I am not generally an eager traveler. I like my home, my gardens, my friends, family, and familiar routine. That's not to say I don't also enjoy visiting new places, having new experiences -- I just get a tad grumpy about the actual travel part of traveling (logistics of flights, cars, maps, lodging, food, etc) and dealing with changing landscapes over relatively short periods of time. I like to settle in.
We are flying home today from a 12 day trip to South Carolina and Georgia. It all started because we own some timeshare points, purchased in a fit of euphoria over the idea of traveling more after retirement (if not the reality, as it turns out.) There is some complicated equation for figuring out the timeframe for using said points, and we find we often have some "left over" that we have to use or lose within a certain timeframe. So, this trip was the result of finding we had extra points to use by year's end and then sitting down and deciding where to go to use them up. We are frugal enough not to let these slip through our fingers unused!
I have family in Savannah. My younger brother and his family had moved there from our home area in northern Illinois 13 years ago for his work. We visited once for my niece's wedding 8 years ago and to celebrate my brother's what we thought was successful cancer treatment. We went back again a few years later when that ugly cancer returned and claimed my brother's life. We decided to visit under happier circumstances this time, so planned a visit that would include family time in Savannah, a stay on the Isle of Palms -- a barrier island along the Charleston SC coast where we used to live, then ending with several days on Hilton Head to use those points at a resort on the ocean.
We started on the Isle of Palms, staying in a VRBO home owned by former neighbors with whom we had been best of friends for the two years we lived on the island several lifetimes ago (1980-82). We've been back a handful of times, so were aware of all the changes to our quiet little island, but this time we were amazed at the oceanfront mansions, expansion of the commercial area, the new "connector" bridge to the mainland that brought traffic and visitors over on a 4-lane highway. It was no longer the quaint, laid-back burg we'd known. Progress, I guess. Still it was beautiful and we enjoyed reminiscing as we walked along the wide sandy beach and paddled a kayak around the Intercoastal Waterway, with a pod of dolphins accompanying us.
A day in the city of Charleston also surprised us with its changes, but the historic area remains gorgeous, the city itself way more cosmopolitan than when we lived there, full of outstanding restaurants and cultural events.
On to Savannah, we stayed in a Historic District hotel, from which we walked and walked, snapping photos of the grand old homes, the River Street tourist walk, and live-oak shaded squares and parks. That area of Savannah really is beautiful and while we have a soft spot for our old home of Charleston, there is no denying the charms of the Savannah experience.
That said, we are in the Deep South and Civil War statues are not uncommon, with African-American residents sitting nearby on park benches, making me wonder what they must think of these monuments to a time when half the country banded together to fight for the continuation of slavery. I admit to feeling a bit smug, as a northerner, that "we" won what the south calls "The War of Northern Aggression".
Family time was full of laughter, tears, reminiscing, and watching the Circle of Life unfold as the older generation shared stories and experiences with the next and next generations gathered. I am sometimes sad that our little family is scattered across the country, but such is life. Hub and I were the first to leave our Illinois homeland, and as others went their ways, we all said we'd visit each other often, but life, finances, and other priorities make it hard. When we left, we vowed again to do better.
Today I sit overlooking the pool from our condo, all packed and anticipating being home tonight. Hilton Head is a bit too Stepford-y for me; a little too planned and perfect. But this is a beautiful property, a huge 2-bedroom condo, lots to do on site and lots to see and do around the island. As is our way, we've mostly stayed put right here, taking long beach walks and even going into the warm, silky Atlantic waters so familiar from our time living down here. Last night we sat on our balcony in the warm evening dusk, eating a big basket of peel and eat shrimp cooked with Old Bay seasoning, and it was like coming home to a time that was a turning point in our lives together.
We could have stayed in South Carolina back then; Hub was offered a job, but in spite of its beauty, our love of the beaches and ocean, there remained many things about the south that were challenging for us. Some, we note, are still the same; some have changed for the better. But our decision to head west, to the Seattle area, was the best possible choice for us. We've made a life there, had careers, raised our family, created home and community that have uplifted and supported us through all of life's trials and joys. Could that have happened here too? I don't know. It would be hard to be "us" here, I think...for sure we'd be in the Progressive Liberal minority! But it's easy to be us as visitors, to spend time in a place we hold in memory and can still enjoy as travelers.
For now, though, I'm happy to be homeward bound. Can't wait to get off that plane!
At least, that's the view from here...©
Photos: Sunset over the Intercoastal Waterway, Isle of Palms, SC; The Battery Walk, historical area of downtown Charleston, overlooking Charleston Harbor where the first shots of the Civil War were fired by the Confederacy on the Union stronghold at Ft. Sumter; Live Oaks and Spanish moss in Forsythe Park, Savannah; wide sandy beach at our resort on Hilton Head.