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Last year we tried to vacation in the Outer Banks, a dream of mine since I’d made a quick pass through it 10 years ago. I say tried because we did the research, found a place in a quaint town with only one bedroom (read more affordable), not easy given most listings read “sleeps 12 or 100” (read expensive).  We booked during the early side of “off-season” (something we can finally do as empty nesters) and everybody said that was brilliant because we got the reduced rates and were all but guaranteed good weather.

The “all but” was what held true. We had torrential rains which flooded the streets (our bikes remained on the car rack) and made porch-sitting impossible, 50 mph winds (our “sunset beach pictures” were shots of huge foam piles and my hair blowing straight up), the electricity went out multiple times (turns out, reading is hard to do by candlelight). And on the last day they closed down one of only two ferries off the island forcing us to go the longer way home. Not exactly the vacation I imagined and frustrating given there were so many other good uses for that money.

Maybe my idea of a vacation is too limiting. Good vacations have special moments. Like finding an interesting local coffee shop for writing or reading. Meeting interesting people who make me feel a lifelong friend. Eating at a surprising restaurant with incredible ambiance and inspiring food. Or taking a sunset walk. And while an “ideal” vacation might string together many such moments like beautiful city lights, most vacations have “highlights” that I tend to remember like it really was the whole thing.

Recently, I’ve appreciated daily opportunities that could be abundant if I only recognized them as vacation moments (see “A One Hour Vacation” and  “A Wednesday Weekend“). We have cool coffee places here, I’m meeting interesting people and have treasured friends here, I’m enjoying our local fare and beautiful trails here. It’s a matter of lifting the needle out of the well-worn grooves of the “this is a real vacation” record I’ve played for years and creating a new track.

Tonight, I sat on our front porch steps and watched the neighbors chickens roam the yard. They chased each other, pecked and scratched at the ground and made quiet little noises of contentment as the freely stretched their legs. I called to them with soft clucking noises and sat very still. Within a few minutes one made her way over to me and stood at my feet with a cocked head so she could stare up into my face. I slowly reached down and put my hand on her back and she squatted down and sat very still while I pet her. Curious, three others moved in closer and I had four chickens looking up at me, quietly talking about who knows what while I touched their feathers. The air was still and the moment was a welcome change of pace from my technology-filled day in the office. A sense of nature. Ten minutes in another world. A free vacation break.