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I live in Central New York, which parallels the Pacific Northwest for gray skies and precipitation; we just get ours as snow rather than rain. For about 6 months out of the year, the skies are oppressive, with just 70 hours of sunshine on average in December. That’s about 2.5 hours a day, but sometimes we don’t see the sun for more than a week at a time.

View from my rainforest lanai, complete with a tangerine tree.

View from my rainforest lanai, complete with a tangerine tree.

So spending a week in the sun during January is a great way to recharge myself enough to power through the rest of the winter. Last year I enjoyed wintery sunshine in northern New Mexico, but this year I soaked up my rays in Hawaii on the “Big Island,” spending about half of my time on the dry sunny northwest coast near Waikoloa, and the other half in the rainforests of the southeastern coast in the Puna district.

Sunburn ensued, obviously. I didn’t mind at all; it felt good to get a little spanking from the sun. But I also spent some time under gray skies that still felt re-invigorating because everything around me was lush, green, and dripping with exotic vegetation. Well, except for the barren lava flows, but even there, the novelty of the moon-like terrain was refreshing.

The conference that took up my first 4 days on the island (and was my excuse for travel) had me a little overstimulated and feeling frayed at times. I tried to manage my needs to prevent a meltdown, taking alone time when I needed it and getting at least 6 hours of sleep a night. I still had a mini-meltdown (it really was a lot of stress) and a sinus infection flare-up, but did pretty well most of the time.

The end of the Chain of Craters Road in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

The end of the Chain of Craters Road in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

I’m glad I planned several days of vacation on my own to follow the intense professional interactions. The biggest drawback was that Mr. Chickadee stayed home, by his own choice (I have enough frequent flyer miles for a ticket to paradise) so I explored on my own. Although I saw a few sights and spent a lot of time at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, there’s still so much left to explore next time. I promised Mr. Chickadee that I’ll walk to the end of the road again when he’s ready to come with me.

I’m this writing from 37,000 feet (Tuesday), operating on about 3 hours of spotty sleep after getting up at 4:30 AM HST to see birds and boarding a 10:15 PM (Monday) plane in Kona. I won’t get home until 7 PM EST. Factoring everything in — sleep deprivation, Dramamine, Sudafed, missing my sweetheart, a 5-hour time difference, and the fresh dose of sunshine and greenery — I feel great and awful at the same time.

There’s no making it easier on myself; I’ve done all I can to soften the blow. Mr. Chickadee thinks it’s not worth it, but he wasn’t there. It was worth it. Nonetheless, tomorrow (Wednesday) will be very hard (it was) and the coming weeks will be more stressful than I’ve experienced in years as the job search intensifies. I’m grateful I soaked up some sun while I could, and I’m returning to face these challenges fortified by experiences that remind me that there’s more to life than the hard stuff.