A Trip to the Office

For obvious reasons, this year has been more about pressing pause than pressing play. And the list of things for which we’ve pressed pause feels long, including air travel, crowded spaces, shared river shuttles, and time with friends. The main positive so far is that we’ve spent more time outside hiking, biking, and paddling. We’ve gotten into better shape, sure, but the isolation due to the pandemic has been profound.

As the weeks stretched into months, I kept thinking about how I could re-frame at least some of this as an opportunity. That’s what we’d do in an outdoor adventure, right?  Whether it’s rolling with it when you mistakenly mix up your backpacker dinner, yelling pinata when your “bear bag” of food gets stuck, or giggling your way down a forest service road on a flat tire, there’s an upside to seeing something through a different lens. Paddlers call this “embracing the suck.”

Of course, the long haul of the pandemic requires more resilience than the short burst of a stuck food bag or a flat tire. But long hauls are made up of a series of short bursts, and one’s vantage point can make a huge difference. Just the thought of a change in view gives me a lift…and right now, my home office can be anywhere that has good internet. With that in mind, I love the idea of glancing up from a Zoom call and seeing the mountains, maybe watching deer out the window, or spending lunchtime on a trail.

We got all of that and more through a couple of weeks in Southwest Virginia, including a lovely cabin in Bluefield, another one in Alvarado, and still another near Abingdon. There’s something about the Grayson Highlands that keeps bringing us back (third time this year), and now we have three more reasons to return–including our new favorite property ever, the Riversong Retreat in Alvarado. To make our trip work, we brought along a bunch of outdoor toys, groceries, computer monitors, a printer, and a wifi extender…and just enough self-discipline to do our day jobs while living in a playground.

We biked almost every day, hiked on the weekends, and spent our time (between virtual meetings) looking out at mountains and creeks–just like we’d hoped. We took a few vacation days along the way, too, and we mixed in hikes on several sections of the AT, visited the Pond Mountain Game Lands in North Carolina, hiked Devil’s Bathtub in the Jefferson National Forest, and visited the Nature Conservancy’s Bottom Creek Preserve. We also took bike rides on the New River Rail Trail and the Virginia Creeper Rail Trail. The Creeper is beautiful any time of year, but the fall colors push it to a whole new level.

Oh, and we cooked up a storm, too.

All told, we worked eight days, played for six, biked 125 miles, hiked 46 miles…and ate a dozen cinnamon rolls. We also made some new friends along the way, as our hosts in Alvarado, David and Sharlene, lived right next door and were fantastic people. COVID might be keeping us six feet apart, but we don’t all have to be strangers!

We’re back home now and fully recharged by our little getaway. Context is everything, of course, and our hardships are small to non-existent at the moment. But we still appreciated the chance to change our view–and I’m not really talking about what we saw. Sometimes a mindset to chase hidden opportunities makes all the difference. And as you might expect, we’re already talking about our next trip to the office.

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