Just Up The Road: A Year Discovering People, Places, and What Comes Next in the Pine Tree State follows Chelsea Diehl's year-long journey through the state of Maine as she travels far and near to complete one hundred adventures and hopefully gain insight into what she wants to do next with her life. Through candid, humorous, and personal accounts of new and revisited journeys, readers will follow along on her trail of stays, discoveries, hikes, and meals—all while getting to meet some of the people that make them possible and possibly learning a little about the things that truly matter.
Below is an excerpt from the book entitled "Nurture Through Nature."
I KNEW I NEEDED A RESETTING OF SORTS. A way to figuratively, and perhaps literally, shed the past ten plus years of my life to focus on the next ten. I’m all for symbolic acts that represent important change—so I decided my first adventure after leaving my job was a solo sweat session in the middle of the woods.
When you book a wood-fired sauna experience at Nurture Through Nature, a retreat center northwest of Sebago Lake, they warn you to wear appropriate walking shoes (plus traction if it’s winter) and to bring a flashlight in case it’s dark when you leave. With microspikes strapped on, I walked up a small hill, following wooden signs bearing encouraging messages pinned to trees, each sign providing a reminder to be present, to breathe, and to “notice.” I noticed how quiet the woods were against my crunchy footsteps in the icy snow. (Seriously, was anyone else here?) I also noticed I was entirely preoccupied while trudging along the path. Relentless reminders that I was now jobless and rotating cycles of worry to exhilaration back to worry, circled endlessly in my mind. Accepting my inability to be present, I attempted to shift my focus by concentrating on my breath, watching warm exhales escape, emerging as misty clouds in the frosty air. Suddenly, the sauna appeared through the trees. A circular wood paneled structure with a multi-colored banner wrapped around the circumference was peacefully, solemnly, waiting for me.
As I approached, an employee of Nurture Through Nature emerged near the entrance, warmly welcoming me into the sauna. With enviable calmness, the woman offered snacks and water and proceeded to show me the ropes. Her voice was so soothing and deliberate and I could tell she was the type of person who is probably a pro at being “present,” someone who has no problem “noticing.” A relaxation professional, a mind and body easement expert, I decided. She seemed effortlessly grounded, filled with peace, clearly in touch with herself and her environment. Meanwhile, I was fully distracted again. I tuned back into my surroundings just as she sweetly asked, “Are you going to do the brook plunge?”
Behind the sauna flows a spring-fed mountain brook where guests are invited to do an icy dunk at some point during their eucalyptus-infused, steamy session. It was about five degrees outside and I couldn’t feel my toes. I can’t do that, I convinced myself. That’s for someone else anyway, someone who has a strong connection to their emotional and physical needs, someone who is able to honor those needs. Still, I could feel this faint desire begin bubbling up from my core, a tiny voice struggling to be heard. But before I could convince my brain to follow my gut, I muffled and silenced the urge. Next time, I promised—both the voice and the tranquil employee. Next time, no matter what, I will plunge into that frigid brook. She smiled as she opened the door to exit the transition room, letting in a wash of cool air, and began her trek back down the hill.
I sat in the cedar-lined sauna on and off for one sweaty, heart-pumping hour. I took multiple breaks, feeling my heart rate climb, peeking my head out into the winter air for relief. While inside the sauna, when my ever-persistent thoughts would overwhelm me, I would take advantage of the frigid brook water provided in a large bowl and properly drench myself to be shocked back into the present. Occasionally, it worked. Perhaps it was just the pools of sweat escaping from my skin, but in a few “present” moments, I felt lighter.
When my hour wrapped and I stepped outside, my body steaming in the cold air, I was alone. I traipsed back to my car, my sweat crystallizing, and this time gave a mental high five as I passed the wooden reminders pinned to the trees.
“I’ll be back,” I whispered to each sign, assuring them of my vow to return.
Chelsea Diehl is a graduate of Emerson College with a degree in acting and theater education. In 2008, she founded My College Audition, a one-on-one college audition coaching company. She sold the company in 2019. Occasionally, you can find her acting on the stage or screen. She is also the founder of Gadabout Maine, through which Chelsea chronicles her adventures across Vacationland and features must-do hikes, unforgettable stays, not to miss eats, and adventures for all ages. Chelsea has previously written two books about the college audition process. She lives in South Portland, Maine with her husband, Andrew, her daughter, Harper, and rescue pup, Lucy.