The Who of Summer

Guest blogger, Natalie, is an athlete and a 30-something mom with two girls and a dude on the way. With a light heart and serious intentions, she explores what it means to push her limits, seek adventure and enjoy the best of life. You can check out her written work at Hello Day and get a taste of her life at @hellodaynatalie.

The idea of summer evokes a lot of images… all of them include sun, bikinis, cocktails and large bodies of water. And loved ones. Always, loved ones. Because, let’s be honest, most memories aren’t created alone.

I recently returned from a spontaneous road trip to meet up with one of my best friends. We live 1,000 miles apart but were desperate to spend a long weekend together. With a week’s notice we attempted to craft a spontaneous adventure. Between Portland and Southern California (where she lives), there are plenty of awesome summer destinations to choose from. But after spending time with Kayak, it was clear that flights weren’t in the cards. Neither were hotels with fancy pools and cocktails. So, we decided to camp, only to find that every campsite from Portland to Tijuana was occupied. I guess some people actually plan summer rendezvous more than a week in advance.

We accepted the reality that Awesome Summer Destination wasn’t going to happen and instead lowered the bar in search for Available Apartment with Access to Pool. A quick search on airbnb delivered several options and we found one that fit the bill. Our spot – a random small town in Northern California described as more of a rest stop than a destination. She’d never visited and my only experience was stopping for gas and sunflower seeds as I passed through at 2am.

In preparation for the trip, I asked my neighbor (who grew up in this small town) for some tips on what to do and where to eat. Our conversation went something like this:

Neighbor: Who are you visiting?

Me: Nobody

Neighbor: Then why are you going?

Me: To meet a friend and have fun.

Neighbor: You should go somewhere else.

He also reminded me that summer temperatures in that town exceed 100 degrees and cautioned that a woman in her 7th month of pregnancy (that’s me) might not find it very comfortable. In the end, I walked away with a warning and the name of a juice bar in town.

And even without promising sights or delicious food scene, I couldn’t wait to get in the car and head south on I-5 for the this-might-be-a-bust getaway. Because summer memories aren’t about the where and the what, but the who. And I was 100% confident that the who was as good as it gets.

We each piled the kids into the car and drove hundreds of miles to our rendezvous point. And when we met up, we hugged and immediately cracked up as we looked upon the sweltering, small town that we’d chosen to spend four days.

Day 1 was a hit. Our kids raved over the two-story hotel room (read: dimly lit apartment with thin walls that shook at the passing of every vehicle) and dominated the apartment pool with flips and tricks. The days got better and better as we searched for fun. Our favorite spot turned out to be a small lake not too far from town. We slathered on the SPF, inflated the rafts and enjoyed the heck out of the refreshing, off the radar find. Each night the kids created a slumber party heaven by cramming sleeping bags and mattresses into a single room as we made ourselves cozy on the dorm-room furniture downstairs and toasted to great company and summer adventure.

The four-day adventure was a great reminder. It doesn’t take a killer location or blow-your-mind excursions to make summer memories. No, we just need the right people. People who are willing to set out with optimism and high hopes. People who know how to laugh at the set backs and plow on in search of the upside. People who know when to pack up the rafts and head for the nearest pizza joint. Those are the people I’m building my summer memories with.

BurnCycle, I hope that you’re enjoying your summer. Regardless of where you find yourself, may make amazing memories with the one’s you’re with.