Getting back to vacation is exhausting | Columns | – The Courier-Express

After a couple of years off mostly due to COVID and such my family and I finally got back to the beach for a few days.

I know, its strange that a pale and pasty guy like me loves the beach. The sunburn is well worth the salt air, the fresh sea food, and the slow pace of Beach Time. Tim likes it, too, but he is even more sunburn-prone than I am, so we have to make sure he has tons of sunblock on. Joy finds it relaxing. As a family, its something we used to do every year, and we had it down to a science.

Well, until we had to take a couple of years off!

I didnt remember how difficult planning a family vacation was! I mean, theres the finding a hotel, comparing prices, and trying hard to get a good deal without ending up covered in bed bugs. Then, you have to figure out road snacks, which, of course, is vitally important to the trip. If youre driving six hours to get to a beach, you need some snacks! Then you need to make sure you have all the right clothes. You need a swimsuit for the beach and one for the hotel pool. You need comfortable enough flip flops to walk a few blocks to the sand, but you also need sneakers to enjoy the boardwalk. You have to pack an extra outfit in case youre like me and routinely spill food on your shirt as I did on the first day.

Then theres the actual driving. I have not gone much farther than a comic book long box sale this whole pandemic, and that was just once, so Ive rarely gone beyond my parents house. My driving stamina does not have to go past a half-hour anymore. About an hour into the trip, I was tired. Two hours, I wanted to go home. Three hours, I was sure we were done. By six hours, I staggered into my hotel room and instantly fell asleep.

Having an energetic 8-year-old on the beach is a blast, by the way. He and I waded out into the ocean where I could stand easily and he sat on my shoulders. We battled the waves, diving under or jumping over. He built sandcastles and dug moats, and I took time to listen to the wind, watch the dolphins, and get a nice sunburn.

That last part wasnt exactly intentional. I missed a spot when applying sunblock.

The most excitement I got was on our last full day there. Tim and I were out battling waves. My new swimsuit is a little big not because I lost weight, but because I bought it leaving room for expansion and fine if its tied tightly. During the ups and downs, Tims foot accidentally untied my swimsuit. The waves to that point had not been too bad, so I figured it wasnt a big deal. I waded back toward shore and found a spot where he could stand up. I put him down to tie my swimsuit, making sure I was between him and the ocean. He had a straight line to the shore, so I knew he wasnt in any real danger.

Thats when Poseidon (or Njord if you prefer Norse mythological metaphors) decided to unleash a series of powerful waves upon us.

Ive always said that the universe may be indifferent, but it does have a sense of humor.

The first wave knocked us both down, and I felt the wrack line, which is apparently the technical term for that line of seashells, rocks, and debris from the previous high tide. Tim stayed up a bit better than I did, but my shorts fared worse. The wrack line stung my leg when I put my knee down, but Im a big boy. All I had to do was tie my swimsuit and we could get back to playing under or over.

The next wave was even harder than the next, driving me beneath the surface.

Tim went one way; my shorts went the other.

This is one of those split-second decisions you dread as a parent. Holding my breath, rolling beneath the waves, I had to decide if I should grab Tim and protect him or grab my shorts. As a parent, do you defend your dignity and surrender your son to the waves, or do you grab your son and hope for conveniently-placed seaweed?

So, obviously, I grabbed my swimsuit.

I came up for breath, pulling my swimsuit on as another wave slammed into us. Under the water, I was dragged across the wrack line, but I pulled my swimsuit up to my waist and somehow managed to knot them tightly while sucking in lots of salt water. When I rolled to my feet, I found Tim already up and sputtering, shaking salt water out of his eyes. He made a beeline for his mother.

I dont blame him. Daddy didnt do a good job of protecting him.

Making sure my shorts were double knotted, Tim and I ventured back out for some more fun, but he wouldnt stop talking about how I had chosen my swimsuit over him when the waves hit us.

Not quite the vacation bonding experience I had hoped for.

Now, back home, Im glad we went to the beach, but the scrapes and cuts along my leg from the wrack line make me less anxious to go back anytime soon. I feel mentally relaxed, but physically exhausted.

I mean, who knew vacation would be so much work?

Andrew Bundy is a husband, father, teacher, writer, and nerd. You can reach him at

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Getting back to vacation is exhausting | Columns | - The Courier-Express

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