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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

5 lessons from 5 years at the beach

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Bare feet walking on the beach

A week ago, I was walking on the beach on beautiful Cape San Blas, Florida, enjoying our final days of rest and relaxation. Today, I sit in my office looking out onto a cloudy day in Indiana, making progress on my too-long to-do list.

Would you agree that life is a balancing act of work and play, clouds and sunshine, hard and easy? Without one we often fail to appreciate the other.

Each year for the past five years, my husband and I have spent the month of February on the “Forgotten Coast” of Florida. Each year, I reflect on what we have learned during our month on the beach. Read what we learned in Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, and Year 4.

For Year 5 I will add...

5 lessons after 5 years at the beach:

Expect change – things don’t stay the same forever

For the first 4 years, our check-in day was Saturday. This year it was changed to Sunday, but we failed to notice that detail on our contract and showed up at the beach house one day early. Oops!

Luckily, we were able to find a local hotel room. The silver lining was getting to leave one day later than planned.

Lesson: Check the fine print on your contract!

Nature nearly always wins – be prepared

At the beach, evidence of the force of nature is ever-present. With every tide and storm, the shoreline can change in big and small ways bringing beachfront houses precariously close to the waves.

Even hikes on the beach need to account for changing tides to prevent getting trapped. Other forces of nature at the beach include the intense sun, dangerous riptides, and biting insects.

Lesson: Check weather and tide warnings, and wear sunscreen, bug spray, and a hat.

Beauty abounds – be on the lookout

Not only at the beach, but especially at the beach, there is beauty. The sand, seashells, waves, sun, moon, stars, birds, plants, and dolphins… to name just a few of the things we enjoyed. We counted 18 sunsets and 93 dolphin sightings – our highest count of both in five years.

We may think we need to go to the beach or the mountains to find beauty, but it is at home too.

Lesson: Look for beauty everywhere.

Favorite foods and new flavors enhance a vacation – taste and enjoy

Being a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist may make me more inclined to seek out food-related experiences, but based on the interests of family and friends who joined us at the beach, food is a universal adventure.

Favorites include fresh gulf fish and shrimp, homemade pecan coconut cookies from the Piggly Wiggly bakery, sour cream donuts made fresh only on Saturdays on the Cape, and red beans and rice at Mango Marley’s on Mexico Beach.

Lesson: Enjoy local foods.

Embrace change – new adventures await

After five years of returning to the same location, we decided we would discover new places to escape the winter weather in 2023. Our decision stemmed partly from two straight years of price increases totaling more than 42%! Yikes!

But it was more. We are looking forward to exploring new places for fun and recreation; yet know we will return at some point to Port Saint Joe and Cape San Blas to revisit favorite spots and check up on the rebuilding after the hurricane.

Lesson: Change and familiarity are both to be enjoyed. Don’t lose one for the other.

A significant lesson I learned from five years of blogging about our vacations at the beach is that writing about your experiences is a great tool for remembering as well as communicating. Make memories and then record them, or they may cease to be memories.

“Beach Rules: Soak up the sun. Ride the waves. Breathe the salty air. Feel the breeze. Build sandcastles. Rest, relax, reflect. Collect seashells. Bare feet required.” ~ Anonymous

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