Tom and I spent the weekend in Charleston and Kiawah Island, South Carolina where we joined a conference of insurance agents as their guest speakers. When we were invited to speak by our friend, Mike Jensen, he encouraged us to bring the kids and stay for the duration of the conference, a total of 6 luxurious nights in top flight accommodation. No brainer, right…travel with the kids, that’s what we do. The problem was school in Atlanta had already started and with the new attendance policies, we were sure to be incarcerated if we took the kids out for four days. (Travel is an unexcused absence and after three unexcused absences you’re in hot water with the government.)
So I arranged for friends to watch the kids, made out elaborate instruction sheets, packed lunches days in advance, and boarded a plane with Tom for Charleston. We hadn’t been there an hour when my new Verizon Razor rang. It was Dax. He had misplaced his copy of Watership Down, a 500+ novel the rest of his honors English class read over the summer and that he was supposed to read and annotate over the weekend. Great. We ran through our options, settled on one, and I hoped for the best.
We hung out with Mike until about midnight and collapsed into bed (this waking up at 6:30 stuff is tough) and hoped that we would be able to enjoy our alone time the next day. We awoke to the sound of my Razor. The school was locked. Dax couldn’t get in to find the book. We went to Plan B. I called Barnes and Noble, paid for another copy over the phone (2 days after buying the first), and once again hoped things would work out. We spent the day strolling the city with Mike and some of his colleagues and tried not to wither from the heat. Frequent visits to air conditioned restaurants proved the key to survival.
We passed on the period costume ball being thrown for the other attendees (Tom refused to wear either an Abe Lincoln or Confederate solider outfit, while I though a corset and hoop skirt sounded like fun) and spent the evening with my college roommate and her family. None of us could believe it had been 16 years since we last visited them in Charleston, and after a weepy farewell, we vowed it wouldn’t be another 16 before we met again.
On Sunday we moved on to Kiawah Island and what is perhaps the BEST hotel we’ve ever visited…and we’ve stayed in some nice ones. The Sanctuary is heaven on earth. It was built only 3 years ago but exudes the grace and charm of a Southern plantation. Thick plank, oiled walnut floors, hand-knotted Oriental rugs, grand open staircases, the deepest crown moldings I’ve ever seen, understated artwork and hand painted murals of local scenery, and a surprisingly elegant yet homey combination of chintz drapery and upholstery conspire to make The Sanctuary a visual delight. Just outside grass-covered sands and a gently lapping Atlantic await beachcombers who are encouraged to ride complimentary bikes or sip ice cold lemonade by the pool. My usual concern when we stay in a luxury property is that we’ll get nickel and dimed, on everything from internet access to bottled water. Not so at the Sanctuary. Once you’re in (which admittedly isn’t cheap), there are plenty of freebies to go around–ice water by the pool, lemonade in the foyer, wifi in the rooms, bikes on the beach. The best part, however, and something that is often lacking in similar places, was the UNPRETENTIOUS service. The staff were all gracious and eager to please regardless of how guests were dressed or how old they were. This place caters to kids–and not kids who are dumped at a babysitter spot or herded into day camps–but kids who are there to spend time with their parents. We saw dozens of couples with young children who were welcomed into the restaurants rather than being discouraged from entering with their little ones in tow. The Sunday brunch even had a separate low slung table for muchkins, complete with chicken fingers and baked ziti in silver-plated chafing dishes and Swedish fish and M&Ms in glass jars.
We tried our best to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, but we both agreed something was missing. It seems after a year of family togetherness, we’ve grown quite attached to those offspring of ours and don’t feel right traveling without them. Everywhere we went and everything we did made us think of the kids and what they might do were they present. Asher would be running up and down the hallways. Kieran would be scouring the grounds for animals, McKane would be playing with everybody else’s kids, and Dax would be trying to bodysurf what few waves emerged from the gently blowing wind. We tried to bust a pyramid in honor of our continued post-RTW travel, but we simply need 6 to get it right.
Our two-ness seemed even more unnatural when we woke early Monday morning to deliver our presentation. Armed with a mean Powerpoint, lavalier mikes, and our usual wit and charm, we told a warm and welcoming audience all about our big adventure. In retrospect, I’m sure they’ll all be motivated to travel the world with their kids after they’ve heard from the couple who traveled to join them…without their kids! Even so, one particularly interested listener approached afterward and said, “You just lived my dream.” Another said, “It’s good someone out there has the courage to do what you did.” Their comments highlight the questions currently commanding all our energy and attention (when we’re not helping with homework): Now that we’ve lived one dream, what’s our new one? And once we figure out what it is, will we have the courage to live it?
Which would you rather see? Tom going back to work as a high-powered executive and the rest of us soldiering on in our suburban lives or a more freewheeling life involving consulting, speaking, books, and of course more family travel? Would you buy the book, watch the show…or maybe even buy the Asher action figure with karate chop action?