By Bruce Stambaugh
I used to question the wisdom and practicality of vacationing twice in the same location.
Perhaps my personal wanderlust interfered with my empathy for the travel preferences of others. With so many places to visit locally, regionally, nationally and globally, I reasoned why would anyone want to return to the same place year after year?
Surely the urge to explore and discover had to be greater than the certainty of returning to the same destination at about the same time each year. I’m rethinking that opinion.
I am in a transitional period of my life, intentionally between full time employment and true retirement. I’m enjoying the freedom that comes with a flexible schedule.
I still like visiting new locales, seeing new topography, meeting new folks. I am also beginning to more fully appreciate the contentment of familiarity. I realized that fact recently while my wife and I bathed in the glow of another incredible sunset over the harbor at Fernandina Beach, Florida.
For someone who practically calls Lakeside, Ohio his summer home, it should have been obvious to me. I guess I considered our Lakeside stints more tradition than vacation. Silly me.
We had found Amelia Island almost by accident last year. It was an overnight stop on the way to our true vacation destination, Sarasota, Florida. We liked the island so well we spent two more days there on the way home. We were hooked.
We loved the island’s charm, its beautiful beaches, its commitment to wildlife habitat preservation, its rich history, and the diversity of activities it offered. We had only skimmed the surface last year. We needed to return to further explore this intriguing community.
Last year the weather, like most places in the country, was exceptionally warm for northern Florida in January. We walked the nearly vacant beaches in t-shirts and shorts. I birded the island’s preserve. We dined on locally caught seafood. We were in paradise instead of Ohio in January. It felt marvelous.
This year we returned to this magical destination for two weeks in order to dig deeper into the island’s many treasures. The weather couldn’t match that of 2012, but we had fun nevertheless. Cooler mornings warmed into pleasant days. Shorts and sandals were only appropriate a couple of days this time around.
We toured the local history museum, lunched outside at most restaurants, and collected perfect seashells of all sizes and colors. I hiked the paths through Fort Clinch State Park and Egans Creek Greenway enjoying the flora, fauna and breath-taking vistas and spring’s emerging pastels.
My epiphany came while I hustled around the boardwalks at Fernandina Beach’s harbor photographing yet another sunset. A patron sitting at a table of a dockside restaurant hailed me, wanting to know if this was my first time on the island.
When I innocently replied that it was not and then read the man’s surprised facial expression, it hit me. To him I must have looked like a child on Christmas morning as I dashed around trying to get different angles of the ever-changing colorful sky.
I had taken many, many sunset shots last year. Yet here I was plying for more. Lightning struck. I recognized why people did repeat vacations.
I was relaxed, happy, appreciative, satisfied, if not downright blissful. Amelia Island, Florida in January 2014? Why not? It could become our traditional winter vacation.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013