It was May and My Beloved Ron and I were driving through the rolling mountains of Vermont. I laughed at myself because I almost hadn’t made it here. I’d almost turned down the assignment I’d wanted for over a decade: to write about the Vermont Cheese Trail.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, I chastised myself.
Red barns dotted the landscape. Signs teased “homemade maple syrup.” Despite light drizzle, the grass and trees radiated spring-time newness. The leaves blushed in tones of lime and apple green; it would be a couple more weeks before they matured fully into the deep asparagus and forest greens of summer. It was a postcard come to life—and I was smack in the middle of it.
How could I have almost turned this down?
Of course when Northeast Flavor asked me to write a story about the Vermont Cheese Trail, I’d said yes. Yes, Yes, Yes! I’d wanted to make this trip ever since Ron, Lindsey and I made a brief visit to Vermont twelve years ago. We were on our way to the Ben and Jerry’s visitors center when I saw a sign: “Vermont Cheese Trail.”
“Let’s come back some day and spend a week driving and tasting,” I said to Ron.
“Sure,” said Ron. That’s one of the things I like best about My Beloved. Why we still get along so well after twenty years of marriage. He’s totally onboard for anything having to do with travel or food.
Then twelve years skipped by and we never made it back to Vermont. Except for a one-day sprint to Burlington so Lindsey could visit the University of Vermont in the rain. No time for cheese that day.
Then Northeast Flavor called. Yea!
Of course, as soon as I said yes, I started to panic. First there were scheduling issues. The week that fit best into my schedule was too early in the season. The inns Flavor wanted me to visit wouldn’t be open yet. (I know, I can sense your sympathy waning already.) Plus, Lindsey would be home the only week that worked for the inns and still met Flavor’s copy deadline. How could I go away during one of only six weeks that my daughter would be home all summer?
Then there was work. Not that writing for Flavor isn’t work, it’s just that magazine writing only pays a fraction of what corporate work pays. It’s the income from the corporate assignments that enable me to pay my mortgage, travel, eat foodie-style—and take on the magazine assignments.
My corporate clients were really busy and that was trickling down to—no pouring onto—me. I felt lucky to have so much work. I certainly couldn’t turn anything down. Not when other people were clamoring to get any work at all.
I almost called Northeast Flavor to back out of the cheese story at least twice. But something stopped me.
Just go. I told myself. You will never forgive yourself if you don’t. Afterall, I do love cheese.
I could always check email and return calls while Ron drove. Then complete a few quick PR assignments at night…
I created a four-day, ten creamery itinerary that zigged and zagged across Vermont. (There is really no physical cheese trail, just an entire state with about 40 creameries spread out across it). I scheduled a couple of phone conferences during times I knew I’d be in the car.
My stomach churned when I thought about everything I’d committed to, but I didn’t feel that I had any other option. Saying no to Flavor would just be another case of me ruining things for myself. Saying no to my other clients would jeopardize my income. (What I am describing took place one week before this happened.)
When we left for the trip, people on the ferry saw us with our suitcases. The conversations went like this:
“Where are you going?”
“To research a magazine story about the Vermont Cheese Trail.”
“That must be rough,” they said, giving me a sly nod.
I smiled back on the outside while inside I laughed at myself. I was off to live one of my dreams and yet inside I was as stressed out as a dirty mop being crushed in one of those old-fashioned crank wringer things.I was ridiculous and I knew it.
If anyone knew how I really felt, they would think I was crazy.
Heck, I think I’m crazy.
Ron and I made it to the car. Over the next four days I interviewed people who love cheese as much as I do, pet calves and goats, tasted amazing cheeses with names like Invierno (sheep’s milk), Gondolier (cow’s milk), and Bijou (goat’s milk),–and slept in picturesque inns.
I also struggled to type emails on my tiny phone keyboard as Ron drove around sharp bends; skipped exploring the gardens of those beautiful inns to return even more emails at night—and stressed about whether or not I was doing everything I’d committed to well enough.
It wasn’t the ideal approach. But at least I took the trip.
Note to self: In the future, try to be more understanding of other people. After all, you never know what’s really going on inside anyone else’s head. They could very well be torturing themself the same way I torture myself. Hardest thing to remember EVER!