Once upon a time in a life far, far away I was a single dad with three teenagers and in search of a new home for us. I was also far, far away from being independently wealthy but stumbled into an opportunity I thought we could afford: a beach cottage in an area where most of the cottages were rented by the week in the summer and were vacant in the winter. I proposed a year-round rent in the uninsulated cottage, less weekly hassle all summer for the owners, and after a bit, it was accepted. So, a few years of middle school and then high school for my very popular kids (hey, they had a beach cottage in spring/summer). I took up running as a hobby and ran the beach every morning, local 10k races, 13.1 half-marathons, etc. We had lots of impromptu parties, have great memories and then got on with our lives. We’ll come back to this.
Fast forward a few decades. Most of my contemporaries are in that stage of life where traveling is a major priority. They talk of bucket lists, places they want to see before (well, you know); so many places to go and experience. I understand. Kind of. I’ve traveled a good deal, enjoyed every single trip I’ve taken, and yet, when I go away even for a short trip, there’s a certain anxiety about leaving my familiar routines, the lifestyle I’ve fashioned and appreciate. My work isn’t work. I like what I do and have zero need to take a vacation from it. I’m not “a traveler” who’s always planning the next one. Truth is most of the trips I’ve taken have been initiated by The Special Lady in my life. And because that’s not been a permanent person, I’ve experienced quite a variety of travel experiences. So, that realization factored into a decision. I’ll come back to this, too.
One Sunday morning a few years ago I was taking my daughters and son to breakfast when I received a text. It was from a friend who had bought that old beach cottage after we moved out. He’d made a lot of changes over the years but was in between renters and wanted to know if we’d like a nostalgic tour. If so, he’d left a key. They, of course, were up for it, so we detoured.
It had been decades since they’d been there, so naturally there were exclamations about how it looked versus how their memories had it. And then one of them said: “What’s that picture of our annual family OBX trip doing over the mantle?”
Realizing as I had that I’m by nature more of a homebody than an incessant traveler and having seized an opportunity as a result, the day before that family breakfast, after a couple of secretive months of negotiating, I had closed on our old weathered beach cottage. (Yes, I lied about what the text was that morning)
On most weekends I walk the beach now — not run. I read, write, listen to the surf and to music. It’s only 25 minutes from my home, so I’m not even the slightest concerned about leaving. But more importantly, I am remembering this past Father’s Day, which like many, many other weekends over the last few years, my family was all together — all 15 of us, and watching them, making more memories for all of us, reminds me I have zero desire to travel anywhere. Priorities.