Hitting The Reset Button
I love my work. I hope it’s not a surprise to hear that, but before jumping into a blog about the value of stepping away from the day to day grind of working both on and in my business, I wanted to make sure that was clear. I get to wake up every day and do what I’m good at and genuinely enjoy doing.
That said — it’s still work. A lot of work. Even when I’m not contributing to client projects, my mind is constantly ‘on’, and running a mile a minute thinking about growth, marketing, finances, personal development and a thousand other things. Over time, these thoughts and responsibilities start to build up, jumble together, and essentially get clogged up inside my own brain. The result is a gradually decreasing level of efficiency in the work. So, just like any other business strategy, I find regular breaks to be critical to staying sharp and providing my clients with the best (I am by no means trying to imply that I’m unique in this way — there are billions of studies that expound the benefits of vacations for office productivity).
So, for the most recent “Reset” vacation, my wife and I decided to completely (well, almost completely) unplug from the world, and take an RV trip through Northern Michigan. For anyone who hasn’t been “up north”, you may be shocked to find the vast differences in landscape, lifestyle, and “connectedness” that can be experienced without ever leaving the mitten state. In fact, one of the phrases that we repeated most often over the past week was “Can you believe that we’re still in Michigan?”. Rolling hills, waterfalls, 200 ft. cliffs, and lakes so big you’d swear they were oceans are just a few of the amazing scenes we rarely get to enjoy while waiting in line at Starbucks, or staring at an Excel spreadsheet for hours on end.
Thanks to our friends at American RV, we got to experience everything that Northern Michigan has to offer from a front row seat — taking scenic back roads between landmarks and staying in a few of our state’s hundreds of amazing state parks. Before boring you with my online vacation slides (we all love looking at other peoples’ vacation slides… right?), here’s a quick breakdown of our itinerary:
Day 1 Mackinaw City
We’ve been to Mackinaw City before, but it seriously never gets old. Between the breathtaking views of the Mackinac Bridge, and the opportunity to guiltlessly eat pounds of fudge, it’s hard to think of any reason NOT to visit this old town.
Day 2 Mackinac Island
Even better the city, Mackinac Island is one of the best places in Michigan to visit if you’re looking for simple joy. Sure, you can still get your Starbucks and check your Facebook feed, but the island is intentionally “old timey” — preserved architecture, historic trails & landmarks, and zero cars (Yeah — if you didn’t know already, Mackinac Island does not allow motor vehicles. You walk, ride bikes, or take a horse drawn carriage to wherever you need to go). Also, there’s even more fudge available on the island.
Day 3 Munising, MI — Pictured Rocks
At the very top of Michigan (well, ALMOST the very top), Munising offers some of the best scenic landscapes I’ve ever seen. Lake Superior is basically a sea, and is juxtaposed with amazing colorful 200 foot cliffs (called Pictured Rocks), and dense forests. This is the epitome of “going up north”.
Day 4 More Munising and Muskallonge Lake
Scattered in and around Munising are some amazing waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. We spent the day driving through neighborhoods and hiking down trails to find Michigan’s collection of waterfalls.
Day 5 Tahquamenon Falls
Speaking of waterfalls — this is the big one! If you haven’t been to Tahquamenon Falls, this park is seriously worth the drive up north all on its own. We spent the morning trudging through the rain to see the falls, then had a great lunch at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery.
Day 6 Traverse City & Sleeping Bear Dunes
Making our way back to the Lower Penninsula, we had a great night in Traverse City. We parked the RV at the Traverse City State Park, and road the Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART) into the city. The beach, bars, antique stores, and dinner at the Blue Tractor never disappoint!
The next morning, after a brief stop for a glass of wine and plate of cheese at Bonobo Winery on the Leelanau Penninsula, we headed over to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Pictures and words simply can’t do justice to the scale and impressiveness of these monster dunes. You seriously have to see them in person to understand!
Day 7 Manistee & Family
The last day before trekking home was spent in Manistee, Michigan, where we met up with my family and Autumn’s Grandma for some dinner and ice cream. One of our favorite places to eat is Big Al’s (the Big Al Special with Pizza Sauce is so good!). And of course we couldn’t leave without hitting up House of Flavors for dessert.
What about the RV?
We could very well have just driven our car for the trip, but we decided to take an RV for our vacation for a few reasons:
1. We did not want to stay in hotels. This trip was about Michigan’s outdoors, and it seemed counterintuitive to retreat back to a hotel each night.
2. Tent camping is fun… but also a pain in the neck. I love backwoods camping, but this wasn’t a hiking trip. Even though we wanted to be closER to nature, we still wanted a bit of comfort to avoid burning out after a couple days. 7 nights is a long time to sleep on the ground!
3. We moved a lot. The longest we stayed in one place was 2 nights in Mackinaw City — the rest of our stops were only for a single night. We figured an RV would be the most efficient way to set up and tear down a camp quickly and easily every time we had to move to a new campground.
4. It just seemed convenient. I won’t lie, we ended up watching some DVDs on rainy evenings. Having an RV with a kitchen, bathroom, TV, queen sized bed, and plenty of room to stay out of each others’ way was a huge blessing. Like I mentioned before, our goal on this trip wasn’t necessarily to “rough it,” so we didn’t feel guilty about enjoying some of the luxuries that a motorhome seemed to offer.
Would we do it again?
Absolutely! But we’d do it differently, for sure. Everything we were looking forward to in using the RV was right on — it was convenient, comfortable, and efficient to move. But in changing locations every single night, we definitely burned ourselves out. After about 4 days, we were wishing that we had 1 or 2 “relaxing” days (Which I realize is a funny thing to say about a vacation). By the time we got to our campground after a day of sightseeing, we were too exhausted to really enjoy the campground. And by the time we woke up in the morning, it was time to move on to our next scheduled stop! So even though we enjoyed every bit of it, we almost overused the convenience of the RV. Because it was so easy to move, we figured we’d just stay on the go. Next time, we’ll set up camp for more than a couple days in a single spot before moving along.
We will also consider towing a car. I don’t have a lot of experience driving giant vehicles, so the idea of captaining a 25′ RV was daunting enough without having to worry about pulling a car behind it. But in retrospect, having a smaller, more agile vehicle to use for day trips and sightseeing would have relieved some stress. The RV was super easy to drive — don’t get me wrong — but that doesn’t change the fact that it is humungous. We found ourselves limited from certain back roads, and parking in cities because of the vehicle. Also, it meant we had to “tear down” camp even if we just needed to run to corner store (or fudge shop) that wasn’t bike-able.
All in all, it was EXACTLY the refreshing trip I needed to get back to work ready to run at full speed again! We enjoyed some amazing views, great food, and of course great company. It was a great reminder of just how important balance is in our lives. Not work/life balance, but balance between the microscopic sliver of the world we live in every day, and the enormous world that is sometimes literally just a short drive away!