I can’t quite believe it, but summer is here (Happy Summer Solstice y’all :p). Or rather, the Bay Area version of summer. Cold, windy, moist… it makes you want to get out of town to somewhere where you can have “real summer.” In May I went to Tahoe with friends and saw my mom in LA for Mother’s Day, but that wasn’t enough.Â SoonÂ afterÂ I was itching for another trip.
There had been some plans to go camping for a friend of a friendâ€™s birthday party earlier in the month, but truth be told spending my entire weekend with complete strangers celebrating a birthday just sounds fucking terrible to me. Please tell me that I’m not the only one? I get a little grumpy after 24/7 with close friends, let alone new friends. Luckily I was able to bow out gracefully from the camping trip. I literally breathed a sigh of relief.
Of course only a few weeks later, and another birthday camping trip with strangers came up! This one sounded even more extreme. A 5+ hour drive away on a regular weekend, with even more guests, and a whole lot of love for the birthday boy. I immediately freaked out, because I knew that I wouldnâ€™t be able to get out of it. Thereâ€™s a variety of reasons why I couldnâ€™t get out of it, but basically it came down to Ryan wanting to go, and the event itself being too unique to miss. It was a â€œglampingâ€ birthday party (fancy camping). I knew it was irrational, but I couldnâ€™t shake my stressed out feeling around the trip. My breathing was heavy for a day before the trip. I had troubled sleep. I read this LifeHacker guide to spending a weekend with strangersÂ several times. I asked my therapist why my head was making such a big deal out of this. I was basically this cat.
Anyways, it was a go, so there wasn’t much to do besides be stressed, and pack.
While getting down to Santa Barbara on a Friday night during rush hour was a complete pain in the ass, I had little to worry about from the social standpoint. Everybody was quite lovely, friendly and chill. The camp was gorgeous, and the food delicious. I felt like Iâ€™d been invited to a Kinfolk weddingâ€¦ er.. birthday party. I mean, look at this beautiful campsite:
Real beds, leather chairs, Pendeton blankets, an orange! They thought of everything.
A bloody mary bar! WTH!
All the beauty and celebratory feelings aside, I still found myself getting stressed out at certain points. Once I felt like if I had to keep smiling and making chitchat I would snap, so I took a hike. Literally.
Â Necessary sweaty hiking selfie
Â Not quite babbling brook.
QT with the Economist
Alone time pretty much made it all better.
When I was younger I used to give myself an incredibly hard time about how I â€œshouldâ€ want to go to certain social events, usually really big and ridiculous parties with hundreds of strangers (smaller gatherings never gave me pause). I felt like something was really wrong with me, or that I was missing out on life, or perhaps not socially capable (I know, so dramatic). By now Iâ€™ve been to enough of these events to know that usually, Iâ€™m not missing much, and I shouldnâ€™t feel guilty if my natural inclination to stay home and tinker comes first. I mean, there are so many projects and things that I want to work on in my spare time that sometimes going out just for the sake of it feels like a waste of time. I’m sitting at the bar thinking “I could be knitting a stuffed animal” or “I need to get my stupid Google Analytics certification.” Still I canâ€™t get away with never going to social events that don’t suit me. That’s just life.
Things that helped:
- Get away for a breather when possible. ( Alerting loved ones about how you may ghost alleviates stress).
- Plan alone time ahead of time. In my case, I knew I wanted to take a few hikes alone,Â just to get away.
- Make new friends- can’t always do this, but it’s great when it happens.
- Have a fewÂ relevant chitchat topics on hand for when you meet someone new. I spent a lot of time talking about the drive…
- Even better, get involved in an activity with your new friends. Card games? Drinking? Pushing kids on a swing?
- I avoided looking at my phone when I felt uncomfortable. It felt good just owning being that person who is just chilling by themselves taking in the scene. Having a drink in hand somehow makes this less creepy.
- Remembering that I was quite fortunate to be invited to this crazyÂ and fun event, even if I did feel a little stressed from time to time. #soblessed
- Perhaps the most important tip: Holding on to the positive/otherworldly/beautiful moments when they happen. Take them in. Let them sustain you through the endless crappy small talk!
This all sounds a bit grim, so let’s end with some positive moments! Here is proof that I did have fun, somewhere in that anxiety ball.
Danger around every corner…
Group hike = photobombs
Top of the Outlaw Trail! The camp guides said it was a hard trail, we said LET’S DO IT.
Margaritas in mason jars. The key to a great summer.
Wildlife abounds. Kind of weak of them to include mice. Who cares about mice?
Â Berry meringues. Gluten free, wouldn’t you know.
We survived! And now a five hour drive back…Â