So here I am on my third annual Little Beach Cabin in the Woods vacation. I have dubbed this place Little Beach Cabin in the Woods because, well, that’s what it is. It’s a dowdy and not a bit shabby wooden framehouse, fitted with two tiny bedrooms and an open, lofted living room and kitchen. It’s nestled on the back by scrubby yet impossibly tall pine trees rising to the sky, then on the front — where I spend most of my time, staring out from the screen porch — is a small but mighty patch of sand — your own private beach — that melts into the ripples of the Chesapeake Bay.
When I first came here three years ago, I wrote about my trip to this little place on the Northern Neck for a piece for Vox on the joy of solo vacations. They’ve ended up reupping it a few times every year, particular around summertime, and it seems to have resonated with folks, so much so that one friend referred to me as “the brand ambassador for vacationing by yourself” (if only that came with some awesome sponcon) What was originally a trip made because I was dying to go to the beach at least once that summer and couldn’t find anybody willing to accompany me, has become a much anticipated ritual and tradition that I hope to continue every year. It’s not much or very exotic, but it is precious to me.
Three years in, I’ve come up with a bit of routine for this place. I book it for three or four days, and prepare to use it as a clean up time of sorts, both literally and metaphorically. I don’t grocery shop or eat out while I’m here — I simply take every last remnant from my fridge and cabinets and challenge myself to make whatever strange concoctions I can. And it serves as a reminder that summer is over and it’s time to start up for fall a bit. The nights here remind me of that, too. Still blazing hot during the day, but the winds and moon come around dusk and it gets chilly, enough that I have to pull a hoodie on and lament the fact I won’t be seeing these lingering trails of sun in the evenings for the next several months.
Otherwise, the way I spend my time here is basically how I imagine I would pass my days if I were independently wealthy (aside from the fact I am alone here and if I were independently wealthy I would probably have even more friends than I do now, and of course I would crave company). The way I spend my time here is also how I imagine somebody like Gwyneth Paltrow spends her days. It is very idealized. Except she is probably not making cocktails out of leftover drambouie from the last Airbnb guest.
Anyways, I generally wake up around sunrise and try to meditate on a lounge chair on the beach. I’m a pretty good meditator at this point, but I do find sitting still on the beach distracting, because there’s just so much to pay attention to — the laughing caw of the seagulls or the faraway roar of a fishing boat across the bay or the pink ball of the sun spinning up above the water. But the listening and the watching on the beach in those mornings serves as a pretty good meditation of its own sort, so I don’t worry too much about it.
Then I go make a cup of coffee. An independently wealthy woman (or Gwyneth) would probably be drinking a fabulously rich cup of coffee brewed from the highlights of Guatemala or something, but I drink Folgers because I’m relatable, you see. As I’m drinking this coffee I do an exercise that honestly, I do wish I made time for every day — the morning pages. It’s an exercise out of the book “The Artist’s Way,” which is basically like a 12-step manual for rediscovering your creativity. The point of the morning pages is just to write freeform for three pages. Doesn’t matter much what you say. You could pen a line like “Jesus christ I have no idea what to write here this morning but I’m gonna do it so I’m just going through the motions” (I have written this very line) or whatever you write could be more lyrical and meaningful and eventually turn into a piece (what I’m writing now was based off of today’s morning pages).
After the morning pages, it’s more coffee, and then an exercise of my choice. Even independently wealthy women must work to stay in shape. I’m partial to videos from fitnessblender.com or the horribly-named but extremely effective Bikini Body Guide series. After flopping around and spraying my sweat all over this little screen porch (sorry, next Airbnb guest) I’ll settle in for a circular routine of reading, writing, and sunning the rest of the day. Some ocean time will get in there, or some shell collecting. Maybe a nap if I’m feeling indulgent.
At night, it’s a cobbled together dinner and a cocktail of my choice, as I mentioned, made from whatever disgusting liquor has been left behind by previous guests (seriously, this time they’ve got peppermint schnapps, lemon citron vodka, drambouie, and Baileys. I mean, thank you for the booze but honestly you need to reconsider your life choices). And more reading. Some meditation. Last night I spent a good hour foam rolling and listening to podcasts and was pretty happy with that activity. And a relatively early bedtime so I can get up tomorrow and do it all again.
This place usually has internet but this time around it seems a storm took it out, which is annoying, but good I suppose. I’ll post this later from my lounge chair on the beach — the only spot where my phone gets service and I can use it as a hotspot. And then I’ll turn it off, head back up to the screen porch, and continue with my day, just me.