Is there a place on this earth that no matter how many times you go there it still renders excitement at the mere thought? The trip planning, the countdown, and the setting off towards that place just sets your heart aflutter? A place where you want to take everyone you know and hope they feel the same joy and peace you do there? Where the friends you have there make you feel like it was just yesterday since they saw you instead of months (or in the case of 2020 years)? Uh-huh. That place for me is Hot Springs, Arkansas. If I can’t be on a beach or an ocean somewhere this little town is where I want to be.
My first visit was spring of 2001. I remember this clearly because it was about two weeks before I found out I was pregnant with my Em. An old boss turned good friend lived there and I went to visit her in Hot Springs Village. I don’t remember much about the part of the town that I now cherish but there must have been something that pulled me about the natural waters that flow there because I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been back in the 20 years since.
I couldn’t tell you what year the next visit was but it was with my Fred. That was also the year I found my sweet little bathhouse shop that is so dear to my heart today. But back to Fred. The irony about Fred and Hot Springs is he was good going once every couple of years…he loved the people we met there same as I did but he wanted to go to new places when we made travel plans. He freely encouraged me to plan girls’ trips, take the kid’s there (I can’t tell you how many of the kid’s friends have been there), and go as often as I could swing it but he was just as content to keep his bottom in his recliner. That was the beautiful thing about our relationship. He never clipped my wings and was the one that showed me I even had any wings!
My love affair with this town as evolved. In the beginning I wanted to see all the things and do all the things. I could spend an entire Saturday poking in and out of all the shops on Bathhouse Row. My favorite, of course, is Bathhouse Soapery. Fred and I found this little gem on one of our early trips together when I was really into checking out bath shops in all the little towns we traveled. Needless to say, once I found Bathhouse that wasn’t a needed travel activity anymore. I had what I needed and I haven’t looked back. I could spend hours hanging out in the store visiting with friends that have turned into family and smelling all the goodness. People who have been to the store with me will tell you my house smells like the store. I take that as a compliment always.
When I take visitors for the first time I take them to all my favorite spots. When I go for a repeat visit I’ve gotten to where it’s more a *me* thing. Usually a soak in the mineral water, a massage, a visit to the bath store every day, and as was the case on this last trip a sit and chill at a local watering hole making new friends. When Fred and I first started traveling a weekend away was exhausting. Traveling was so new I was under the impression I had to see everything and do everything because I would never get to place xyz again. Maturity and wisdom has taught me the best trips are those that nothing is planned other than the destination and where I am putting my head down at night. This especially holds true in Hot Springs.
I don’t know if it’s the old town charm, something in the water, the people (ok I know it’s mostly the people), or the combo of all of the above but this is where I go when I need to recharge my soul in ways the ocean sometimes can’t do. Lovingly referred to as “my favorite place on land” the power of this place to love me through some tough times in my life is remarkable. I was in Hot Springs 10 days before Fred died – preparing for what we knew was coming. I ran here just a month ago when faced with a change in the trajectory of my life brought about by an outsider that was unimaginable to me. I left feeling loved and like I had the proverbial army on my side.
Wherever the place is for you – hold it close and visit often. We all need more peace and love and if you have found a haven for your soul first share where it is with me and then plan a trip!!! 🙂