Breathe it in – saltwater and sea air – and feel the sunshine on your skin, almost too warm. Be (just be) without a care for a moment, a day, a tiny fraction of your total time. Give yourself this – this memory, this place. For now, right now, the rest of the world can wait.
We’re going on a little beach getaway for the next week.
I’m super excited, but the process of packing and getting ready has been sort of stressful. (I wrote a little about it in Monday’s post.) Normally, I’d have a reading list ready to go, but I haven’t had a chance to even think about it this week.
So, help me out! What are your favorite beach reads? Anything I can’t miss? Anything that just makes you think of summer? Give me all the recommendations, y’all! And thank you! 🙂
A secret thing, three little words I need to hear from you. Maybe I’m selfish to want them, to feel like I have something to lose. So small, and fleeting, those three words. Out of your mouth and into the ether they’ll go, as if they never existed at all. But I’ll know.
Y’all, we have a beach trip coming up, and I can’t remember how to pack. And when we went to a wedding last weekend, we just straight up forgot to book a hotel until the last minute. It’s like we don’t remember how to travel. And that got me thinking.
I didn’t travel a lot growing up. I didn’t fly on an airplane until well into my 20s, I didn’t leave the country until I was almost 30. My parents and I went places – the beach in summer, to visit family, that kind of thing – but big, adventurous, week-long (or longer) trips just weren’t something we did. And when I married Graham and we started traveling, it took me a while to figure out how to do it. Like, I’d never packed a suitcase for more than five days. I’d never had to consider visas or passports. It was like a whole new world, and I had to make a lot of mistakes while I learned how to live in it.
Which brings me back to tonight. As I sit here, trying to remember what one normally brings on a beach trip, I’m remembering all of those lessons I learned as a new traveler.
The scariest thing about air travel is how boring and uncomfortable it is.
I didn’t take my first flight until my mid-twenties, and I was terrified. It’s not that I thought the plane would fall out of the sky in a big ball of fire, it’s just that I was pretty sure the plane would fall out of the sky in a big ball of fire. Looking back on it now, I laugh at how ridiculous, and wrong, that fear was. What is scary? Cramming your legs into the stupid tiny space you paid all that money for and then entertaining yourself for eight hours while you try to find a comfortable spot for your tingling right foot and a non-painful angle for your scrunched up left arm.
You know that relaxed fit striped t-shirt you never wear at home? Yeah, you’re not going to wear it when you travel, either. Just put it back in the closet and walk away. Pack what you need, and nothing more. Trust me on this. You’ll thank me when your suitcase isn’t too big and heavy to carry up the stairs at that cute little bed and breakfast in the Cotswolds. Also, packing cubes are a good investment. Trust me on that, too.
Make a plan.
I was 27 when I married Graham and we went to France for our honeymoon. It was my first international trip. We worked with a travel agency to put it together, and our only regret now is that we weren’t actively engaged in the planning. We both feel like we missed opportunities in France because we didn’t know they existed. If you’re going to spend money on a trip, be active in coordinating it. Look at it as an opportunity to learn. Do your research, build a roadmap of everything you want to accomplish, and then go out and make it happen.
But don’t be too strict with yourself.
Plans are great (see above), but make sure you don’t get lost in the planning and miss the forest for the trees. Know that not everything works perfectly (because perfection doesn’t exist in this universe), and that there will likely be surprises along the way. Let them happen!
You’ll see more if you walk.
My favorite thing to do when we travel is to get out and walk around. Walk down the local main street, walk to the museum, walk to the café. You’ll stumble across so much cool stuff you’d miss if you were in a car or on a bus. Will your feet get sore? Well, yeah, they will. Bring your most comfortable shoes. Is it worth it anyway? Well, yeah, it is. 100%. (I should note here, always be safe and careful. Stay aware of your surroundings, and make wise decisions about how you get around.)
Don’t be self-conscious.
Part of traveling is learning, and you won’t learn if you’re afraid to go out and explore. If you don’t speak a language, just be patient and kind when you try to communicate with people. If you don’t know the customs, do some research before you leave. If you’re worried you’ll get lost, plan a route and take a map, and don’t be scared to ask for directions. If you have to wear ridiculous, bright orange waterproof overalls to paddle out to a glacier, just do it. (No one’s laughing at you, I promise.) Whatever you do, don’t let a little discomfort get in the way of having an amazing adventure.
Luxury is overrated.
