I’ll be vacationing soon in Florida, something I haven’t done in over thirty-five years. I have been to Florida since then, of course, but always for work, and once for a wedding, and I can’t say that I have felt all that deprived.
I don’t consider myself a beach person, and while I have flopped about on the sands of both Carolinas, I can say that what I liked most was coming in from the beach around 3:00 p.m. and getting cleaned up for dinner. Drinking coffee early in the morning to the piercing cry of sea birds is dramatic in its way, and I will give the ocean this–no matter how hot it is, right on the water there is always a breeze.
So those three things, going out to eat, ocean breezes and drinking coffee with sea gull just about does it for pegging my fun meter. Don’t like to shop, don’t deep-sea fish, can’t golf, I burn. So, yeah. That’s about it. It’s not that I am cranky, it is that I don’t ask much of the ocean and it asks little of me, and we think this is a lovely arrangement.
But when my friend, Jackie, asked if I might want to tag along for a girls trip to Perdido Key, with her and a friend, I gave it serious consideration. Low-key, she promised, a place that is beautiful and possessing of absolutely nothing to do. Bring a book. Bring two. We will each do whatever we want. Some may get up early and walk on the beach. Others might sleep until noon. Whatever. No pressure. No worries.
It’s not that my life is stressful. In fact, I would say it is relatively stress-free. I am busy, it is true, but I’ve worked hard to strike a balance, and mercifully, events beyond my control have cooperated. I remember one beach vacation to South Carolina where I was so overwhelmed with work that for the first few days I could only manage lollygagging by the pool in a semi-comatose state, and it wasn’t until the week was almost up that I finally came to and wanted to run and play with the others. Too late, sadly, because they had exhausted themselves early in the week while I was sleeping.
As a person with mental health training, I tell you absolutely that I embrace the need we all have for recreation, vacation, downtime. Even the simplest change of scene can regenerate us, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. A drive in the country, remember those? Anything that takes us out of our ruts and has the potential to surprise and delight us.
My vacations and time away, though, tend to revolve around some other, more specific task. For years I have piggy-backed a few days of fun at either end of a conference or work obligation. Even when I travel to the Czech Republic it is work, and more often than not I am seeing the sights someone has set up for me, not the ones I have planned to visit myself.
My colleagues, of course, are being good hosts and I appreciate it, feel lucky that they are. But it lets me off the hook in a way, and I have learned to be content with a stolen afternoon here or there. It’s fun, but not so satisfying. And even this girls trip to Florida wasn’t my idea, but let’s not dwell on that. I said I would go, and I am going.
I have purposely given no thought to this this trip, have decided to pack the night before by throwing in my bag a little of this and a little of that, because, hey, its the beach and I am ‘way past cute little shorts and spaghetti straps. If memory serves, for all the clothes I packed when I was in my twenties, I wore the same shorts almost all week, except to dinner, of course, and my most versatile garment was the least soggy beach towel that I wore like a shawl, a burka, a serape, or a sarong. I am a grown-up woman of some abundance. I own an actual sarong, one I don’t leave home without.
I’ll take my books. Leave my calendar at home. Just me, the girls, an open road. Drive south, turn east, as the sea gulls lead the way.