Me, a cabin, some nature, and .... ?
June 27, 2018 8:48 AM   Subscribe

In about a week, I am going on a solo vacation to a small cabin on a small lake in central Wisconsin. The intent is to cleanse and refresh my headspace, to take some time to let go and relax. I have had a heckuva 2018 (haven't we all??), and this is a getaway from all that, if only just for a few days. If you were going to do this, what would you bring, and what would you plan to do?

Relevant Details: I will be staying from Fri evening -- Sun morning. The cabin is somewhat isolated -- very small town with basic grocery store about 20 minutes' drive away. Lots of forest, farms in between. Very limited phone/internet service. It has all of the amenities of a small house -- fully equipped kitchen, indoor plumbing, etc. Large shaded (but not screened) porch. Directly on the water, with a small dock and a canoe and kayak.

My plans so far: whittle down my reading list (stocking kindle, doing library visit beforehand), doing lots of yoga (bring my mat, blocks, and download some videos), meditating. I will bring very nice bath/skincare materials to pamper myself. I bought a new coloring book and colored pencils and a sharpener. There's a Whole Foods in Madison that is on the way, I plan on stopping there on the way up and getting what I'll need food-wise. I don't have much of a list yet, and would love suggestions. (so far, it's really good coffee, a bottle of really good wine, and ingredients to make a boatload of tuna pasta salad because I love it and my husband doesn't eat seafood, so I don't often make it at home. I'd love some Very luxurious breakfast ideas).

If this was you, what would you bring? I have a car, so space is no issue. What kind of food/drink would you get? What little luxuries would you want to enjoy, when you have a whole cabin to yourself and wouldn't need to interact with people for a few days? What would you want to do, with a large block of completely unstructured time?

(Other, less-relevant things: swimming is out, it's a muck-bottom lake, plus leeches/swimmer's itch and other ickies. I don't fish. I don't really like campfires. I do like kayaking. I am planning on bringing lots of bug repellant because I'm assuming there will be many mosquitos. I have zero camping/nature survival skills. I like nature photography, so will be bringing my camera.)
posted by Fig to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
For me, music is missing from your list...I would want some ambient tunes at times. And I'd stop at a farm stand on the way to get summer fruit like cherries/stawberries/blueberries/peaches...could get granola and layer them with Greek yogurt for breakfast. A cheese board, if you like them, is easy but feels luxurious; same with French toast made with a good challah. Hiking boots/shoes if you want to walk. I'd probably bring my own pillow if I had a car. Sunscreen/glasses for kayaking. An eyeshade if you think you'll want to sleep in, and maybe earplugs - the birds start early!
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 8:56 AM on June 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

This sounds delightful! I would pack plenty of booze (couple bottles of wine, some beer, some scotch, gin and tonic fixings). Maybe a couple of movies, either new releases I want to watch or old favorites to fall asleep/nap to. A packable hammock. You already have the reading materials. Some music. Lots of fresh fruit and other things to sort of snack on, since I'm usually not one for big elaborate meals when I'm by myself. Though to that end, I'd buy a steak and maybe some sides to go along with it; I'd keep dinners to grilling or fast-cooking things that don't heat up the cabin and don't keep me inside for long periods of time. Or, if you like seafood and husband doesn't, some fish to fry or grill. Sun protection for the kayaking. Maybe a journal if you want to take some time to think on big-picture things (how do I feel about my career? what do I want to do in 10 years? How do I get from here to there). Enjoy!
posted by craven_morhead at 8:59 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, and I'd also pack some podcasts/audio books, since they let you take in your surroundings and new material without having your head in a book the whole time.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:00 AM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

Eat piles of whatever fruits are in season, with good bread. Make rustic wholesome foods like a herby roast chicken. Ploughmans lunches. Basically eat like a summertime hobbit.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:01 AM on June 27, 2018 [8 favorites]

Binoculars and/or a small telescope and a star map.
An acoustic musical instrument, if you play one.
Some good scotch
A guide to birds and bugs local to the area
A wide brimmed hat for kayaking
Whatever media and/or toys you need for self-pleasure
A radio in case you find the silence and lack of human voices off-putting
A balsa glider because who doesn't love playing with balsa gliders?
posted by bondcliff at 9:02 AM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

posted by slidell at 9:04 AM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

Wisconsin time is New Glarus Spotted Cow beer time. That is a delightful beer that you can get in our parts. Recently, a Twitter photo seemed to show the Cubs' official bus smuggling a few cases of it back to Chicago as it left Milwaukee.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:05 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

American Spoon has some nice brunch boxes.

