As the days grow shorter, and the weather turns colder, we start winding down in anticipation of the dark, dreary winter months ahead – at the same time we start revving up in preparation for the holiday hustle and bustle to come.

Although I’m busier than ever right now, I’m enjoying the “winding down” feeling, reflecting on some of the events and activities I’ve been taking part in lately. Especially on my mind are the three trips I took between late August and mid-September – three very different types of trips, with different purposes, different  schedules, and different people. But with elements in common that I didn’t even realize until the traveling was over and I was looking at it in hindsight.

One of the trips was spent with family, one with friends, and one with people I haven’t known very long, or whom I just met while I was there.

One of the trips was a whirlwind of activity, one was totally relaxing and unstructured, and one was a combination of the two.

And one was in a place where I spent several years of my life, one was in a country I’ve been to once before, and one was in a totally new environment.

Yet all of the trips had to do with reconnecting.  And that’s what I enjoyed most.

The first trip was a Caribbean Cruise – the first cruise my husband and I have ever taken. He’s the youngest of three brothers, and the oldest one turned 60 in August. Since the brothers each live in different states and rarely see each other at the same time, we decided that a cruise would be a great way to celebrate my brother-in-law’s milestone birthday, as well as get some family and couple time together. There were activities and events going on all day and all night long during the four days of the cruise, and we took part in some of them. But we also spent time just relaxing by the pool, soaking up the sunshine and the pleasure of each other’s company.

Not long after the cruise was my trip to Uganda. It was a productive and fulfilling trip, and we were going pretty much non-stop as we traveled to different cities and villages, speaking, coaching, and meeting with people who will be helping with or benefiting from the projects and programs we’re implementing there. I had a chance to see again many of the people I met during my first trip to Uganda last October, and I enjoyed meeting the many new people I will now look forward to seeing again, whenever my next trip there will be.

The final trip was one in which I met up with three girlfriends whom I last saw three years ago, and had not seen for about ten years before that. We all used to live in Roanoke, Virginia, but we live in four different states now. When we got together three years ago, we decided to make it an annual event, but it was another three years before we managed to get together again.

Originally, that trip was supposed to be a few weeks after I returned from Uganda. But since my Uganda trip got pushed back later than we had anticipated, it ended up that I returned from Uganda on a Monday afternoon, and left at 6:30 Wednesday morning to meet up with my friends from Roanoke.

“If last time in Uganda is any indication,” I emailed to them before I left, “I’m going to need a nap every afternoon. But I’ll make it up later, since I’ll be wide awake and ready to go at 3:00 in the morning.”

“Don’t you worry about a thing,” one of them responded. “We’ll let you sleep in the afternoon, as long as you let us sleep at 3:00 in the morning.”

Actually, I didn’t suffer nearly as badly from jet lag this time, and I imagine that part of the credit goes to the gentle transition I had, thanks to the girls’ weekend with my friends. It was a totally relaxing time. We let the sound and smell of coffee brewing wake us up each morning – except for whoever was up first and started the coffee – and we spent lazy
evenings around the fire pit in my friend’s back yard, laughing, reminiscing, and listening to acorns falling from the trees and hitting the wooden deck with a noise like the sound of popcorn popping.

Back at home, I’m marveling now at how such a travel-packed schedule left me exhilarated, energized, and inspired, rather than drained, exhausted, and ready to pull up the covers and hibernate for the winter. I think that the mere act of reconnecting with family, friends, and acquaintances, no matter what the circumstances or the distance traveled, has
an empowering and rejuvenating effect on people. It helps keep us in balance and in check, even during our busiest times.

I hope that as the weather turns even colder and we bundle up against the worst that winter may have in store for us, you’ll take some time to relax and reconnect with those who mean the most to you. It warms the heart and soul like few other things can do. No matter where in the world you go to find them.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on October 11, 2012.

© Betty Liedtke, 2012

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