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On the Road:  Traveling Out of Your Comfort Zone

By:  Maura L. Johnson, LCSW, PMH-C

     Wanderlust tends to nudge me every few months, reminding me that it’s been a bit since I’ve experienced a new place. The thought of going to just one place is often not sufficient, and I will begin researching opportunities for what my husband lovingly (begrudgingly?) calls my “trip within a trip.” This is a running joke between us, as he is much more content to find a beach resort and not leave for several days. As an example, while visiting New Orleans for a conference in 2022, I rented a car and drove to the Mississippi coast for a day. For many years, I envisioned a road trip vacation that would cover the entirety of the New England region, and back in the summer of 2019, armed with a 3.5-year-old and virtually no itinerary, we decided to make this trip happen. Neither of us had ever traveled with such little planning in the past but decided to see where the road would take us.

     Our first stop was to visit family in northern New Jersey for a night and then spend the week hitting various stops throughout the New England states. After saying our goodbyes, we made our way to Mystic, Connecticut, with no set plans of what to do or where to go. We found a hotel, and a restaurant for dinner and spent the next day exploring the town (and of course ate at Mystic Pizza). This was one of my favorite stops, as I loved the charm of the town, the proximity to the ocean, and the walkability. We traveled to Newport, Rhode Island, next and spent a day walking through their much larger town square, dining on the water, and shopping.  Once we wrapped up our day in Rhode Island, we decided to prioritize spending more time in Boston, with a possible ferry ride to Cape Cod. 

     In Boston, we explored the North End, ate delicious Italian food, walked the neighborhoods, and experienced a remarkable dearth of available parking to do any of it. We explored Fenway Park, ate at a restaurant inside the stadium, and walked the nearby neighborhoods. While we didn’t make it to Cape Cod (next time!), we did spend a day exploring Cambridge and walking Harvard’s campus. This was one of my favorite experiences from the trip, as the campus was beautiful and the town was bustling. As our daughter’s stamina was rapidly decreasing, we decided to leave Massachusetts and make our way to New Hampshire. 

     This part of the trip was our absolute favorite and one I recommend to anyone planning a similar vacation. We decided to make a stop along the less than 20 miles of coastline in New Hampshire, staying in a small town called Rye Beach. While the weather was warm and sunny, the water was very cold and not the best for swimming. However, the locals were friendly, the restaurants were amazing, and we had such an amazing, memorable experience. We made our way to Portland, Maine, the next morning, which was the point where we had to make some unexpected changes.

     When I think of this trip now, imagining a 3.5-year-old would be as interested in dedicating whole days to car rides and tourist activities was perhaps a bit short-sighted. We lasted one afternoon in Portland, unfortunately, before she asked to go home. Of course, this wasn’t exactly possible, so we made our way to a bed-and-breakfast in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  We went to one of the best restaurants I’ve ever visited, The Italian Farmhouse, and then just lounged the rest of the day and evening. While I had hopes of exploring Vermont in more depth, she was not having it by that point. We were able to spend an afternoon in Woodstock, Vermont, walking the town and getting a few covered bridge pictures. Following a full-on meltdown shortly after, we decided to drive the nine hours back home through upstate New York.  We made it home late that evening and had two extra days off to recuperate.

     This vacation pushed us out of our typical travel experience and allowed us to take in so many new places and experiences. It also pushed the limits of our comfort and encouraged us to problem-solve beyond our usual abilities. I would do it again now that my daughter is older and more aware. Travel can be one of the best teachers and the best ways to push ourselves outside of our usual experiences. If you’ve been on the fence about trying a new type of vacation, consider how much growth awaits you from these experiences.


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