Vacation Epiphanies


in mirror

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. — Miriam Beard

This is the year that Natalie will be applying to college, so we decided to visit two colleges in northern California, and also made sure to weave in a bit of vacation. We were in the mood to walk a lot, explore and eat good food, and that is exactly what we did each day, including the days we went on the college tours.

We decided to stay for three nights right at the Presidio in San Francisco, which was a military post for more than 200 years – first for Spain in 1776, then for Mexico in 1822, and finally for the United States Army from 1846 to 1994. Today, the Presidio is both a national Historic Landmark District and a new kind of national park site, with 24 miles of nature trails, 30 species of birds, 15 miles of in-road bike lanes, eight overlooks and vistas (including incredible low angle views of the Golden Gate Bridge), a trampoline center, a climbing wall, archaeology sites, and home to a few museums and restaurants. The Inn at the Presidio used to be the home for bachelor officers when the Presidio was a U.S. Army Post.


Looking out one of our windows, we could see the Victorian houses on Funston Avenue, which were constructed during the Civil War to house officers’ and their families.

Funston-houseVictorians in Presidio copy









A two-minute walk from the Inn brought us to an archaeological dig on the site of the original Spanish fort. The Presidio Archaeology Lab, operated by the Presidio Trust, explores the extraordinary historical record under the Presidio. Archaeological research is part of nearly every project at the Presidio and tells the story of the inhabitants over 300 years.

archaelogy Presidio

One day we walked seven miles up and down the hilly streets and stairs of the Pacific Heights neighborhood, which borders one side of the Presidio. We stopped in a well-stocked and friendly newsstand (which we never do at home) and selected two magazines we never read at home, and two beautiful handmade greeting cards. We stopped in a clothing shop and learned about a magnificent Turkish restaurant two blocks from the shop, where we enjoyed a lunch and then a dinner two nights later. We now have to find a Turkish restaurant in Los Angeles! Tonight, we will warm up olives in olive oil in our small iron skillet. Who knew warmed olives were so delicious? And next time I make a pot of lentil soup, I will puree it and then pour a bit of olive oil atop each bowl.

It was moving to trek down to the water’s edge twice – one evening and again on our last morning to see the Golden Gate Bridge from a different angle than one gets crossing it. It was beautiful in an emotional kind of way.

bridge post

This is when I had my three vacation epiphanies:

I need to walk more each day. Usually I either walk 2 or so miles or bike for 30 minutes. But I learned that my body feels really good walking 5 miles. I am in the process of figuring out what time of day is best and I might want to take two 2.5-mile walks each day.

Going to bed at 9:30 and reading until 10 allowed me to jump out of bed well rested at 7, and I didn’t ever feel exhausted. Usually I push myself to keep getting things done until 11. I am going to stop that. It felt too good to not get over-tired.

I am going to balance my work days a little more thoughtfully – not pushing myself to do work that requires deep focus for more than 3 hours at a time. Usually I have three days in a row of 6-hour hyper focused days and then feel guilty when I don’t get as much done on the fourth day. I think I deserve to be a bit kinder to myself. I am going to experiment in the coming weeks with a few different schedules to see what feels and works best.

Each time I go on a trip, I have different epiphanies. This is one of the best parts about travel – seeing not just home (the place) from a new angle, but the hours we spend at home from a different angle.

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  • Sue Mitchell

    you are going to love listening to Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. My goal is to try to get a solid five hours a night!! :)Sounds like you had a wonderful time…eager to hear about the Natalie’s college thoughts…xo….sue

    • TwointheMiddle

      Sue, I wish I could function on 6-7 hours of sleep! We had such a nice time on our college visit/vacation. Your neighborhood is still Natalie’s top choice 🙂 Interviews coming up next.

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