Each year, for my birthday, Edward takes me to some place cold to celebrate. I love cold weather; hopefully snow, wearing cozy sweaters and feeling the cold air on my face. We have taken trips to some beautiful cold places each year of the past seven years that we have been together. Last year we celebrated my birthday in London. Two months later we were locked down. Quarantined. Grounded. This week we took our first vacation in over a year. I have always wanted to check out Highlands, NC. It was close to Knoxville. It was within driving distance. Safe.
We were both so excited to be going somewhere. To get out our luggage and pack. I had gotten packing down to an art. I never took more than what I needed. When I began packing for this trip, you would have thought I had never packed a bag for a three-night trip. I had to put back half of the clothes that I pulled out of my closet. I finally narrowed down my choices to what I needed to take. I remembered everything. Our bags were packed. I went through the house three times to make sure everything was turned off. It annoys me that I do that. I look at the coffee pot and the bathroom outlets over and over again. Do I think they are going to turn themselves back on? They didn’t. We loaded the car and headed out.
The drive was beautiful even though we had to backtrack about two hours due to the road being closed through the mountains. Having to detour took us through parts of Tennessee and North Carolina I had never seen before. We saw old barns that had been neglected yet were even more interesting because of the neglect. We saw houses build on the sides of hills that looked as though they had been added on to over generations. There were businesses that were closed. Horses, and horses. Horses dotted the landscape. Their beautiful red, black and dark brown coats shined in the sun. I can almost smell a horse when I see them. Their smell is one of my favorite childhood memories. The one thing we did not see was a place to have lunch. We had planned for a three-hour drive so we had not figured lunch into the equation. We ended up stopping in a tiny town on the border of TN and NC at a Taco Bell for a small snack. We ate in the car and then continued our drive. Entering North Carolina, we moved onto small, winding roads. The roads were snake-like as we drove up and over and through the mountains. Streams and waterfalls decorated the terrain with snow lightly blanketing the edges of the water.
We had never been to Highlands, NC so we were not sure what to expect. Driving into town we passed two beautiful waterfalls, Dry Creek Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. The sun reflected off the water and it was beautiful welcome to the town. Our hotel was on main street so it was a straight shot.
It was exciting to be travelling after a year of quarantine. It was fun to explore a place nearby that we had no expectations of. It felt like we were doing something we weren’t supposed to be doing, leaving our house. It also felt like putting on a favorite coat after having taken it off a year ago.
It is hard for me to sit around at home doing nothing. I’m always busy. It is even harder after being locked down. Home became where I work also, the separation between work and home blurred so much that there wasn’t a difference. Going home used to signify rest. Now if I have downtime, instead of relaxing and unwinding, I go to my office and work. I work on upcoming trainings, workshops, social media marketing and writing. These are all things I love but I did not make them my go to activity in my downtime before quarantine. Getting away for a few days reminded me of how relaxing felt.
Highlands, NC was a wonderful find. It is beautiful, friendly and full of outdoors activities. There are wonderful shops and restaurants. It was peaceful.