Happy 2020! As I look back on 2019, one of my most special memories is my trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes with my closest childhood friend, Nicole. Before I go into the travel part of this post, I wanted to share a little bit about my friendship with Nicole and why I love traveling with her. Nicole and I have been friends since about the 3rd grade – we are both in our early fifties now and while we don’t see each other very often, we’ve remained close. She is a person I can call and talk to for hours. I always hang up the phone with a new perspective and a feeling of peace. She knows me better than anyone and calls me out when I’m not being honest with myself, cheers me on for the small victories that she knows mean the world to me, and is just someone that I am grateful to have in my life after all these years. We can get on each other’s nerves sometimes and that’s part of the charm of our friendship. We can tell each other when we need our space without worrying that the other will be offended and even heated debates often end in laughter – she has the best laugh! All of this makes a great foundation for traveling together.
We chose Michigan, and more specifically, Sleeping Bear Dunes for our weekend getaway. I like to drive and enjoyed listening to Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime on my drive from Cleveland to meet Nicole. Audio books are a must for me on long drives. Once Nicole was in the car, I shut down the book. We got to talking and catching up and the time flew by. Our first stop was Traverse City, Michigan.
We both like to shop and decided to stop at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. If you haven’t heard of this place – it’s awesome! It’s an old state asylum that is being converted to restaurants and shops. You could spend hours walking around and looking at all the boutiques. Each hallway brings a bunch of new stores to enjoy and we had a great time chatting with the store owners, smelling lavender soaps and lotions, and trying on different pieces of jewelry. The building is still very much like an old hospital and the parking outside can be confusing. If you do decide to visit, remember where you parked. I think we walked around the building a couple of times looking for the car when we were done.
After a delicious beet salad at the Rare Bird, we drove to Leland for our weekend stay at the Whaleback Inn. A friend of Nicole’s recommended this place and it was the perfect spot – super clean, comfortable, gorgeous lake views, and a lovely breakfast on the porch each morning. It’s an easy drive to Sleeping Bear Dunes and that was our first stop the next morning. We spent the day connecting and enjoying the beauty of the Dunes. If you haven’t been there, they are truly spectacular and Pierce Stocking Drive is a great way to see them. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the beauty, admire the Dunes, hike around the area, and just appreciate time with an amazing friend.
We woke up the next morning to some rain so we went into Leland and explored Fishtown. The weather cleared in the afternoon and we headed to a small beach at the edge of town called Van’s Beach. We hung out in the water and talked and laughed and just soaked in the beauty and energy of Lake Michigan. If you are not big on swimming in lakes, try Lake Michigan. It is truly something special. The crystal clear water is calm and soothing. I think Nicole and I both found some time in the water to be the perfect temporary cure for anything that was troubling us.
We headed home the next day and went back to our friendship of keeping in touch when we can, but not being a part of each others day to day lives. As I write what was supposed to be a travel blog, I can’t help but think about how grateful I am to have a friend like Nicole. After all these years, when I want to get away from life and just be me, my quirks and all, she is the person I call – and I may just text her now to make sure she knows.