“My favorite thing about the beach was all of the cool shells we collected.” — La-la
“My favorite thing about the beach was burying my cousin in the sand.” — Bubs
Not quite a year ago, we took the kids to the beach for the first time. Because you might know that we live in Kansas, you may have surmised that getting to the beach — a beach, any beach, at all — required travel. For several weeks, all common sense and logic left both Stacy’s and my mind, because we seriously, seriously, thought that we were going to drive from Greater Kansas City to the coast. With a four-year-old and a barely six-year-old. I know, right? Madness.
We were going to make a real trip out of the whole excursion, taking two days to drive down there. You know, drive ten hours, and stop at a hotel halfway down. Take a spin around the town. Find some local eatery to enjoy. Swim at the hotel pool until the kids or we could no longer keep our eyes open. Then get up the next morning and do that again, only end up at Stacy’s dad’s and his wife’s house.
Oh, and then do the same thing, in reverse, on the way home. Like I said before, all common sense and logic left both of our brains. Fortunately, one day, out of sheer curiosity, I pulled up Priceline, which is my go-to for starters, and checked. Lo and behold, tickets from Kansas to the coast we were visiting were half as much as they had been earlier when we lost our damn minds and decided to drive. Thank goodness for cognitive flexibility, and the Return of Reason.
Our flights were smooth and easy, even with the kids in tow. It’s amazing what amount of stillness and silence can be bought with a portable DVD player, especially for children who rarely watch TV in their regular lives. One Spiderman and one Frozen headset ensured that no one but the two of them needed to be subjected to “Lady and the Tramp.”
We spent some time at the family home. Then we headed a few hours away for our stay at the beach. The May weather was perfect for being at the ocean. The afternoon sun shone relentlessly, causing waves of barely visible heat to snake up from the sand. Bubs and La-la ran around on the beach, just above where the ocean lapped at the shore. Clad in neon rash guards, their dark heads and tanned bodies flitted about as they collected shells and other treasures deposited by the tide’s swell and ebb. We spent three glorious days at the beach. The kids’ and Stacy’s skins turned a beautiful bronze. In spite of frequently slathering myself with Water Babies, mine acquired that certain, not-subtle, ruddy hue that is the hallmark of the sun-exposed fair-skinned. Another day at the family house, and we were homeward bound. Thankfully, on a jet plane, and not in a minivan.
I was eighteen the first time I traveled by air. I was eighteen the first time I walked on a beach and in the ocean. That made an impression on me. For me, travel is necessary in order for me to be happy. I need to get out of my element and be somewhere else, for at least a few days, at least once a year. The kids have now traveled several places, and have already flown in airplanes. Will they take travel for granted? Will it become blasé for them? I hope not.
I am glad that La-la and Bubs have the opportunity to see more of the world than I did at their age. I feel fortunate that Stacy and I can provide them experiences as children that I had to wait until I could provide for myself as an adult. I am grateful that they will know this world is bigger and more diverse than their little pieces of daily life, and that their knowing is practical rather than merely theoretical.
Even though we don’t share biology, I hope that my love of travel, of intentionally changing contexts, of viewing life through different lenses, is passed on to them. I hope that, like me, they always feel that small but palpable tingly thrill deep in their bellies every time their plane is about to take off. I hope that every time they set foot on a beach, or step into an ocean, they remember that first time. And I hope they smile at that memory.
Did you travel as a child? What was your favorite place to visit, or what is your sharpest memory about the trip?