, he was already planning how he was going to get back down. While he was going up, he was already expending energy on the trip home. And God’s whole point was to spend time with Moses while he was on the mountain. The ultimate goal of the whole trip up the mountain was to – wait for it – spend time together. Quality time.

I have a plaque on my wall with the scripture that reads, “Be Still and Know that I Am.”

Maybe I should relocate it to my camper. I’ve spent so much time planning, strategizing, wondering, and ruminating, that I almost missed our time together.

            I thought I was without connectivity because I couldn’t plug into the world wide web.

            What I’ve come to realize is that the only connection I need is with the One who calls me to Be Still and Know.

            How easy it is to miss that call.

            Louie offers me a place of solace where I can unplug. I arrive tired and over-stimulated from all the demands upon my time. But I left rested.

            There is a difference. And learning to differentiate between being tired and being relaxed is crucial.  

Published by Judith Kay Writes

Judith Kay has spent her life observing, listening, questioning, accepting, challenging, and wrestling with life’s toughest questions. Her writings reveal the answers, enmeshed in the tangled, sometimes messy analogies from everyday living. Judith Kay’s rural Iowa upbringing planted deep roots in core family values, a solid work ethic, and a humble spirit. These traits are personified in characters with deep convictions and heartfelt struggles. No stranger herself to disappointment, struggles, and grief, JK presents characters that wield their way into your heart, inviting you to seek your own answers along their journeys! Moving fluently between works of fiction and non-fiction, life-changing implications draw you into Judith Kay’s stories—sometimes challenging, other times affirming. Her quick wit and keen sense of authenticity keep you engaged. Her characters stay with you long after the story has ended. Her stories speak into your own life and resurface in your personal experiences.

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