We took a family vacation the last week of February, leaving the cold and gray of New England for the south. This trip was special, since it was the first time we’d ever vacationed together as an entire family. Sounds weird, but because our oldest was 14 when our youngest was born, he was already out of the house and on his own by the time we began traveling again. So it meant a lot to me to be able to do this, to have my entire family together for a week of adventure and relaxation.
It was an interesting trip, fun but maybe a little too ambitious. I tried to put everyone’s needs into the mix while planning, including my own, and with six different individuals that means that no one gets exactly what they want. My husband and I are considering a move to a warmer climate, and at this point in our life the southeast finally makes sense. So the trip was intended to be both vacation and scouting trip- a little southern road trip mixed in with some Florida beach time. A week really isn’t long enough to do all that very well, especially with six people who don’t all share the same priorities.
But that’s part of being a family, you compromise. And as a mom, you learn from your mistakes. As wonderful as it was to have all that time together, I would probably plan it differently next time. That’s life though, and we still got a lot out of it so… no regrets.
Five of us flew to Atlanta, where we met up with our oldest son. Our first day (Saturday) was also Jesse’s 16th birthday, so it was cool that he got to eat at the restaurant where his big brother is the head chef. My oldest son has been cooking for over ten years, but this is the first time I’ve ever eaten in one of his restaurants while he’s been working. I was a little nervous, but I shouldn’t have worried. Alex is a pro and dinner was amazing. It’s quite a feeling, seeing your kids all grown up. I’m a proud mom.
Sunday we drove to Nashville, with a quick stop in Chattanooga for lunch. We stayed in Nashville for two nights, mostly to eat hot chicken and check out the city. We also had our first experience with Airbnb, which was awesome. Tennessee has been on my list of “places to see” for a while, for a few reasons. It’s not too cold, affordable, no state income tax. The hot chicken was worth the trip, even if I was less than enthused about Tennessee overall. And I know that two days is not enough time to form any kind of real opinion about a state. I would gladly go back to Tennessee and see more, but right now it’s off my list of potential relocation spots. I’m so glad to have seen a new place though. We stayed in East Nashville, which is apparently the hip neighborhood. Had some amazing pizza. Saw the Parthenon. Walked around downtown. My older kids went out one night in East Nashville, but we just weren’t there long enough to see much.
Tuesday was a long day of driving, through Alabama and Georgia again and into Florida. None of us had ever been to Alabama, so that was cool to see it. We stopped for lunch in Birmingham, and drove some smaller highways en route to Florida that gave us a glimpse of rural Alabama. It was interesting. If we move to the south, I can see lots of road trips in the future. I grew up in Florida, but that’s not the same as the rest of the south. It is isolated both culturally and geographically, and although I’ve driven up and down the eastern seaboard more times than I can count, the purpose has always been to go from Maine to Florida and back again. We’ve been to Atlanta now three times to visit Alex, but the rest of the south is just waiting to be explored.
We arrived in St. Augustine at midnight on Tuesday, and then spent the remainder of the week by the beach. It was all perfection- the weather, our hotel, the food, the city itself, the time together. It’s a beautiful historic city, a place I would consider living if I were to choose Florida. Especially if we could be snowbirds, which may be a possibility before too long. But for now, we’re still looking for a place that feels right for a more year-round, put-down-roots kind of home; a place to finally settle for a while and make some new friends and become part of a community. I don’t think Florida will ultimately be that place, but this trip was helpful to clarify that for me.
Friday morning was crisp and sunny, probably in the low 70’s with no humidity; and we had breakfast and wandered around downtown as long as we could before accepting the inevitable and piling in the van for the return trip to Atlanta. As we headed inland toward the highway the scenery became more gritty, then more rural. That’s the Florida I dislike- I know it may hold beauty for some, but I just can’t stand it. I think it is so ugly once you get away from the ocean and the carefully manicured look. The subdivisions plopped out in the countryside, with all the scrub and swamps and alligators, ugh. Not for me, and yet it becomes like that so quickly.
We arrived in Atlanta late that night, starving and grumpy. The end always comes, no matter how good something is. We had a tapas-style dinner at some new hipster spot in midtown that was really more of a bar, but it was fine and at least we were fed. Then one last evening all together in the hotel. It made me both happy and sad to see my two older sons sleeping together on the pull-out couch, these two so much alike that I regularly call the younger by the name of the older, yet so different in some ways and separated by a decade and years of living in different parts of the country. Life is bittersweet, that’s for sure.
Coming home was rough. It’s so hard to leave one of your kids behind, it’s like there are pieces of your heart floating around out there in other places, tugging at you. And we’re all just done with the long winters of northern New England. But better days are coming. We’ve been making plans for the next phase of our life for a while now, and it’s finally all starting to come together. This trip brought us some clarity, and we hope to be ready to move ahead in a new direction by the end of June. I have an idea of where we’re headed, but first the job situation has to be resolved and then I can focus on the fun details. Stay tuned…