I miss travel! I miss exploring new cultures and cuisines, discovering picturesque landscapes, history lessons, architectural marvels and the unexpected surprises that make a trip especially memorable. I miss the people we meet along the way; locals, travelers, industry workers, tour guides. I miss all that we learn about ourselves and how we work together. I even miss all the time we spend in preparation and anticipation. I know some of you might see preparation as drudgery, but we love it. To us, it is akin to solving a riddle or finding the missing puzzle piece. The anticipation of waiting for a departure date to arrive is just icing on the cake!
Planes, trains, cruise ships, rental cars…departure schedules and time zone changes present a unique array of challenges. Navigating those challenges and building a truly unique trip is something Malcolm and I have learned to do well.
Covid has left a void in many ways, but for us, the loss of travel has been one of the biggest.
I don’t think we fully realized until recently that we had elevated our trip planning process to hobby status, which accounts for at least a part of our feelings of loss.
The satisfaction of traveling is not just in the preparation, education and unique experience. Satisfaction can also be found in the place itself – serenity, peace, joy, reflection, beauty. How a place makes you feel is likely the best predictor as to whether you will return.
And, that is how we found ourselves back at Tops’l Beach after just having visited there in February. I wrote about that experience here.
A change of scenery and time alone together after months of restricted movement and adult children living in our home prompted us to consider how to break up the monotony of day to day living. Little jaunts that used to fill the gaps between our travels, have now become the main event.
The first time we tried it, things were pretty sad; Covid sucked the joy out of everything that should be delightful. Even at half capacity staying in a hotel, maintaining proper distance, washing our hands every five minutes, calling ahead to check conditions at restaurants and wearing masks everywhere added stress.
After that experience we decided to rethink our approach – no more big chain hotels. Now, we choose VRBO rentals (think kitchen), or small boutique hotels (fewer people).
There are several things we love about Tops’l Beach, but the thing of particular note is that it is a full-service resort – unpack and enjoy the amenities, or use it as a base for exploration. This trip was mostly about leisure, but we did a little exploring also. An internet search of ‘things to do’ in Santa Rosa County produced a variety of opportunities. Most were ruled out because of Covid, but we did take advantage of a few suggestions.
We made a highly flexible plan for most days and enjoyed doing things that we might do at home; biking, walking the beach, playing golf, shopping and cooking, checking out local museums, and enjoying each sunrise and sunset. Being away, alone, made it all the more special.
Our condo was within a one minute walk of the beach, where the sand is sugar white, and the gulf waters are the purist shade of aqua marine. Temperatures are historically lower here than where we live in South Florida, and sweaters were a welcome change from shorts and flip flops.
Miramar, Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, Pensacola, Panama City, the list of beach towns in this area is endless. As is the case with most coastal areas, some towns are seedy and overrun with tourist traps and adventure arcades, while others are more understated. Fishing, boating, golf, tennis, water sports of all kinds, and breathtaking beaches bring people to this area all year long. We stopped for a while to watch these wetsuit-clad souls brave the chilly waters on their kite boards.
Summer is when locals and almost locals (Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia) invade the beaches and winter is when Snowbirds re-locate here to their winter residences.
The region is home to two Air Force Bases, Tyndall and Eglin. Malcolm loved getting up close to more vintage aircraft than we have ever seen in one place (what is it about boys and airplanes?) It was especially nice to tour the grounds of the Airforce Armament Museum on Veterans Day.
I enjoyed a walk through history at the Baker Block Museum. The museum displays local artifacts and prides itself as being a ‘living history museum.’ Reminders of old time Florida…. You can make an appointment to sit with a historian and possibly find a link to your family tree. Maybe next time.
Fine dining is certainly abundant on the Emerald Coast, but when we are here, what we want is fried seafood. It isn’t something we’d make at home, and since this area does it best, we indulge; from oysters to gulf shrimp, to their famous hush puppies (fried cornmeal) it’s all good!
Bike riding around town, golfing, walking and mini-golf filled our time between meals!
While a getaway isn’t quite as intellectually satisfying as traveling, sometimes it is exactly what the soul needs. We are counting the days until we can receive a vaccine and start planning new adventures. Until then, we are grateful for the opportunity to get out and about in our own back yard.
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US and we have much to be grateful for. We have weathered many storms during 2020 and have come through each with a renewed faith that patience, and kindness will heal even the deepest wounds. Our family’s health and welfare have been virtually unaffected by Covid and we are grateful to have experienced only minor inconveniences throughout these past several months. Our hearts go our to those who have suffered.
Many blessings to each one of you – our readers and friends.
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