Zingerman's has a Sweet & Savory Bakery Basket which should fulfill all your carb needs and maybe leave a little over to take home to the husband.

A radio to catch the baseball games.

A folding chair so you can sit closer to the water if you want.

A nice fluffy robe so you don't have to get dressed right after the bath and can lounge around. You'll probably want slippers for that, too.
posted by praemunire at 9:19 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

A waterproof bag or other container for your camera, so that you can take it with you on a canoe or kayak trip. A strap for your glasses, so that if you turn over your boat the glasses don't disappear down to the bottom of the lake.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 9:28 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would smoke weed and try to write something.
posted by JohnR at 9:28 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Skincare if that's at all your thing - long cabin evenings are the perfect time to exfoliate and moisturise while you read. Sheet masks are lovely for it.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:32 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would bring simple foods. In Greece, salad meant fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, olives, feta cheese, olive oil, bread. possibly a splash of vinegar and sprinkling of oregano. Add some salami, maybe eggs for breakfast, some veggies to roast, and I could eat this for a weekend. In any case, I'd plan the food ahead to avoid distraction.

Bring some music that deserves careful listening, for me that would include some classical cello, and Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert, which is the best thing to listen to on a longish drive.

A couple books, scented candles. Good music, candles, wine, bath crystals, and a book make a hot bath an excellent experience. I don't usually care about candles or room scent, but a cabin can have its own musty smell after being closed up.

I live in a little house near a lake. right now there is a breeze and mix of sun and clouds. Because I looked up the Köln Concert, it's playing in another tab. I have coffee and a small dog. There is nothing else I need at this moment. Don't overpack.
posted by theora55 at 9:42 AM on June 27, 2018 [8 favorites]

I did something similar recently, but with my sister and brother-in-law. And one of the first days, I broke my computer; I was looking for a recipe while having a glass of wine, and somehow poured the wine into the computer. It cannot be saved. It was a bad thing for my economy and career, but it was an amazing thing for my mood and spirit, I was the happiest I've been for years. I was not only off-line, but also off screen for five days. Let your screens stay home for those days, bring real books and magazines, and remember how to spend days walking and thinking and (for me) preparing food. I didn't make complicated dishes, but I did source local specialities, like eggs from a roadside stand. I also made a huge road trip finding local vegetable growers, which was both interesting (exploring the area) and had delicious results. New potatoes were great both as a side with whatever meat we had for dinner, as roasted for breakfast next day with scrambled eggs, and in a sandwich with bacon. I also found lettuces and other greens.
I like to always have a bit of cheese, but for me it can be anything from cheddar to feta over brie. I improvise from there.
I like to bake for myself, but if you don't, sourdough bread or crackers are the best for isolated holidays.
posted by mumimor at 9:49 AM on June 27, 2018 [8 favorites]

I would 100% do everything I could to unplug from the internet altogether. Ditto for phone/text unless it's just impossible. Warn folks that you're decoupling for X days and then just turn it off and leave it off. It may stress you a bit but I'd push through it.

Don't sleep in EVERY day, though this is less of an issue if you don't stay up half the night either. Catch some sunsets on the lake, from the boat or from the dock.

If possible make and enjoy a camp fire (if this involves buying wood if you're thoroughly un-handy then so be it) as long as you don't burn things down around you.

Take liquor, drink it, don't pass out and/or put yourself in danger.

Don't leave your lights on or your overhead light on in your car and cause a dead battery and a heap of PITA.

Try to go a whole day without electricity, that might be fun?

Fly a kite maybe.

Learn to tie some knots in some scraps of rope via a phone app or pre-printed instruction sheets.

Play solitaire.

Get a tan.

Bring junk food. Bring non-junk food. Alternate so as to not put yourself into a icky/yearning mode.

Go for drives around the countryside. Doubly so on friday/saturday when you might see yardsales or flea markets to peruse. Find a farmer's market and crash it. Ditto for a local (or semi-local) bar/pub/haunt for a few nights/evenings of solitary (or non solitary!) relaxation.

