Why I’ll never grow out of my family’s annual beach trip

Right now, I am stupidly giddy at the concept of doing laundry.

When I call my mom, she sounds like she’s grinning through the phone, even though we’re not talking about anything particularly amusing (she also went into work at 4:30 AM today, so by all accounts she should be miserable). My dad took off work, woke me up this morning by delivering me a big mug of tea, and has been practically prancing through the house. And my brother is just running around cracking jokes, trying to make everyone laugh.

Why does it sound like everyone has gone totally insane with happiness? Because tomorrow, we’re leaving for our traditional family vacation to the beach. We are leaving all worries behind—everything we always stress over, bicker over, yell over—and spending one week relaxing on the beach, happily in each others’ company, along with our significant others and family friends.

One problem, though: affording the beach this year has been very, very tricky. Even though I’ve been staying at home post-graduation for the past year and a half helping out with expenses, life happens, and it’s been hard to get by. This year, we’ve all pooled together our money to afford our week at the beach, though it’s going to be a strain on us when we get home.

But why not just skip out on it this year? Shouldn’t we just save up our money and go next year?

Here’s the thing: normally, we all have such strong personalities that throughout the rest of the year, we tend to bicker. My mom and brother argue all the time (because they both think they know everything—it’s adorable to watch, actually), and don’t even get me started on my dad and me. We all love each other, of course, but it’s all just a big war zone of opinions.

Throughout the year, my brother stresses over his grades and schoolwork to the point where he can make himself physically ill. My mom is in charge of finances, and I can see her silently worrying over bills, trying not to freak the rest of us out. My dad is constantly dealing with a never-ending list of responsibilities at work. And I am caught in the post-graduation identity crisis, trying to figure out who I am, what I should do, where I should go, what I should be.

But for one week, we let go of all that.

For one week, we let the salt water wash away our worries away. We stop focusing inwardly, spiraling into anxious thoughts, and start focusing on the sun warming our skin, the salty breeze in our hair, the cold drink in our hand. We focus on being with each other—on how lucky we all are to have each other, all of the reasons why we love each other. We laugh at—or, rather, with—each other until our stomachs ache.

Man, we’re all so funny, we think to ourselves. When did we forget how funny we are?

It’s so important for us to spend that week at the beach in each others’ company that we’ve never considered forgoing it for a year. We would rather sacrifice financial comfort in the months surrounding the vacation than give up that one week of bliss.

Traditions are so important to us as a family, and we always make sure to buy a Christmas tree together, and to cook a big feast for Thanksgiving, and to do something special and fun on birthdays. But the family vacation is the most important tradition of all. The beach is our spot: the place where we’re reminded just how much care about one another, and that no matter how much we drive each other crazy, we’ll always have that steady, supportive family net to catch us when we fall.

Sure, we’re all worried about day-to-day life. Life is stressful sometimes, and it can be easy to forget what we all have when we’re focusing on what we don’t have. But today, we’re starting to let go of all that, and we’re giddy because we’re feeling free.

Tomorrow, we go to the beach. And tomorrow, we’re reminded of what really, truly matters.

Image via Sammy Nickalls

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