I love a nice hotel. And I love, love, love a fancy meal. I like soft beds and silky sheets. My best friend in high school called me her “indoor girl.” I’m a fan of the finer things. But, priorities. When choosing where we stay, I’ve learned that the most important things are safety, cleanliness, accessibility and location, and price. Why spend major bucks on a hotel room? That’s not what you’ve traveled to see. And when it comes to food, I like to plan for a nice meal or two, and I always make a list of things I want to be certain to try, but otherwise, food is fuel. The easiest thing is just fine.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Probably my best advice, in travel and in life, generally. As I’ve already noted, perfection doesn’t exist in this universe. It’s not worth worrying if you didn’t pick the right outfit for your pictures at the Eiffel Tower, or if you got tea when you wanted coffee. Those aren’t the things you’ll remember. Focus on the big picture, and on the good memories you’re making. You can’t control everything, and you’ll drive yourself crazy if you try. Just be in the moment, and enjoy the ride.
I think those are the biggest lessons I’ve learned. It’s honestly sort of weird to think of them now, and to feel like I’m suddenly new at this travel thing all over again. But I’ve always been a fast learner. 😊
So, with that in mind: What are your thoughts? Do you have any good travel advice? Any lessons learned? I’m sure there are things I’ve missed, and everyone’s experiences are so different, so I’d love to hear from you!
It’s been a really busy year so far. I’ve not had a lot of time to just sit and do nothing, and neither has Graham. We’ve both been working hard, trying to balance our own goals and personal projects, time with friends, volunteer work, actual work, taking care of Annie and Gatsby, house stuff… It’s been a lot.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m fulfilled, and very happy, and I generally enjoy being busy. But sometimes, it’s just nice to take an afternoon and slow down.
Graham hasn’t had the chance yet, but I took advantage of my small to-do list today and used this afternoon to just relax.
I took a long nap, watched some TV, did a face mask, and ate snacks. It was amazing.
I’m feeling sort of guilty about it now, because there are certainly things I could have been working on, but I think it’s so important to give yourself time. It’s a gift many of us struggle to allow ourselves, though we tend to dole it out freely to other people, to work, to things that make us unhappy or stressed.
But our time is finite and valuable, and we deserve to have some of it just for ourselves.
My to-do list will be there tomorrow. Until then, I’m taking it easy.
It’s mid-July. This is usually about the point in the summer when I start wishing for cooler days and fall leaves and eventually (my favorite thing) snow. And, yep, we’re here.
I’m over it.
I’m ready for a little relief from the 90+ degree heat (Fahrenheit) we’ve been dealing with. Not that hot compared to some places, I know, but pretty much a heatwave here in Virginia.
So, I spent today being a sweaty, grumpy mess, looking at pictures of all the wintry places where we’ve traveled.
Another Iceland. This is the beach I’d like to be sitting on right about now.
I love all the seasons, really, and I don’t think I could live in a place where there’s no variety in the weather. I appreciate that Virginia has a cool, crisp fall, a (sometimes) snowy winter, a temperate spring, and a very summery summer.
I’m just not feeling it right this minute. Which is fine. It just gives me an opportunity to daydream about snowy days. And they’ll be here soon enough.
“It was a beautiful wedding, my friend,” I say, as I work to remove bobby pins. Her hair falls around my hands in tendrils, finally flowing and free, and I add, “I’m glad to be here.” A weekend a year in the making, give or take, and three different locations, and that’s all I can think to say. I’m good with words at the wrong moments, it seems. But I know this one I’ll remember, regardless, as the end of the happy (happiest) day when my friend married her best friend by the water in Maryland.
I try not to stop into antique shops very often. Very much like bookstores, I can’t seem to leave them without an arm full of stuff and with a much lighter wallet. But, I made an exception over the weekend. And I’m proud of myself! I only came home with two things.
This darling little glass jar with a monogrammed lid:
(I wonder who it belonged to, what they used it for, and how it came to be in a shop for sale…)
Yes, I know it’s an ashtray, and no I don’t smoke, but I love the floral pattern and the colors. And it goes nicely with another cut glass ashtray I got as a gift many years ago. (And I’ve just realized that it seems I’ve accidentally started an ashtray collection…)
I love collecting old things. I love the stories they tell, and their little chips and imperfections. They remind me of people, I think. Imperfect, but valuable and beautiful nonetheless.
The hush of the day. The slow and steady step of night, dawdling along like a happy child. The sleepy, changing slant of light on a pastel painted sky. Try as you might, in this world high on hurry and worry, you just can’t rush a summer sunset.
No more, no more. It is gone and lost to us now – the how and the where and the why. All that’s left there in the remains of a million Saturdays is a listless, wondering haze of woulds and coulds and shoulds: the regrets of age. And the rage, the rage, in flashes and waves that the end of days makes equal ash and bone of both the fool and the sage.