I am home. Nine days of transit and vacation filled constantly with the frenetic energy of children. At home, once the cat has settled down, I am greeted with a deafening silence. I turn on WBUR and listen to the sound of people talking — some sort of interview about cows. Better than nothing.
The television was almost never on. There were no radios. There were many iPods, all set to shuffle. I kept up with the news of the world and my various internet feeds via my iPad. None of it seemed particularily important, none of it moved me. The only thing I felt the need to check in on daily was the comics.
There wasn’t much of a plan, aside from go to the beach now or go to the beach later. We sailed in the sound. A kayak ended up in a swimming pool. Lacking a volleyball, we used an enormous beach ball as a surprisingly effective substitute. I played RISK for the first time. I won at RISK for the first time. We made tacos, and the kids were enthralled. Near the end of the week, the jellyfish invaded.
I’ve generally been of the opinion that one should spend one’s — that is, my — limited vacation time exploring new places or doing new things. I’m not rushing to do everything, moving too fast to take anything in; at the same time, I don’t want to waste time doing nothing. This vacation was an interesting combination: North Carolina’s Outer Banks are new to me, but the beach is very familiar. There was no set schedule, but there were some clear goals.
It was surprisingly pleasant, and over much sooner than it felt possible. Which is a sign of success, I guess. I didn’t spend too much time thinking about the specifics of work on this vacation. But I did find lots of time to ponder and reflect, and I came out of it with my mind made up about a few things.
Duck itself is an interesting town, in that it seems to have more vacation rental properties than residents (about 500 at last count), but I’m sure there are other similar towns, I just haven’t seen them yet. And the Outer Banks are interesting in that they are barrier islands, which are incredibly transient in geological time, and it is shocking that so much development and investment would take place on a landmass that is likely to be dramatically different or even completely wiped out in 100 years, or 50, or even sooner. This, again, isn’t specific to the Outer Banks, it just happens to be the first barrier island chain I’ve seen. And as far as I can tell, the Outer Banks have been far less shaped by human hands than other barrier islands (does the Army Corps of Engineers ever get anything right?).
Duck has a great city park with extensive wood promenade over the wetlands, a wonderful vantage, in the quiet evening and morning hours, to observe the local fauna. Up in Corolla there is another great park with museums, more boardwalk, shops, and a lighthouse. They’ve also got feral horses roaming the beaches, but I didn’t get a chance to see them.
The vacation felt very American, very pleasant, very family-oriented, safe, comfortable. The Reillys have been doing this same vacation to this same spot in this same rental house for five years running, and are already putting down the deposit for year six. I loved it, and loved that it was about the company more that the destination. But I wonder for how many years in a row I would love it. Would it still be as nice and relaxing the fifth time around? Or am I the sort of person who would go stir crazy after year two? Hard to tell.
Is this what happens when you have kids? You stay away from the exciting, the difficult, the random, and settle for the familiar, the simple, the pleasant? It is settling, or is it what you end up needing? I guess one day I’ll find out for myself.