Take a journal and write something every day or every so often.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:07 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Do I understand correctly that you will be there for one full day only (Saturday)? If so, I would caution against bringing so much stuff that you crowd out any time you have to just relax. If it not just one full day, ignore my reply. Either way, have a wonderful time!
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 10:08 AM on June 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

Do you mean Friday, Saturday, Sunday? Because that's not a few days, that's a day. Or do you mean Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday? If the former, I might put the yoga blocks in the car, but I'd be astonished if they made it into the cabin. What would definitely make it into the cabin would be a bucketload of chunked and frozen seasonal fruit (currently it is mangoes), a blender, a couple pints of cream, and a bottle of Goslings. And six or eight high-end chocolate bars, a picnicpack of Popeyes, fiddle faddle, toaster streudel, frozen pizza, lil smokies and splodey biscuits, and a pile of no-effort books and magazines.

If I had more than one full day, maybe I'd embrace yoga and eat parsimoniously out of farm stands and break out the kayak and bake my own bread and have a long, meditative brainbreak. But a single Saturday? I'd full on do a lost weekend and not try to improve or extend myself in any aspect or realm.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:10 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Fig, this sounds marvelous!

I'm going to second theora55's recommendation not to overpack. Just so you don't feel like you have to get everything in on a weekend. I'd frame this mentally as your first cabin trip -- something you do every year or so. You are a cabin-goer!

My family has a small and basic cabin, and when I go I like to keep it really simple. I've brought piles of stuff to do before and I rarely get through it all. Now I mostly just bring some good coffee or tea, a few books I've been looking forward to. My next trip, I'm bringing a laptop because I'm hoping to sketch out some family history so I can get details on it later. I bring my own pillow and duvet because they're fresher and an afternoon nap at the cabin is a wonderful thing.

If your cabin has a fireplace and it's chilly enough, it's nice to have a fire -- a Duraflame log lasts 4 hours or more, though, so that's a chunk of the evening. We cut them in half and they still last for 3 hours. And if no fireplace, just light a few candles in the evening. Maybe kayak on one of the mornings. Check out the little store and talk to people. Walk my dog up to the overlook and let her explore a bit.

I wouldn't pack a single piece of music or audio, though. The best thing about the cabin is listening to the birds and the leaves and the creaky floors. It's nice to just be alone with your thoughts. Sometimes I pack a fan for white noise if it's a holiday weekend and the neighbors are out.

At Whole Foods, I'd pick up some cut fruit and picnicky things and just snack on that all weekend.
posted by mochapickle at 10:11 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

When I just have a weekend near a body of water, I like to do spectacular thematic pedicures. You bring a ton of nail polish and paint the base coat on the night you get there so that it has time to dry and stick to the nails. Then after you go swimming the next day while your feet are wet you can rub off all the errant splotches that get all over your toes when you try to paint your nails, or they do if you're me, anyway. Then you embellish Saturday. This one time I did a dark blue basecoat and then I put tiny orange fish kinda low on the big toes, with little white bubbles drifting up, and extended the little white bubbles onto all the other toes. Once I tried to make them all look like starlight mints. Then if you have a forgiving or inattentive workplace you can wear open-toed shoes the following couple weeks and try to coordinate all your outfits to your toes, extending that weekend feeling far into the future!
posted by Don Pepino at 10:25 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I hope you have a refreshing, wonderful time.

Most of what I can think of you've got covered and this may be a bit out there but--perhaps one of those self-standing (doesn't require trees) hammocks so you can stargaze in the evening? With or without headphone music.
posted by ifjuly at 10:37 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you were going to do this, what would you bring, and what would you plan to do?

Paper, pen, Walden. You won't be there long, so skip directly to the woodchucks and flying cats.

Some combination of alcohol and dope and tobacco, plenty of inexpensive utility candles for light and heat and fun, lighters and matches, bug repellent, maybe a light mosquito net to hang over the bed or porch chair, a warm sleeping bag in case I decided to sleep on the porch or the roof, extra shoes, extra boots, extra socks, and extra extra socks. A guitar. Comfortable life jacket? Are you going to be on the water a lot? Will there be a life jacket? You don't want to drown all alone Saturday afternoon and miss watching the stars Saturday night.

Minimal screens. Minimal electronics. Minimal connections to the outside. Paper books, not Kindle. If you have to take a phone, charge it up, then turn it off, tape it up in a bag, and hide it down in the bottom of your stuff, not to be torn into unless you have an actual emergency. Go off the grid mentally and electronically for a couple of days. Tell people not to freak if you aren't answering. Try to put the camera down and just look at things. Try not to turn on electric lights.
posted by pracowity at 10:47 AM on June 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Came in to say manicures and sheet masks! Have a relaxing time.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:47 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend nature bathing, as it's so good for mood improvement. Any kind of exercise will help the stress you've been feeling. Maybe hike in a nearby Wisconsin state park, take your kayak, or just find trails in the nearby woods.

