I’ve been stressed at work. I lead a team of software developers, and we’ve been getting a crazy amount of projects, changing requirements, and unrealistic expectations / deadlines. I was getting to the point where I was starting to dream about work, which is always a personal signal to me of impending burnout.
Some months ago, I reconnected with a friend with two children. I mentioned that I was planning on some kind of beach vacation. She said that sounded fun and that she would also be interested in going to the beach. The issue is that I live near the Pacific ocean and she lives near the Atlantic ocean. I thought about it for about five seconds and, realizing that I’d never actually seen a beach on the US seaboard, that I really miss my friend, and that spending time with two completely unknown children could be an interesting adventure, decided that it would be really cool to try an Atlantic beach vacation.
After much deliberation, we decided upon Rehoboth Beach, a relatively small town in Delaware. After even more deliberation, we found a condo a couple of blocks off of the beach.
I am now back to report that I had an absolutely fabulous time!
Although not very large, the town pretty much matched exactly what was in my head when I pictured an Atlantic Coast town. What made it charming was the scale of it. I’m sure that I would have been overwhelmed by the likes of Atlantic City. Here, it was the exact scale for a family with small children to see everything and to have fun seeing it.
The boardwalk was exactly as I pictured it. The heart of it was only a relatively short number of blocks. The boardwalk was wide so that large number of people could promenade along it. During the late afternoon, there would be a throng of people happily meandering along.
Along the boardwalk was a number of shops. Again, it was exactly as I would have pictured it. There were a number of souvenir shops beckoning their low cost wares to the ever curious children, arcades, and storefronts selling every kind of life-shortening food available (corn-dogs, pizza, cotton candy, fries (seriously? a place that only sells fries? WTF?), water ice (um, water ice? is the word water really necessary here?), ice cream, fudge, candy of all types).
The arcades were a big draw for the children. Because of their relative young ages, it was sometimes a challenge to find games for them to play (skee ball proved to be particularly problematic, although my partner is apparently a past skee ball master with still impressive skills). As per usual, the games would spit out a number of tickets, redeemable for some number of cheap toys. Redeeming the tickets and deciding what toys should be purchased was, for the children, a serious negotiation somewhat akin to nuclear proliferation treaties.
There was an amusement park called Funland. There were a number of kid friendly rides, all affordably priced. There were rides for cars, trucks, planes, and helicopters. They all had the same basic concept, which is to climb in and spin in a circle, which given my pretty serious motion sickness, put even the kiddie rides out of my reach. The children apparently have zero problems with that, because they ended up on a race car ride that circled the tracks at a dizzying speed. It would then slow down, and the operator would yell ‘Reverse!’, and then it would circle the track at a dizzying speed in reverse. The two young children were holding on for dear life as the centripetal force drove them to the center of the track. When the ride finished, they bounded off the track with joy and laughter dancing in their eyes. Although there was absolutely no way that I could ride that ride, I vicariously enjoyed the thrill running through their bodies.
Another day was a pirate adventure, where the adults took a seat in the back of the boat while the children, complete with face makeup, an eye patch, and a sword, acted as the pirate crew. Every time the pirate ship passed by an anchored boat with a fisherman or two, the crew would incite the children to yell pirate insults at the innocent fishermen. This was clearly not the first time for some of these fishermen; some of them would stand, yell back, and shake their fists to the delighted children. There was an attacking pirate in a motor boat that would circle the pirate ship spraying water at the children. The children, in turn, manned cannons shooting water to spray the attacking pirate. It was all good fun.
Rehoboth is very bike friendly. We took our bikes out several times. The most memorable was probably Gordon’s Pond, which had a flat, nicely maintained path used by walkers, runners, and bikers. It was a pleasant peaceful ride away from the crowds of the boardwalk. The only problem was that one of the children’s bike had a nasty habit of throwing off its chain. I think by the end of the trip, my friend was just about ready to take a sledgehammer to it.
Back at the condo, we played board games. The young children would patiently explain to me how to play the game and then would usually spank me at it, much to their enjoyment.
All in all, this was exactly what I needed. For me, this brought me back to a much more innocent time and reminded me of my own youth, going out exploring and discovering new and exciting things, knowing that at the end of the day I can go back and be secure with my family. I can only hope that the children had similar feelings during this time.
So, yes, last week was probably the absolutely perfect vacation for me. I had a great time, I met two wonderful children, and I reestablished a connection to a cherished friend. It’s everything that I could have hoped for.