My Doomsday Vacation

Forest thinning pays dividends in San Juan Fire

We haven’t gone on a family vacation in two years and this summer I was determined to get out town, if even for a few short days. I tried to book us a condo in San Diego – yeah, right. Those have been booked for months and months. How about Mexico? It’s just as hot there as it is here in Tucson and I haven’t gotten around to getting us passports. So, I settled on Pinetop, a quaint town in the Arizona White Mountains where the summer temperature is in the high 80’s. Much better than 105.

My pre-vacation preparations have always looked a little like doomsday prepping. I pack several days in advance working off lists that I wrote a month ahead of time. Yes, Pinetop has modern conveniences like Walmart and a Hallmark store but you never know.

This year, over packing wasn’t an option. We were bringing the dogs and the crate takes up half the vehicle so I restrained myself. Since this trip was also planned quickly, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d probably forget something.

Like a first aid kit. When my son busted open his big toe from running barefoot with scissors (ha – just joking about the bare feet!), all I had was damn-new-shoes bandaids in my purse. You know, the kind without pictures of Dora or Cars on them. And no anti-bacterial spray. We had to wash his bloody, filthy feet with regular soap and water.

Historically before a big trip, I tend to go into a “we’re going to die” mode. While my husband is visualizing the joys of no traffic and smooth sailing, I’m visualizing death and destruction on the highway. It’s just the way I am and I’ve accepted that this is where my mind goes when I’m anxious about something. I’ve come a long way since our last vacation and I no longer let the thoughts consume me. When a vision of impending doom enters my mind, I observe it non-judgmentally and let it pass. I’ve become an acute observer.

I was doing pretty well until we were about 60 miles from our destination and I saw a giant smoke cloud rising above the distant pines. It looked like a volcano erupted and it was positioned exactly where we were going. Frantically Googling “Arizona forest fires” was useless with no cell signal in the middle of nowhere but I tried anyway. For several agonizing minutes, I indulged in thoughts of my family perishing in a fiery death. As I observed the thoughts entering my brain, I resisted the urge to tell myself, “Shut the F up! You’re freaking me out!” No, my dear friends, I practiced loving kindness toward myself and let the negative thoughts dissipate into smoke mist.

Death traps are everywhere.
Death traps are everywhere.

As we approached Pinetop, the smoke cloud loomed larger but I took some comfort in the fact that other cars were going in the same direction we were. We wouldn’t all drive directly into a forest fire, would we? If this was a truly dangerous situation, there would be roadblocks, right? Right? Right?

We were all tired, hungry and cranky from a 5 hour drive that should’ve only taken 3 ½ (but that’s a totally different blog post. Hint: if you ask a 4-year-old if she needs to go potty, she’ll say yes every time) so we went through a Taco Bell drive thru. I gently suggested to my husband that he ask about the forest fire and he did. Sure, it was just to shut me up, but still. The fire turned out to be about 20 miles away and had just sparked a couple of hours before. It was too soon to tell what would happen. I asked how we would find out if the town needed to be evacuated and the guy said, “Don’t worry. You’ll know.”

Once we arrived at our cabin, I logged onto the wifi with the password the owner gave me (sweetunicorn69? Seriously, dude. This is a family vacation!) and did my own research. Then I let it go. I turned off the laptop and stopped searching the woods for signs of flames. I only did one Facebook status about it, said a prayer for the people in the little town that had been evacuated and turned it over to God.

Do you know what happened in Tucson while we were gone? An earthquake. An actual earthquake. Well, it happened in New Mexico but it was felt in Tucson. I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

tucson earthquake

20 thoughts on “My Doomsday Vacation

  1. Girl, we are like soul sisters on this one. I am ALWAYS assessing ways we can die. Always. I remember one year my husband and I went to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. While we where there, they started warning of a hurricane heading towards land. I was freaking.the.hell.out. But no one on the island paid any attention. They were all going about the business, having drinks at bars, sitting on the beach. The freaking beach! Where the hurricane comes from! My husband was of the mindset that if the locals weren’t worried, we shouldn’t be either. We did however, leave one day early just to make sure we could get out of there. I think I spend the whole first three hours of the car trip looking behind me, expecting to see a giant wave chasing us.


    1. Oh man, we are soul sisters! I just like to have a contingency plan, like when we went to San Diego a couple of years ago and I planned an escape route in case of a tsunami, People may think we’re uptight but let’s see what happens if there’s a natural disaster, car wreck down a steep cliff or bear in our campsite. 😉


  2. Ha! ha! you are just like my mom! She is always skeptic about vacations and has a subtle control in her emotions.But I know, moms are the one who are most prepared for anything during vacations. Would love to see some pictures. Thanks sharing this wonder post 🙂


  3. Is it wrong that someone’s anxiety gave me smiles? Okay, that doesn’t sound food at all but you know what I mean, right? Our most anxiety producing vacation for me (adventure to my husband) took place in your state. I was doing the mental check list too. And we survived! 😊 Thanks for letting us laugh with you.


  4. I’m just like you, I expect the worst. This post made me panic that much more for my 4th of July trip this weekend… hopefully there will be no flames or earthquakes involved.


  5. I would definitely, definitely, definitely take that as a sign. Now a sign to do what I’m not sure… take more vacations? Worry less about fires and more about hurricanes? Hee, hee, just kidding, it certainly seemed like a clear enough sign to worry less, enjoy more!

    Sorry to hear you struggle with the doomsday stuff, I have several close to me who struggle with that as well, and I have empathy, for it is not an easy thought process to change. Lord knows, though, we have changed even more power habits in our lifetime, so all is possible!

    Glad to hear you had a great vacation, and proved to yourself that fly by the seat of your pants is not always a disaster 🙂


    1. You should’ve seen me a couple of years ago! My mind still goes to doomsday but it doesn’t live there anymore. Isn’t that hilarious about the earthquake? I definitely agree that it’s a sign that sh*t happens everywhere and to enjoy more and worry less like you said!


  6. You let it go! Must be Elsa’s song or maybe just recovery 😉 Sounds like a really cool place to vacation. It’s good to get away despite all the anxieties involved in getting there. I’ll be dealing with my own soon. I do think it gets a little easier each time. And at least we’ll be prepared when disaster strikes!


    1. I’ve definitely gotten better at not focusing on potential doom which means that I’m better at managing anxiety overall. Anxiety has always been my problem. Every other negative thing was to numb the anxiety. I’m happy to say we didn’t watch Frozen once during our vacation but Let It Go stills plays in the background of my mind! And it probably will until the next Disney movie comes out. 😉


  7. OMGoogles! I couldn’t have started my day better than reading about your trip. You are even more dear to me (if that’s possible). All I can think about (and appreciate) is the wonderful sense of humor God must have…He may have even influenced that password just to get kicks and giggles out of you 🙂

    On a slightly different note. I saw your words ‘practiced loving kindness.’ Any chance you know about the associated meditation? If so, you know what I mean and the peace the words give. If not…I’ll e-mail it to you! It’s the only meditation I can get my busy body to sit down and do.

    Loved this Karen…you’re a gem 🙂


    1. Please email me about it! I meditated for the first time on this trip and was amazed by the experience. It was like being in a room with a loud motor running and then all of a sudden, I realized I couldn’t hear the motor anymore and at the same time, I realized that I never knew the motor was there in the first place! I’d love to hear more about it.

      Thanks Michelle. I was just commenting on your post on RoS at the same time you were commenting here! There are no accidents. 🙂


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