Growing up, my family never went on lavish vacations. We live about five miles inland of Myrtle Beach, so every few summers, we'd pack up the old red minivan and head that way, staying with family along the Crystal Coast on the trip back up. The first time I flew was to travel to New York City to celebrate my high school graduation.
The first time I traveled outside of the country was on my honeymoon. Twenty-one and evergreen, we booked a stay at an all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It took us about four days to adjust to the idea that we had absolutely nothing to do. That first half of the week passed in a haze and it wasn't from the frozen margaritas we kept ordering (all-inclusive, remember?) Rather, it was because we were both terribly unseasoned adventurers. After eating our fill of jerk chicken and walking along the strip of shoreline that turned out to be much more narrow than they advertise on television, we finally ventured away from the hotel grounds and went on a few excursions. We rafted down a river, hiked up a waterfall and visited a local street fair at two in the afternoon.
We came home invigorated, and ready to see what else was out there. In the five years that passed after that trip, we went on six road trips. We saw the Pacific Northwest twice, New England, the Grand Canyon, West Coast Highway 1 and Las Vegas. Every October, when the busy season ended at my work, we'd hit the road, staying at mom-and-pop hotels everywhere, eschewing major chains like we were too good for them when the reality was we just couldn't afford them. For the most part, the experiences were charming, save that one time we stayed in a cabin in the Catskills and every pillow was covered in strands of hair and the shower didn't work and the thermostat was broken and we shivered until we fell asleep.
Then, life happened. Babies came. Two in less than two years. And we didn't go on a solo vacation for five years.
This past August marked our 10-year wedding anniversary. So, we decided to go big. We have a few major changes coming up in 2019, mainly a big move into a new property, so we knew we had to take this chance to get away while we had it.
We left the babies in the care of their grandparents and booked 10 days in Maui. The flights to and from there were a beast, but once we arrived, it was glorious. We spent way too much money on an entire day at the spa, indulging in hours-long massages and soaks in mineral baths. We hiked to find hidden waterfalls, jumped from makeshift rope swings and spent nights in hot tubs overlooking flower gardens. It was everything I'd hoped it would be and more.
On our last day there, we drove around the north side of the island. The roads were narrow and the guardrails were minimal. I was clutching my side of the car with every turn. Then, we stumbled upon a little banana bread shop set up at the side of the road. It was rustic and tiny and perched on the edge of a cliff, but we managed to find a place to stop. It was heaven in one bite, the only thing that's come close to replicating my favorite banana bread recipe that I love to make at home. It also reminded me of the people back on the mainland who were waiting for me, namely our two toddlers who would have loved to nibble a piece of that treat as we kept chugging onward toward our hotel.
We returned home that next day, and I've never been more relieved and happy to walk through my front door. Turns out, while traveling can be the most exciting thing in the world and is absolutely necessary at certain junctures in our lives, there's nothing better than sleeping in your own sheets, with the people you love the most in this world tucked in soundly around you.
We likely won't take another vacation like that for another decade. When we jet-set off to somewhere fabulous to ring in our 20-year anniversary, I hope we have the same sense of wanderlust. I hope I'm calling my children in college to tell them all about the adventures their dad and I just went on. I hope we still climb banyan trees and drink coffee at midnight and stand beside active oceanic geysers amazed, our sunglasses salty with sea brine.
Then, I hope we return back to our little country hideaway, the new one we're designing as we speak, and thank the heavens above for a place called "home." I thought I'd find myself in the bamboo forests of Hawaii, or the big city lights of Vegas. Maybe in the vineyards of San Jose or the ranches of New Mexico. Turns out, I found it when I circled back around to where I came from, my purpose renewed and my spirit refreshed.