Hibernating in Hudson

A New York City writer picks an unlikely location to take her sabbatical.

When I first told friends that I was leaving New York City and taking a one-year sabbatical, they offered several suggestions as to how I should spend that year. “Go count whales in Alaska!” said one. “No, do that pilgrim walk across Spain,” said another. And I heard “Spend the year in Bali!” quite a lot.

They were wonderful suggestions, but I already knew exactly where I’d spend a large chunk of my sabbatical: Hudson.

When I moved to NYC in 2009, I thought I’d never leave. The city made me happy, and it always felt like home. But surprisingly, I experienced a seven-year itch: the sirens, horns, and chaos became exhausting, and I always felt the need to escape. Sometimes I’d hibernate in Cold Spring, or take an off-season trip to Cape Cod. But one weekend, following a co-worker’s suggestion, I visited Hudson. And when I stepped off the train and strolled into town, I was amazed and annoyed that I hadn’t discovered this place before.

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There was Warren Street with its array of antiques and manageable choice of coffee shops, each hosting a curious mix of people happy to say hello. Side streets boasted stunning Colonial structures, some standing proud, others graceful in their decay. Behind them were the quiet, quirky alleyways with their beautiful brick work and tangled telegraph wires. And surrounding it all were the big skies and rolling hills of Claverack, Stockport, and beyond. No gridlock, no chaos, just quiet.

I returned to Hudson for many long weekends, all of which felt too short. So, when I finally decided to pack up my city life and start the sabbatical, I knew exactly where I’d go. And since the day I arrived, it’s always felt right.

I cycle many peaceful miles here, hike some glorious trails, and stumble across creatures I haven’t seen in years. I experienced the brilliance of autumn and her circus of colors, and the harshness of winter and her blanket of ice. And I frequently revel in two simple things: a sky full of stars and pin-drop silence, broken only by the distant, mournful wail of a train.

The local CrossFit terrorizes and tones my muscles each week, the supermarkets remind me that grocery shopping really can be a peaceful experience, and the town’s general sense of calm inspires me to resume all the reading and creative writing I’ve neglected for years.

Uprooting my life and taking a sabbatical was a difficult decision, and I often wondered if I was doing the right thing. But I never once doubted coming to Hudson, and I’m grateful for being able to spend a long stretch of time here. It may not have the thrill of Alaska’s whales or Europe’s pilgrim trails, but it’s the perfect place to pause after a hectic 10 years.

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Nina Doyle is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Hudson.


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