What better way to spend the summer solstice than with family at the sunny Outer Banks? We loaded up our cars with kids and dogs and headed to beautiful Kill Devil Hills for a week of sun and surf. This was our first proper, plan-ahead-save-up-money-and-take-time-off-work summer vacation in years, and I was so grateful for every minute of it.
The Outer Banks is a string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. It's a popular summer destination for many of us on the east coast. This was my first time there, and I instantly fell for its southern beach town charm. I spent a lot of time on beaches growing up in California. Last year we took an impromptu weekend trip to Ocean City, Maryland for the Fourth of July. I've gotten used to the crowds, the noise, the traffic, the hectic pace of a trip to a packed coastal city. But here? Here, it is quiet.
Instead of herding our family from one attraction to another, we took our time. No itinerary, just intuition. We moved in slow motion. We lazed around the house, in the pool, on the beach, and when the mood struck us we hopped in the car and drove until we found a new place to explore. My personal favorite was the Elizabethan Gardens on the island of Manteo.
Created in the 1950s and modeled after traditional Elizabethan pleasure gardens, this place transported me to another world. With its beautiful stone statues, centuries-old trees, carved fountains, and meandering paths, I felt like I had wandered into faerie land. Just look at this gate that leads straight from the garden to a beach on the sound side of the island! How magical!
With us on our trip were Jude's cousin's young daughters, who Autumn made fast friends with after meeting last summer. The three girls had a blast collecting shells at the beach, playing mini golf, and exploring the state aquarium. I just love watching the three of them together. They find so much joy in everything they do.
Being there made me realize the importance of taking a little time away from the stresses of everyday life and just breathing for a while. At home, stress is a daily challenge. I'm stressed about my job, about my bills, about parenting, about my personal relationships. I worry about being good enough, making enough money, finding time for everything I need to do. But for one week, I let go of all of that. I spent time with the people I love, did the things I love, and didn't worry about a single thing. I came home feeling refreshed, and ready to (reluctantly) return to the daily grind.