Wife and I both love to travel. We have done it as much as possible during our life together when the budget has allowed and have packed up our offspring and taken them with us. You just can't beat a family vacation.
We did the beach vacation thing more times than I can count, going back to our single days, then as married "DINKS" (double-income, no kids), then with our children as they were growing up, usually going down to the Florida Gulf Coast. We started going to Destin, where the white sand beaches and emerald waters are pristine, a long time ago. Sometimes we would go with or meet other families and we never went that we didn't run into folks we knew. It was (and still is) an immensely popular spot for beach goers.
From Little Rock we could get there in about 11 hours, depending on how many stops we'd make, and from Nashville we can be there in about seven.
The routine would nearly always be the same. We would rent a condo in a high-rise complex on the beach, would take enough groceries for breakfasts and lunches during the week, then usually visit one of the area restaurants for dinner. I absolutely love seafood of just about any kind, and you just can't beat getting it fresh right there by the ocean.
The days consisted of sitting under umbrellas at the beach, frolicking in the waves and making use of the beach-side pools. The place we usually stayed had organized activities for children as an option during the days which Daughter loved (she's always embraced structured, organized activities, hence her early desire to be a teacher) but which our boys would have none of. We also built the ubiquitous sand castles and went through the every-beach-vacation ritual of burying each other in the sand up to our heads and taking pictures of same. We have tons of happy memories of fun times at the beach.
Over the years Destin became more and more populated. The high-rises multiplied, as did the restaurants and shopping centers, as did the traffic and congestion. We eventually migrated eastward to the beaches on Highway 30-A. The little beach villages of Grayton Beach, Seaside, Seacrest and Rosemary Beach -- just to name a few -- all run together and are more sedate than Destin.
Eventually, as the curmedgeon gene took root in my being, I tired of the beach trips. The broiling heat of the summer, the growing crowds, and shaking sand out of everything I own, had all run its course with me. After our last family trip there in the summer of 2004 right before Older Son went to college, I told Wife that, although I cherished the memories of the good times, I believed I was going to be done with the beach vacations for a while.
As it turned out, she and I made a brief trip together in May 2005 right before I started the job I now have. She has been back a number of times without me, with my blessing. Wife loves the beach and will never, ever tire of it. Older Son and Daughter have been a lot closer to the beach at Auburn, so they've spent some spring breaks and long weekends there as well.
This year we invoked a "travel moratorium" of sorts. The house renovations earlier this year ate up the travel budget, and then some. So there were no real summer vacations, to the beach or otherwise.
October came and I still had quite a bit of vacation time to take. It's "use it or lose it" and I just don't feel obligated to "give back" to my employer in that way. I took a couple of days in October, puttered around the house a bit and did some fishing.
Wife and I started getting a little restless about a month ago. Business has been really good for her which is definitely a good thing, but she's weary. The banking regulatory world is making my head spin as well.
So I presented to Wife the possibility of a brief trip over to our neighboring state of North Carolina which I thought we could do quite economically. I suggested we go the week after Thanksgiving, then proceded to tell her all the people we would visit along the way, including a couple of longtime friends with whom I grew up, and a former special teacher I have wanted to see for a long time.
Wife gazed at me with that incredulous look that requires no verbalizing. The look alone said, "Are you kidding me?!" In other words, hopping from point to point seeing people -- some of whom Wife hardly knows and at least one she doesn't know at all -- didn't exactly appeal to her. I kind of dropped the subject.
Coincidentally, around the same time we had dinner with a good friend and client of Wife's who mentioned a condo he owns, guess where? On the Florida Gulf Coast. And we would be welcome to use it for nothing more than a small cleaning fee.
Need I go on? We just got back. We originally planned to leave last Sunday, then moved it to Monday, then finally got out of here very early Tuesday morning. We had thought we might go from there to Atlanta for the Southeast Conference Championship game but ticket prices proved to be astronomical, so we just came on home last night and watched Auburn blow out South Carolina on TV this afternoon.
The time at the beach -- Panama City this time, just east of the Highway 30-A beaches I had most recently visited -- was quiet, definitely the off-season. We took some long walks, did some reading, ate some great food, and Wife got a major part of the Christmas shopping done, which took a big load off of her (I am never much help there). She told me last night on the way home that the beach, quite simply, "brings peace to my soul."
And you know what? That's good enough for me. You know the old saying: "Happy Wife, Happy Life." We're happy here.