What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Feeling Burnt Out? Make Time for a Getaway

A lot of us are struggling these days. Sometimes the best prescription is completely and totally unplugging. Bonus points if there's a lake involved.

By Megan McDonald August 25, 2021

In our limited series this week, Sarasota Magazine’s editors share the highlights of their summer vacations. Here’s where our editors went and what they did—from Michigan music festivals to New Hampshire mountain adventures to snorkeling in the Bahamas.

In March, my husband had a breakdown.

Over the course of a few short weeks, he went from working a rigorous full-time job to struggling to drive a few blocks to the grocery store without having a panic attack. He had to take medical leave from work, and each day became an exercise in managing his mental health. As he dejectedly said one evening, when even going outside to mow the lawn felt like too much, “I feel like everything is being taken away from me.”

My husband is one of the kindest, funniest, most generous souls you'll ever meet. To watch him grapple with this broke my heart.

A joyful summer activity: swimming to the floating dock in chilly, spring-fed, crystal-clear lake water

A joyful summer activity: swimming to the floating dock in chilly, spring-fed, crystal-clear lake water

Thankfully, we have an excellent medical team helping him get better through a combination of medication and therapy, and friends and family who check in all the time. Still, I decided it was my job to make life run as smoothly as possible so he would never feel a ripple. To me, that meant making sure he stuck to a schedule, existed in a perfectly neat and tidy house, ate three healthy home-cooked meals each day and didn’t have to worry about doing anything for the adorable but extremely active and sassy pandemic puppy we’d spontaneously adopted last fall. All that—on top of my own full-time job and other responsibilities.

This was—to put it mildly—not sustainable. I was driving myself crazy trying to make things perfect.

My husband didn’t expect me to do any of this, and he frequently let me know that. He’s struggling, but he’s not comatose. So when he found me silently sobbing over the sink one night because the puppy destroyed a pillow and I didn’t want him to hear, he had a suggestion.

“You’re burning out,” he said, patting my back. “You need to get away.”

At first, I resisted. What if I left and something happened? But as the days wore on and life didn’t let up—not just in our house, but in the world—I realized that not only could I use the break, he probably could, too. So I called a cousin, who owns a beautiful lake house in a quiet part of northeastern Pennsylvania, just outside of Scranton, and asked if I could come visit for a long weekend.

Hydrangeas line the home's big front porch

Hydrangeas line the home's big front porch

Pulling up to the house on Friday felt like exhaling a breath I'd held too long. The home is more than 100 years old. A height chart from the original owners' kids is carved into the front door’s wood frame. Inside, the color palette is soothing blues and greens that echo the scenery. The big covered porch, which looks out over the lake, is rimmed with purple, pink and blue hydrangeas that were in full bloom. On the water's edge, my cousin created a sitting area out of pavers from a local quarry, complete with Adirondack chairs and a big umbrella for shade.

Unlike the Gulf, which can feel like bath water this time of year, the lake is spring-fed and downright chilly. I swam out to the free-floating dock and turned my face to the blue sky and bright sun before swimming back. Occasionally, a school of silver fish would shimmy by. Even the air smelled good—a heady combination of fresh-cut grass, late-summer flowers and woodsy pine.

The lake at sunset

The lake at sunset

Usually, on vacation, there’s an agenda. But on this one, I didn’t leave the house. In the cool, quiet mornings, we drank tea on the front porch and admired the glassy blue water. During the day, we chatted, dipped in and out of the lake, and read in the sun. At night, we split a bottle of wine and ordered in or ate my favorite kind of meal: a bunch of snack foods piled on a plate. Most evenings, despite knowing better, I tend to doomscroll and go to bed close to midnight. At the lake, I looked forward to turning off the lights by 10 p.m.

By the time Monday rolled around, I felt like a new person—calmer and more present. For the first time in months, I was concentrating on one thing at a time instead of worrying about five different ones.

“You’re so relaxed,” my husband said when I got home. (Spoiler: He was fine while I was gone.) “Aren’t you glad you went?”

I was—and still am.

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