Soul Searching in North Carolina’s Outer Banks
I’ve always loved North Carolina. I mean, what’s not to love? It has a moderate climate, you can hang out in both the mountains and the ocean in one day, and it’s so green. After spending a couple of years in the Botswana desert, I’ve really come to appreciate anything green. So when my family invited me to spend a week with them at the Outer Banks North Carolina, I was beyond excited.
While I may not be a fan of Nicholas Sparks’ books, there’s a reason why every single one is set in the Outer Banks–it’s truly another world.
Coming from DC, I was ready for the calm of the ocean and a relaxing week at the beach, but the Outer Banks went beyond my expectations. Driving into Corolla, the stress of the constant traffic jams melted away. Instead of highways, there were winding roads full of families walking home from a day at the beach, friends riding bikes to play miniature golf, and tireless joggers running in the heat. The island felt like a giant exhale.
Everything here went by the beat of the ocean.
The hustle and bustle of DC, my job, and the everyday responsibilities of my life turned down to the hum of background noise. Everything here went by the beat of the ocean.
We rented a huge beach house for the 14 of us, just a block from the beach, and had no commitments beyond enjoying ourselves. My family has different vacationing modes, but there was something for everyone. If you enjoyed morning yoga on the beach and kayaking in the ocean, you were in good company. If you enjoyed babysitting two adorable boys and hanging out by the ocean, there were some parents who were happy for you to lend a hand.
If you liked taking a senior dog on a miles long walk and then wondering why he passed out for the rest of the day, my dad loved the company. And if you were training for a triathlon and wanted to wake up at an ungodly hour to bike, swim and run, you had a couple of partners there, too. My week in the Outer Banks was never boring. But what I enjoyed most about it was that I was with such an eclectic group, so no matter what I felt like doing, I had someone to do it with.
My hometown was a place where everyone was related to everyone, so when I told people I only had three cousins, they rarely believed me. This was a place where people could throw a rock and the person they hit would most likely be at least a third cousin.
I’ve always had a small family. My hometown was a place where everyone was related to everyone, so when I told people I only had three cousins, they rarely believed me. This was a place where people could throw a rock and the person they hit would most likely be at least a third cousin. That was never my experience.
My brother and I are the only kids on my father’s side of the family, so our three cousins on my mother’s side were it. We tried to see them when we could, but my uncle was in the military while we were growing up, so they moved, a lot. When my friends would casually talk about their fifteen million cousins who all seemed to live next door to each other, I would struggle to remember what city, state and country my cousins were living in at the time.
This trip was the first time I was seeing my cousins all together in years. It had been so long that we were practically strangers. We knew the basics of each other’s lives through our mothers’ weekly phone chats, but beyond that surface information, we knew very little. At first I felt like I was intruding on family time– this whole half of my family was hanging out enjoying each other, while I felt like an outsider, cousin/niece only in name but not in familiarity. But over the course of the week, I started to get to know them as people.
Whether it was bonding over a love of YA literature while reading on the back porch, or chatting about crisis communications and a shared fascination with artificial intelligence while playing pool volleyball.
I began to get to know my family; people I had long ago accepted were strangers in all but title.
Whether I was marveling over the children’s book my aunt made while watching a storm roll in or sitting on the beach drinking beer with my uncle watching the waves and chatting about life. I began to get to know my family; people I had long ago accepted were strangers in all but title. And, as a bonus, we all discovered that I am much better at poker than anyone expected.
I like to think the magic that is the Outer Banks is what allowed me to turn these acquaintances into family. This wonderful bubble of a beach town made us put away our technology, our jobs, our worries. It let us pause our lives and really enjoy each other. I’ll always be thankful to the sleepy, welcoming beach town of Corolla because it forced me to stop, breathe and just be. And without the distractions of everyday life, I was able to connect with family I never really knew.
I guess it’s never too late to really get to know your family. If you’re interested in trying, I would highly recommend a trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina.
Photo credit for Soul Searching in North Carolina’s Outer Banks by Unsplash.com