Tim and I spent this past long weekend in Charleston and Savannah, with my brother, who flew down from Chicago and met us there. We’d booked the tickets back in October, when Southwest ran a deal that turned the total cost of two round-trip flights into a price lower than my dream cardigan (half that, actually), which was a deal hard to pass up.
Charleston’s long been Tim’s favorite city (while I’ve never been) and we’d been wanting a chance to travel with Adam, with whom I used to take yearly trips.
But mostly, there was the fact that, even months ago, from the perspective of warm and sunny October, we could anticipate the coming January, post-holiday, pre-spring, and the way this month tends to push a person to constant dreams of sun and sand.
Turns out it wasn’t hot in Charleston, not except on Thursday, a day that greeted us with blinding sunshine and progressed into a balmy 70+ degrees that had me trading my boots for flip-flops and cords for a cotton skirt. When I first stepped outside that morning, surrounded by vibrant blue skies and landscaping filled with pinks and purples, I felt like I’d escaped to summer.
Tim and I ran an errand to the UPS station down the street, and I chattered on and on about my freshman year of college in Florida, about the power of light to renew a girl’s spirits.
But even when the climate cooled that evening and over the next few days, giving weather in the 50s more akin to spring, Charleston and Savannah surely gave us our hoped-for sunshine fix: We walked beaches, strolled piers, toured miles of historic downtowns and swung on playground sets.
Sunshine is not all these cities gave us, either. While, back in October, we anticipated the joy of warm weather, we couldn’t have predicted how welcome this little weekend would turn out to be, not just for a break in gray days but also for a source of fresh perspective, creative inspiration and refreshment.
There is, as Alain de Botton writes in The Art of Travel, “an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads.” This is probably why people are always suggesting we take a walk or get outside when writer’s block or some other discouragement sets in.
“Large thoughts at times [require] large views, new thoughts new places,” de Botton points out. “Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.”
I’ve been writing nightly in my line-a-day-journal, an idea inspired by Nicole’s e-newsletter, and that includes on vacation. On Friday night, a day in which we’d shopped in downtown Charleston, grabbed pistachio pesto pizza for lunch, driven down to Savannah and eaten French food for dinner, my entry didn’t recount any of those details but instead said something about the enormous amount of talent in the world.
Because we’re laid-back vacationers, in the sense that, our trips include time to read or surf online, just as much as to try new restaurants or see new sites, our few days away brought my eyes across several new blogs and writers worth checking out—and, over the weekend, surrounded by “new places” and “the flow of the landscape,” I had the chance to pay attention:
In the middle of the Historic Charleston City Market, I picked up a complementary copy of Palate Magazine and found a fascinating personal account of participating in WWOOF by Nashville’s own Jennifer Justus, who, it turns out, not only writes for The Tennessean but also has
+ an engaging blog of her own.
Some days, these kinds of discoveries overwhelm me in the sense of “Everyone else is more talented than I am” or “I’ll never be able to compete!” or “What is the point of making things?” I mean, I don’t know about you guys, but I hate just about everything I write (or create or make) after I’ve had enough time away from it—and, once you start to realize something like this about yourself, it’s hard to want to make another imperfect and flawed blog post or drawing because of it. But, for whatever reason, on vacation, that’s not what I felt.
If it’s true that our perspectives are often shaped by what’s right in front of us, perhaps the key to changing our perspectives is changing what we see.
And for me, over the last few days in Charleston and Savannah, looking at mossy trees and deserted sands and historic architecture has meant more than checking off sights; it’s meant changing my focus. Staring at the awe-inspiring, complicated, often beyond-my-understanding work of landscapes and oceans and marshy grass has pushed my thoughts to even greater levels of talent, the kind that comes from an even greater Creator, and given me a renewed desire to keep growing and keep pushing to reflect Him in the way I pursue my little projects, from pictures to recipes to posts.
Oh, and if you’re interested, here’s a list of places we liked in Charleston and Savannah:
- Five Loaves Cafe (thanks for the recommendation, Megan!)
- FIG, “Food Is Good”
- EVO, “Extra Virgin Oven”
- Butcher & Bee
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.