Barbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Lessons from a month at the beach
Updated: Jan 23
The morning of February 5th we pulled out of our driveway in Indiana and headed south. It was 3° and snow had covered the ground overnight.
Our van was packed – 2 bicycles, beach chairs, a cooler, clothes, a few of our favorite spices and knives, some cleaning supplies, a table to use as a desk, my computer and printer, notes for the book I am working on for the Academy.
We felt a bit like the Beverly Hillbillies. The following evening we arrived at Cape San Blas on the gulf coast of Florida to spend a month at a house on the beach. Heaven!
What's it like during a month on the beach?
Our first few days were cooler – in the mid to upper 60s, but soon most days were in the high 70s and sunny. Good friends joined us for our second week, and our kids and grandkids came for our last full week.
We walked the beach, rode the 10 miles of bike paths and roads at the state park, watched sunsets, fed seagulls, had dolphin sightings, and went wading in the surf. I completed work on nearly 5 chapters for the Academy nutrition communication book looking out my “office” window at the waves. After dark, we watched the Olympics in early February and Purdue basketball at the end.
I am writing this blog as we drive north on I-65 watching snow flurries with the car thermostat telling us it is 32° outside. I am wearing my winter coat for the first time in a month. I’ve been making a list of what needs to be done when we arrive home. It’s time for reentry.
What are our takeaways from a month at the beach?
What lessons did we learn? Here are my top 6:
Vacations are essential. We all need a break from our routines. We need to intentionally decompress and de-stress. Even retirees. People back home are able to get along without us. It’s nice to be needed, but it’s critical to get away without feeling guilty.
Being outside surrounded by the beauty of nature is therapeutic. No matter whether you are resting on a beach chair soaking up rays slathered in sunscreen, or walking miles in the sand, the outdoors invigorates you as nothing else can.
Being away from home makes you appreciate it more – your own bed, your own comfortable furniture, your own kitchen. We brought our own pillows but they didn’t compensate for a too-soft mattress.
We need to intentionally spend time with family and friends – to build relationships and make memories we will treasure for a lifetime.
Even the most beautiful places on Earth aren’t perfect. A nap on the bayside beach at the state park resulted in Joe getting bitten dozens of times by what the locals call sandflies, but are officially biting midges, also known as “no-see’ums” - that literally attacked his arms and legs. He is still itching three and a half weeks later. They weren’t the only attacking critters… our house was across the street from a wildlife refuge, home to at least one bear that liked knocking over our garbage and strewing it all over the yard.
Expect things to go wrong. On the first day in Florida Joe’s ear pieces on his glasses broke and while he waited a week for replacements to arrive he fashioned new ones out of masking tape. People tried not to stare. Our daughter’s front wheel bearings needed to be replaced in her car. It was a miracle she didn’t get stranded on her drive down. All four of our grandkids got sick during either their trip down, during the week, or on their drive home. All four. And their parents, our kids, still want to come back next year. One night during their visit we locked ourselves out while going to see the sunset. Our only way in was to lower the two grandsons, ages 4 and 5, through a bathroom window and coach them in unlocking the door. That story will last a lifetime.
After a month, and 2,878 miles on the road, we are ready to reenter our life back home – appreciating what we missed while we were away, refreshed, and planning to return next year.
“How you feel about home after holiday says a lot about home.” ― Joyce Rachelle