Growing up, I spent the first week after school let out in Florida with my grandparents. On the first day of summer vacation, my parents would drive me halfway to their house where we would all meet over lunch for the exchange. The next day, my grandfather would fill the cavernous trunk of “the old Buick” with suitcases and rafts and fishing tackle; my grandmother would pack snacks; and, off we’d go!
It would never fly these days, but I always rode shotgun. My grandmother typically fell asleep in the backseat before we crossed their town line, and my grandfather liked the company up front. We listened to mix tapes he’d prepared for just this occasion, usually Big Band music borrowed from his brother’s collection. We told each other stories, wrote silly poems, made up road games, and, as we neared our destination, finalized the grocery list for when we stopped on our way into town.
Every other year, starting when I was five, we stopped at Disney World first, but the final destination was always Indian Rocks Beach. My grandfather loved the warm, calm waters and wide white sand beaches on the Gulf Coast. I’m not sure how they settled on Indian Rocks for our trips together, other than I know they had made many visits slightly further south to Madeira Beach over the years and really liked the area.
My grandfather was what you might call a lifer, working at DuPont for practically his entire career as a chemist. Most men of his age in their area were the same. None of this job jumping that we have today. When you got tired of your job, you didn’t dream of the next one, you dreamt about your next vacation. Florida was my grandfather’s daydream. Beach, pool, fishing, reading, oysters, stuffed flounder, bourbon, ginger ale, and a good cigar. “Good” is such a relative term. Knowing his thriftiness, I’m certain it was no Montecristo or Cohiba. But, as the only cigar he might have in a year, it sure was good to him. And that week of goodness carried him through the year to the next week when we’d do it all again.
For a long time now, I’ve sworn off the rinse and repeat vacation. Where is the adventure in going to the same place over and over again when there are so many incredible destinations out there and so very little time? In retirement, my grandparents travelled further afield. They got around, but by then, my grandmother’s health was too poor for them to make it to all of the places they might have liked to have gone. I don’t want to be too sick or feeble, or otherwise infirmed, to enjoy traveling. Besides, the job jumping lifestyle of today doesn’t ensure that retirement will even be an option! We’ve got to go where we want to go now. There is no waiting. No taking a chance on the future.
I’m not sure if we’re getting older, or wiser, or lazier, or smarter, or tired, or finally coming to our senses…but recently RF and I have been dreaming about going to The Bahamas. Again. We’ve been there three times now. My grandfather would consider us rookies. But that’s a whole lot of rinse and repeat for us! Granted, we’ve been to different islands, and we’re contemplating another one still. There are lots of warm, sunny, sandy beaches around the world that we haven’t been to. Closer ones. Maybe even better ones! But we know these islands, and their crystal clear water, and the kind locals. And there is just something so incredibly appealing to us about the empty beaches on The Out Islands. That’s so rare. At least without an even longer journey.
Maybe we’ve just finally grown up. Perhaps everyone has their one true heaven in this world and we’ve found ours. We knew each other was “the one”. Maybe The Bahamas are our vacation soulmate and we need to stop agonizing about it and commit. Maybe it’s ok to have an encore *and* a nevermore. We don’t usually take just one vacation each year. Perhaps there’s room for something old and something new.
If my grandfather were still here, he would probably tell me that I’m overthinking it. (I usually am.) I suspect that the better part of why they went to Florida every year was because he didn’t want to have to choose another place to go instead. Always a practical man, he knew that Florida suited him just fine. Florida got him through the year. Alas, if The Bahamas suits us enough to be the subject of our many daydreams…well then…I think it just might be time for an Encore!