The WhatsApp message from my friend Ingrid read: “How was your trip to the Outer Banks, NC?” I answered: “It was beautiful and fun but not the restful time we anticipated. I guess we don’t do low-key, relaxing vacations.” My husband and I are planners and we have a talent for packing many things into our days. Although we have never attempted a relaxing vacation, we told ourselves this summer, we would simply drink in the sights and sounds of the ocean.
You may ask: “Why and how did you change the direction of your vacation if you were looking to relax? Further, why didn’t you schedule fewer activities and start the day later? How did you lose control of your time?”
I believe it is not a matter of losing control. It is a matter of making adjustments to allow for the best holiday possible. Travelers are bound to learn key details once they have arrived that they couldn’t have known before. Plus, there are always the odd attractions and details that come to light after tourists arrive at their vacation destinations. For instance, we knew we wanted to go to Kitty Hawk and see the museum and take the walk to the monument on the outskirts of the property. After arriving at our resort, we were advised to arrive at Kitty Hawk early, before the temperatures soar into the 90s. Learning this, we began our morning earlier, which was a wise move because, although we arrived 15 minutes after opening, parking was almost gone. Walking around in the intense heat and climbing the completely unshaded hill to the monument was a little rough, but totally worth it.
Another thing we didn’t realize before arriving at the Outer Banks was how many beautiful trails we would encounter. We hiked frequently but we chose the less strenuous, shaded paths. We did not regret our decision to hike, however, we may have regretted our decision to walk on a mile-long boardwalk in the town of Duck. Along our right side was the water and along our left was store after store of a mixture of quaint shops and shamefully tacky tourist traps. The cleverest of the shops was Outer Bark, “catering to dogs and dog lovers,” and our favorite shop was a bookstore and coffee house combo called Duck Cottage. The Duck Cottage could give lessons on how to make a delicious cup of coffee!
The next morning, we had a reservation to go on a fishing expedition, which departed from the dock at 7 a.m. In order to arrive on time, we got up at 5:40 a.m. We made it on time, however, we were disappointed to learn that the water was too choppy and all private fishing boat trips were canceled. Even though it meant repeating our supremely early wake-up, we had no qualms rescheduling our reservation for the following morning.
It’s worth noting that our nights were quiet and restful, partially due to the fact there are no kosher restaurants within miles of the Outer Banks and also there is little night life, unless you count the Thursday night Bingo game our timeshare offered.
On our last day of vacation we headed to a quaint island called Ocracoke Island. To get there required driving an hour and a half to a ferry and taking an hour-long boat ride. Again, we rose quite early in order to snatch maximum time on the island. When we arrived, we learned there were two ferries! One was for cars and one was for walk-ons. Furthermore, while the car ferries run every half hour throughout the day, walk-ons run only four times a day. To put this in perspective, we had just missed the walk-on ferry, and we would have to wait three hours for the next one. This was bad news for two reasons: There was nothing to do in that vicinity and we would have limited time on Ocracoke Island.
Add to this the puzzling news that a passenger-only ferry would cost $15 per person while a car ferry would be absolutely free. That’s right. No charge for an automobile, and no charge for any person in the vehicle. I remarked to my husband that this seemed ironic. If there had existed an island in our tri-state area that was dependent on transportation via waterways, it would likely be free to take the walk-on ferry and costly to bring your car. In fact, there would probably be a deal with the bicycle shops to give a discount to those who sailed over without a car. On Ocracoke Island, however, the lure of a bike rental discount wouldn’t float. The hourly rental is $10. Can’t charge much lower than that! Later we learned the department of tourism subsidizes the car ferry service as an incentive for tourism. We happily joined the line of cars waiting to drive onto the ferry.
For a Shabbat observer, ending a vacation on a Friday is another reason to rise super-early. Our ride home was expected to be about eight hours. Although we make minimal stops, it would again be necessary to set an early alarm. The plan was to stop in Philly to pick up Shepsi from our older daughter, who runs a dog boarding business, and continue home to Edison. As a surprise, our younger daughter offered to cook all the Shabbat meals, and she and her family would come for Shabbat. Who could refuse that offer? A “catered” Shabbat and time with the grandchildren. Of course, this also meant an additional morning of rising early along with our grandkids. What!?
With Hashem’s help our road trip home was smooth and speedy. We picked up Shepsi and arrived before our daughter and her family. Amazingly, there was plenty of time to properly prepare for Shabbat.
There is a saying, “Know thyself,” If deep down, you know you have always enjoyed a summer vacation filled with activities and sightseeing, it probably means you are meant to continue that way. Rest is healthy, but at the same time new experiences can be invigorating and help to counteract burnout.
Ellen Smith is Central Jersey’s Kosher Organizer and tzniut wardrobe stylist. For over 14 years, Ellen has helped people restore order and create calm in their homes and souls. See Ellen’s work on Instagram @ideclutterbyEllen. Contact Ellen for a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation at [email protected]