Solutions: Trip offers tips on living a simpler life

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News


Though I consider my home to be a constant source of nourishment for my soul, sometimes it takes someone else’s house to lessen the pressure from stress and get a fresh perspective.

An alfresco meal in Charlevoix serves as a reminder to slow down and enjoy life.

When scheduling conflicts forced us to take our summer vacation in June, the positive effects wore off by mid-July. By the time August rolled around we were definitely ready for another adventure.

As it turns out, a visit to our friends’ place in Charlevoix would be just what the doctor ordered.

There, we were able to savor the simple things in life like walking to town and al fresco dining. Being near the water has always had a calming effect on me and this time it helped me to reflect and remember what’s important in life.

Friends and neighbors were constantly dropping by, and sitting on the porch upon our arrival felt like the perfect place to have a leisurely conversation and share some laughs.

Since the home we stayed in has no A/C, the open windows delivered fresh air that felt intoxicating in the cooler climate. My friend calls it the “sleeping house” because an afternoon nap is a given at some point between the day and evening activities.

One night, a farm-to-table dinner with around 50 people in attendance took our outdoor meal to a whole new level with fresh floral arrangements and local fare.

Back at the house, from the puzzle in progress on the dining table to their sweet beagle that sleeps on the back sofa pillows, the effortless environment looks like it was ripped from the pages of a magazine.

The fact that there are few clocks and no cable service adds to the quiet and relaxed vibe.

Fewer electrical outlets make you postpone charging a laptop or phone leading you to use them less often than you would at home.

During our trip, I was reminded that my friends and I happen to have the same taste in quirky décor. So when I saw a tray with a funny saying (You’re a mess.) that they prop on an ottoman I was inspired to move the one I have to a more prominent spot.

After admiring the Petoskey stones scattered around their house, my daughter decided to display some in a bowl on her desk and I’ve arranged the remaining ones on a table in our living room to serve as a reminder of our stay.

I told my friend that I felt like I was at a spiritual retreat and I asked her husband if he could write a prescription for the special setting as a remedy for stress.

Our daughter already asked if we can come back next year. Though she doesn’t remember much about our previous stay when she was younger, the laidback location and lifestyle obviously made an indelible mark on her this time.  

Sometimes it takes another place to see things clearly. After reconnecting with old friends in a relaxed atmosphere that lets you refresh and recharge, this experience makes me want to lead a cleaner, simpler life at home.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at