It was Day Four of a family trip to Madeline Island, and I sat listless in the armless chair beside the doctor’s desk, recounting my woes. It hurt to swallow. I was almost too tired to swim in Lake Superior. The bike I had lugged from home was stashed on the deck of the rental house, unused.

She did what good doctors do — lighting up my nasal passages and pressing around my neck — and delivered her verdict. Despite how I felt, I was not on the verge of death. Nor was there a magic pill she could prescribe to make me vacation-ready. I had a common cold, she said. Drink plenty of liquids. Rest.

You might think I was feeling downtrodden upon my return to the cabin. In fact, the news was liberating. I had a certifiable, authority- sanctioned reason to do absolutely nothing.

The paddleboard could wait. The bike could collect dust. Pack a picnic lunch and head to the state park? Save that for another day.

Instead, I put on a pot of water for tea, stirred in a heap of honey, and sat on the screened porch, reading a book. I didn’t feel like jumping into the lake, but it was a joy just to look at it.

I realized a few things during my brief convalescence.

If you load your vacation calendar with activities, you may be missing the opportunity to slow down, relax and go where the day takes you. In my case, for the early stretch of the trip, that was the sofa.

Be open to the unexpected. While a doctor’s office would never be on my planned itinerary, the La Pointe Community Clinic offered a peak into the culture. I adored the unhurried pace — and the dazzling display of ticks behind a frame. The doctor keeps limited office hours, but she told me that islanders track her down for stitches and other medical issues, including tick removal (she’s good at that).

Of course, I was happy to feel better. But I had adopted a languid pace and stuck with it.

 

Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.