Then and Now

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.

The Get-Away

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).

Keeping It Simple

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.

Quiet Time and Day Dreams

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.

Early morning solitude

Out and About

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.

Giving Thanks

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.

30 thoughts on “Then and Now

  1. Hi Suzanne – I don’t particularly miss long haul flights and big holidays – I’m quite content giving it all a miss (Australia is so far away from everywhere and 15 hr flights aren’t a favourite of mine!) That being said, we’re off to Rottnest Island (off the coast of Western Australia) for a few days of sun, white sand, lovely beaches, no cars – just bicycles and the occasional shuttle bus. A change of pace is always welcome – and even more so after all the isolation. We’re lucky here to have no covid cases at all and for things to be relatively normal, but like you, it’s good to break up the routine occasionally.


  2. Suzanne, your getaway sounds perfect-White sand beach, condo all to yourself, fresh gulf seafood. Thanks for taking me there with your beautiful photos. I love the beaches there. We spent a few days at Topsail Beach State Park one winter and loved it.


  3. You describe really well, Suzanne, how travel impacts us on many levels. It enriches our lives and often changes us in more ways than we can imagine. Like you say the preparation and anticipation is almost as much fun as the adventure. Powerful words “how a place makes you feel…”. Good point on choosing different accommodations now. We stayed in a rustic cottage recently and we saw almost no one on our getaway. Being away “alone” is also the key. I can almost hear the solitude and the water in your beautiful photos. Love your words “what the soul needs.” Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!


  4. Then and Now – who knew there would be such a gap. As you do, I am glad that I have memories of some really nice trips that I can call up. I can read the passion for traveling in your words and hope you are able to return to it safely next year. Happy decorating and happy turkey day with your family.


  5. “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.”

    This is so relatable! We are finally taking a long road trip. The planning is definitely part of the fun and challenge these days. It’s interesting to compare packing lists too! We are taking a lot of things we wouldn’t have bothered with in the past.


  6. Tracey, I knew this post would resonate with some folks more than others. It’s odd what we miss isn’t it? Anyway, glad to hear you are road tripping. I hope you will write about it – are you still blogging? Your Gravatar doesn’t link back to a blog and I’ve lost track of you. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for stopping by.


  7. What a lovely getaway! You weren’t too far away from us here in Apalachicola. Wish we could have met up with you!

    I’ve been writing a post about the challenges of this long pause in our fulltime travels. Like you, we’re missing our adventures, but also very grateful for a beautiful, peaceful place to be. Now that cooler weather has arrived, it’s glorious here! Just in time, too, because the summer almost did us in, LOL. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


    1. Hi Laurel, we were about 2 hours from you, and while I thought about trying to connect, I decided it wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t even tell my brother we were nearby. Good thing, since he just tested positive for Covid. The weather was sublime, and we were hoping that it would follow us home – it did not. Happy Thanksgiving and Cheers to future travels.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Suzanne, What a wonderful getaway! I love the beaches in Florida Panhandle area and fresh seafood, yum! Your choice of accommodation is excellent. Thank you for sharing your recap and gorgeous photos. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.


  9. Your pics are wonderful and that warm sun and water look amazing, Suzanne. I miss travel, too, at some point but since we are moving out of state in 3 weeks, that is the ultimate travel, LOL! After spending most of my life in California, I’ve mostly seen it all. I’m thankful to move to Eastern WA and can’t wait to explore all that area and be closer to Canada. No plane flights needed! Enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving!


    1. Terri, I read your post about saying goodbye to your home and the last Thanksgiving. It sounded bittersweet, but I know you are ready to explore new territory. I hadn’t thought about the proximity to Canada. That’s gonna be fun!

      I don’t think I will ever tire of sun, sand and water, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Florida is a great place to come home to after a few weeks of travel. Thanksgiving wishes and may your move go smoothly.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Intrepid travellers like you must really miss the joys of travel – but it is good to see that you have redefined the journey and are enjoying an adapted experience.

    We don’t travel at a pace anything close to yours, but we would have been in London for the next few months for time with family. We are still in Singapore and missing them very much.

    In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are grateful for safety and wellness.
    Happy Thanksgiving!


  11. Suzanne,
    Your trip sounds made-to-order for an escape from the plague. We love the panhandle and will return in late January for a month of travel through your state. I love the pictures you shared with us on this post. My favorite was the one taken of you in Brussels in your red coat…pure joy! Stay safe out there and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Joe


  12. Joe, I was excited about riding our bikes and taking some new pictures of the dunes along the Gulf Islands National Sea Shore, but when we got there (Navarre Beach side), and it was closed. Storm damage to the Pensacola bridge and not Covid is the stated reason for the closure. Next time I will trust my GPS when it tells me ‘walking path only ahead.’ I hope it is open for your January trip.

    Malcolm took that photo of me dancing on the steps above the city in Brussels. It was a rainy, dreary day, but we were determined to make the most of it. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Helen.


  13. What a beautiful and upbeat post! I love all the photos but especially the super cute ones if you d joying what looks like powder soft sand.

    It’s hard to adjust to life without travel when we are used to and privileged to have that as a lifestyle … We feel very fortunate that Mexico is our new home turf and we are getting to do get seats like you festive except that for us it’s a totally new country and culture so we are actually traveling even though it’s during a pandemic. We are careful to research ahead of time the areas we select to go to and choose only those with low numbers and precautionary measures.

    Lovely post ~ thoroughly enjoyed reading it.



  14. You’ve summed up perfectly everything I’m missing about travel right now. Not just the journey itself – the adventures, the sights, the chance encounters, the food, the culture, the photo opportunities!! But also the planning and preparation, and the anticipation of a trip. That’s why I’m in the process of planning one for February 2022 in the hope that we will be able to take it (and with contingencies built in should we not be able to go).

    We’re locked down at the moment in England but back in the summer we did manage a few domestic trips. What you call a ‘getaway’ we call a ‘staycation’ 😆 At least we found some of the same pleasures in planning and going on these, but rather watered down


  15. Pingback: Remembering The White Wave | ARTISTIC PENSION

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