If you really are there for just one day, I recommend not being incredibly goal-oriented; don't make a schedule for every hour. Just sketch out some things you'd like to do and see how it flows.
posted by ElisaOS at 11:03 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'll be there for just the weekend, so two nights. Fri afternoon through Sunday early afternoon. Only one full day, Saturday. I am an inveterate planner and have a hard time not having anything scheduled, so here I am on AskMe, asking how to fill up my planned free time :) My yoga stuff lives in my car so blocks/straps/mats will be along for the ride.

There is a hammock on the property! :D I forgot to mention that one.
posted by Fig at 11:08 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

The only other thing I would bring is: permission to yourself to blow off everything if you just plum don't feel like it.

I've done this kind of thing on retreats too, where I have all these ambitious ideas for what I'm going to do - and then I end up doing only half of them, because there's invariably an hour or two in there where I just am so cozy on the couch and I ask myself "I was gonna read something, do I really feel like it though?...Nahhhh." And that's just that.

If you try to schedule yourself too much, you run the risk of feeling like you are ticking boxes on a checklist rather than satisfying yourself at a soul level. Bring what you're planning on bringing (the last time I did a by-myself retreat I brought all these art supplies and bookmarked an online blogging course and took all these luxury bath treatments), but permit yourself to upend the schedule and go with what the heart wants (I never did the online blogging course, because after all that all I wanted to do was lay around eating chocolate and binge-watching The Fall).

Especially if you're a "must plan" person. I am too, and I find that this kind of permitting myself to be lazy and bored is good.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:19 AM on June 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Green County is the nation's leader in cheese production. If cheese is your thing, stop at a local cheese shop and treat yourself to a few of their excellent varieties by their many, many cheese producers.

Luxurious breakfast idea: stop at a local bakery and get an unsliced loaf of really good bread. Pick up some fresh local strawberries, they're in season now. Whipping cream and eggs. Make yourself some stuffed french toast. Get some fresh garlic and local butter along with the aforementioned cheese, and make gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches with garlic butter.

A hat with a built-in bug net that can be pulled down when necessary is helpful, in case the biting/flying insects become too annoying.

Spend as much time on or near the water as possible, because that's not something can do at whim when you're at at home. Same goes with looking at the stars at night - you'll see so much more than you can in any urban area.

And give yourself time to just sit, or take a walk, and let the surroundings quietly fill you with peace.
posted by Lunaloon at 11:51 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Lake in Wisconsin = MOSQUITOS. Be sure to bring bug spray!
posted by hydra77 at 11:59 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ditto, Ditto for leaving anything electronic at home - I've traveled solo long-distance a lot and cannot imagine how traumatic it would be to be dragged back to the 'real world' while I was having some other-wordly experiences, and learning stuff.

A good umbrella so you can sit on a bank reading and without wearing a hood.
posted by unearthed at 2:47 PM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

One reason I moved away from town was for darker night skies. If you can hustle up a mosquito net for the hammock, you could stargaze for quite a while. I plan to do this with a skeeter net and an patio umbrella with skeeter netting instead of the cover. The moon is full on the 28th, so will be pretty bright, but will rise a bit later, on the weekend.
posted by theora55 at 8:30 PM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Skip Whole Foods, go to the willy st coop in Madison instead for all your madison-food-scooping needs, and swing by Batch bakehouse for a supply of pastries for breakfast (I had the gruyere & savory cream cheese croissant this morning & v much do recommend).
posted by worstname at 8:54 PM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

- A super cozy blanket or duvet!
- Absolutely extra socks. Big, fluffy warm socks.
- Your pillow (sometimes cabins have musty pillows)
- Insect repellent. Does Wisconsin have black flies? They are the worst.
- A hair mask. I used this one recently and my hair was so nice afterwards.
- My luxurious breakfasts are usually smoked salmon, bagels, and cream cheese with lots of fruit and good coffee. But you could also make a frittata, or buy fruit preserves and butter to slather over brioche or tea biscuits (my favourite). Or you could get fancy bacon from a butcher! Oh man I love breakfast.
- You could make homemade ice tea with lemon, or fancy elderflower lemonade.
- Jiffy pop.
posted by Stonkle at 11:36 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

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