Three years ago, for Chad’s 30th birthday, I surprised him with a trip to Hilton Head, SC- just the two of us. This was back when we lived in MN, and the warm weather was so welcome. It didn’t hurt that they have great golf courses.
We went for a long weekend. The trip was amazing and we vowed to return.
Realizing that we only live 8 hours away now, it got put on the bucket list for 2021. Now living in FL, we visited for the cooler weather. Chad did his usual thorough research and found a reasonably priced condo on the ocean. Despite my concerns that there might not be enough to do, we booked for a week.
Given the length of this trip, I righteously appointed it as a, “healthy vacation,” vowing to eat well and continue exercising. I packed my running shoes, carrots and apples. I also packed a family size bag of peanut butter m&m’s. I will let you judge what my actual intentions were.
Each morning, I stepped outside in my running shoes to witness as the world quietly woke up. The sand of Hilton Head beach is firmly packed, providing solid ground for running. It took a minute to fall into the rhythm of the run- waiting for my jagged breath to sync up with the rhythm of the waves whooshing in, shortening and lengthening my strides to avoid stepping on jellyfish, all in the pinky purple morning light.
The sun rose as a big ball, hazy. Murky air surrounded it, giving the sky a pastel effect. Endorphins collided with beauty and peace; the best sort of outcome you can have with a run.
I ended each run by taking off my shoes and wading into the ocean, cool salt water enveloping my legs.
It was a heavy on nature kind of trip. We watched in awe as hundreds of tiny crabs emerged from holes in the salt marshes, waving their arms, and skittering back to their holes whenever they detected a threat. We caught, out of the corners of our eyes, jumping mullet, in the otherwise calm pond waters. We watched from our deck as a large pod of dolphins swam by, catching their dinner and occasionally stopping to play.
One day, we came upon a beach of horseshoe crabs mating. The female crab was buried under the sand, while multiple male horseshoe crabs attempted to attach to her so they could fertilize the eggs once they were laid. *
I explained to Avery and Alice what was happening. Chad shot me a look. It’s the same look that he gives me when I let the girls jump from a spot that is a little too high for his actuarial risk calculations, or when I pick up a millipede and ask if they want to hold it.
“Do you really want to use horseshoe crabs for your explanation of the birds and the bees? Five males on top of one female?” he asked, good protective father that he is.
“Fine,” I replied, “maybe you are right. I just thought it would be funny if the girls look back on life and remember that I tried to teach them about the birds and the bees with horseshoe crabs.”
It was the kind of vacation that left tan lines and chipped toenail polish. It was the towels out to dry over chairs, sand in our sheets, swimsuits count as underwear kind of vacation. The type where days meld together, sunrises becoming sunsets, days less governed by clocks, and more governed by whims. The kind of vacation where nothing was perfect and that is why everything was perfect.
By the end of the trip, my brain had also taken on the pastel effect; a little murky, but with beautiful subdued thoughts. I watched as Chad typed, “Stock Market” into his phone and wondered what sort of food they served at this market. When I saw the financial graphs and arrows appear, when I realized he was still existing in the non-vacation world, at least partially. And I was fully submerged: only concerned about my next meal, wondering about the food at the elusive restaurant, “Stock Market.”
We left relaxed. A week had been the perfect amount of time- long enough for our brains to fall into the lull of the ocean waves, long enough for endless bouts of family giggles, long enough.
When it was time to go home, we sleepily piled into the truck at 5am with sun kissed skin, a trunk that was packed to the brim, and memories for a lifetime.
And if I’m going to be honest, by the time we pulled into our driveway 9 hours later, we were exhausted. Already in need of another vacation.
But I think that is just how it goes when you travel with kids.
* Horseshoe crabs have been around, relatively unchanged for 445 million years- yes, they were here prior to the dinosaurs. They actually are not part of the crab family and are more closely related to spiders. Most importantly, in my subjective opinion, they are one of the ugliest creatures to inhabit the earth. You’re welcome, for yet another nerdy fact.
2 replies on “The Healthy Vacation”
Sounds like an amazing family vacation! Loved your variation on the birds and the bees. 😂
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As usual, Laura, you had me picturing every minute of your vacation! Love your stories. Keep ’em comin’!
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