This weekend, I returned from my family’s annual vacation. My parents, siblings and I spent all last week amidst the sand dunes, piers and awkward tan lines of North Carolina.
We rented a home on the same island we’ve escaped to each year for over a decade. My parents and I took a pause from our jobs, my siblings from their schooling. Our attention, once focused on deadlines, bills and high school, shifted to reconnecting with one another. We bonded over platters of seafood, laughed over a lifetime of memories and, inevitably, argued. It was all wonderful, but for a different reason than prior years.
I now live in a different state than the rest of my family so I miss out on the small nuances of day-to-day life. That’s the price of growing up. I never considered these nuances to be what I’d miss the most about moving away. So it was nice to experience them again.
In my time away, beyond rekindling with the family, I finished two books, walked back and forth over a million grains of sand and drifted to and from sleep by the sound of saltwater lapping. It was as perfect as it sounds.
My days were simple. I filled them with whatever I wanted, sometimes that meant nothing more than watching the tide grow and shrink. North Carolina is a sliver of paradise and during my time there I’m always the most relaxed I’ve been all year.
I’m grateful I can carve out a week or so to spend unwinding with my family, but toward the end of the trip something interesting happened.
Unlike previous years, I found myself excited to get back to work, to paying bills and to falling into my daily routine. That vacation, as lovely and effortless as it was, reminded me of how much I love my regular life, which I find myself complaining about when I’m stuck in the thick of it.
In previous years, I would wish my annual beach escape was never-ending. I now appreciate that, before it can start again, it must come to an end. My parents said they feel the same. I’m sure a lot of you do, too.
What a phenomenon.
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, I’m an avid traveler. I love seeing new places and experiencing new cultures. When I was younger, I dreamed of living an adventurous life, one I defined as being filled with nonstop travel and constant exposure to new things.
As enticing as a life of globetrotting sounds, I now realize that I love returning to the everyday routines I’ve created.
The act of travel, of vacationing, would lose some of its power if it was nonstop. A vacation feels magical because it is a short-term break from the norm.
There is something equally as magical about going to the same place year after year. My family and I grow and shift, but our tiny beach town remains unchanged. That consistency allows me to notice just how much I have changed over the years.
I walked up and down the beach reminding myself how different my life was the last time my footprints dotted the sand.
For one thing, in previous years, I didn’t arrive at the end of my vacation eager to get back to responsibility. I guess that means I’m maturing.