Last October, three friends and I organized a mini, 3-session book club to read and discuss the book Pursue the Intentional Life by Jean Fleming. The book is a meditative discussion of finishing well while intentionally embracing today’s opportunities for personal growth and gratefulness. As you can imagine, the book’s topics fostered deep conversation among our middle-aged selves concerning how we see our lives at this stage, how each of our expectations has measured up to reality, and what self-discipline approaches we can instill to ensure we develop wisely in both character and stature ~ to grow intentionally closer to the elder women God designed us to be.
It was, in many ways, a life-changing book. But I have a small confession. My biggest takeaway from these 3 mini-book club sessions was not about starting a gratefulness journal, nor was it about more effective Biblical note-taking during my devotional time. Although Fleming shared wise insights about the art of practicing patience, grace, and love on a daily basis, these practices are not what stand out to me now, some 8 months later. Granted, these practices are profoundly impactful in one’s pursuit of an intentional, God-centered life, and should certainly be considered as a means to personal and spiritual growth, but what I will remember most about the discussion on Fleming’s book touched on something altogether different.
My biggest takeaway from our impromptu foursome friendship foray was this:
Plan a trip in 2018. Go anywhere, near or far. And travel alone.
You see, one book club night we, as women do, settled comfortably into four cozy armchairs in my sitting room (I think it was the night Carol brought her to-die-for pumpkin pudding dip with vanilla wafers) and long into the evening discussed our fears, personal disappointments, and those longings that just won’t abate. And we hit upon a curious discovery: We learned that each one of us had a very deep, similar desire, and that desire was to go on a trip, each of us, by ourself. Somewhere. Anywhere. A longing to travel alone.
I remember years ago reading Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist as she expressed the excitement and discovery of traveling to a new city alone. I don’t remember all the details, but I recall thinking what a delight it would be to experience that one day. To plan the details of exploring a new place, navigate new highways and back roads, photograph unfamiliar foliage and breathe humid fragrances, to stare perhaps too long at beautiful foreign families and boldly ask locals for sightseeing advice. To not be influenced by another’s time commitment or hunger patterns. What a decadent delight might this be!
Each of us in this book club had spent years raising up children in the way they should go, honoring husbands, serving in various ministries, and continually pursuing discipline and self-improvement in our spiritual walks. We are committed to these devotions and, in fact, they will forever be the very essence of our identities. Our desire to travel alone was not so much, I believe, about escape as it was the thrill to seek a new adventure designed solely for our own growth and discovery as opposed to another’s.
In the wake of this mutual discovery, we ladies challenged one another to each plan a solo “getaway” in 2018. So it was in this vein of thought I proposed an “alone trip” to Fireman back in January. Since its inception in 2012, I have longed to attend a home design blogging event called Haven Conference. Each year many bloggers I follow attend and speak at this particular conference, and I could imagine what fun it would be to sit in their workshops, hear their stories, and be ~ for a moment ~ a small part of their inspiring, creative community. While considering where I might want to travel, Haven Conference jumped immediately to the forefront of my thoughts.
Haven Conference just happens to be held in South Carolina, a state I have longed to explore for several years now. I really can’t tell you all the reasons why South Carolina holds such appeal for me, but I can trace at least part of it back to a novel I read when my children were small about the charm, history, architecture, and nature of that region. Since then, it has remained high on my bucket list of places to visit. Just look at these photos of Charleston, where the conference will be held.
The trees, the homes, the weather, the history!
So with Fireman’s consent and support, I booked my ticket several months ago, registered for the conference, and yesterday boarded a plane to Atlanta (better flight options) to set out on my very first long-distance excursion sans companions. This morning I will drive cross-country to Charleston, a road trip I have long anticipated, arriving at the home of Grace’s airbnb this afternoon. So far I have enjoyed an iced cappuccino while overlooking Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta, eaten my first grilled Chick-Fil-A sandwich, and savored every sip of my first authentic southern sweet tea. It is already in the mid-70’s and expected to climb to 90 degrees, and I am loving it. Tomorrow, I will attend my first session of Haven Conference at the Marriott hotel.
To my dear sweet book club friends: I’m doing it! I’m traveling alone! And motoring southern-style in this sporty, green Ford Fiesta, no less 🙂
Here’s to embracing that inner desire, taking the road less traveled, and being brave enough to do it alone.