It’s Mid-April, 2017. I’m sitting in the airport with one of my best girlfriends, holding a bag containing my bike helmet, shoes, pedals and saddle. I have some 12 hours of flying ahead of me before 7 days of cycling on a stunning Spanish island that’s considered a mecca of the sport.
But instead of eagerly anticipating the picturesque bike rides ahead of me, I’m trying to figure out how I can break my leg.
Initially, I’d been excited about the trip. In the decade or so that my cycling group has been making this pilgrimage, I’d heard so many times “Jill, you would love it there!” and “Oh, Jill, you HAVE to come next year!”. Not only was I finally going, I was going as an associate organizer, and my flights and accommodations were taken care of in exchange for my expertise. Truly a dream trip. But as my departure date grew closer, my sense of dread began to build.
My 2.5 year old twins would be staying home with my husband. My mother and sister each pledged offers to help. Everything was going to be fine. But still, I worried: “Should I leave the girls for this long? Should I abandon my husband to solo parenting? Would he make sure they ate their vegetables? Would they nap for him?”
My fears grew as my plane took off. The flights were long, and the airport waits, agonizing.
(I SHOULD HAVE STAYED HOME.)
We landed on Mallorca and had an hour-long bus ride to our coastal resort. I could see the Balearic Sea from my balcony. The air was warm and humid. The water was blue and beautiful.
(I SHOULDN’T BE HERE.)
And then I got my bike.
It took nothing more than the first few pedal strokes of that initial ride for my stress and fear and worry to melt away. I was doing something I loved, in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I was gifted with this incredible opportunity of a week of me-time, and finally, I could appreciate it.
In 7 days we rode some 700 kilometres around the island. I ran along the sea every morning. I drank good coffee, indulged in a couple glasses of wine, and luxuriated over long meals chatting with friends. I slept as long as I wanted to, read a couple of books, and took walks after dinner. It was the cathartic, relaxing break from parenting that I needed to recharge my batteries.
I missed my kids and husband fiercely. By day three I was gazing longingly at strangers’ babies, wondering if I could ask to hold one for just a minute or two. (I resisted the urge every time.) I talked to my family via FaceTime and each day it was a little harder to hang up.
When the week was up, I wasn’t sad. I couldn’t wait to get home to my girls and husband. I jumped back into motherhood with gusto… but a couple of weeks later, when a toddler behavioral issue popped up, I looked at my husband and said “How long until I get to go back to Spain???” He chuckled, rolled his eyes, and chastised “You KNOW you missed this.”
Now it’s April 2018. I’m back in Spain, reflecting on the year that’s gone by, sitting alone in my hotel room, working on my laptop and missing my family just a little bit. A year ago, I dug in my heels and didn’t want to leave home. It was a push outside my comfort zone that made me realize that this was something I truly needed. I went halfway around the world to learn that, for me, spending 1 week doing something I love, by myself, gives me the energy I need for the other 51 weeks of the year. Not every parent will agree with me, or need to get away, or even want to get away – but I challenge every parent to find their reset button. What is the thing you do for YOU, that makes you a better parent, partner, employee, friend?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I do believe I hear my bike calling.