I find myself escaping to the ocean whenever I begin to daydream. I think of warm golden sunlight, toes sinking in the white sand, pelicans soaring overhead every few minutes, seashells tinkling in my pockets, and the sound of the waves thrashing about. I hear children screaming with delight as the cold water rushes over their toes, I smile as I see groups of teenagers flirting with each other, the bravery of boys walking right up to girls in the hope of finding someone to enjoy the upcoming sunset with. I see old ladies in adorable sun hats and big sunglasses and men carrying bright red coolers, families coming in droves with children running and parents trying to reign in the chaos.
We visited the carefree Folly Beach in South Carolina a little less than a month ago, and I’m still visiting the ocean in my sleep. It was everything I had hoped for and more. Sometimes, for me, a trip can be life-changing. Or rather it can change the way I see things and think about life. So, I suppose for all intents and purposes, this blog post is showcasing a trip that was life-changing for myself.
I have dreamed of a life near the ocean for as long as I can remember. As a teenager I painted an entire wall to look like the beach (my family will say otherwise…). Complete with sand, palm trees, and flying seagulls, my wall painting was a tiny slice of an oasis and I thought for sure someday it would be my reality. My girlfriend’s mom decorated her bathroom with seashells and blue walls. I wanted a bathroom with seashells and blue walls. When I was 16 and on a spring break trip with another girlfriend, I saw the ocean for the first time. We sat on the beach, watched the sun go down, and took photos to commemorate the occasion.
When I was finally in my own apartment with the freedom to decorate as I pleased, my first to-do on the list (besides stock the fridge and unpack everything) was to get an ocean shower curtain. It was the middle of winter when I moved away from home. My uncle, cousin, mom, and dad all braved the snowstorm to bring me safely to my new abode. Cousins gave me their old dishes and college living essentials, and my future sister-in-law gave me her big TV. But the thrill of it all was creating the seaside in my 8’x4′ dingy, beige, yellow-tiled bathroom.
And then we bought a house with a big (to me) master bedroom with a walk-in closet and bathroom connected. The walls were brown, we’d brought our brown and red shiny comforter and red-orange wooden nightstands from our apartment, and the floors were an orangey color. The trim was orange, the door was orange, the only bright item in our room was the mattress. If you recall, I went a bit mad with the painting in that room after I began to feel suffocated with all the darkness. I waited until Paul was out of town, thinking the color would be a light blue. Instead, I had dunked our room inside the glass of a bright blue mojito.
The bathroom at our current house is my bathroom, which means I’m in 7th grade again looking at a bathroom with seashells and blue walls, except this time it’s my piece of serenity. The windowsills only recently became adorned with seashells and I feel a little closer to where I feel pulled to be every time I look at them.
Which leads us to just a few weeks ago when Paul and I drove into the slow-moving town of Folly Beach. Ice-cream cones in each kid’s hand, a red stoplight for pedestrians that looked like a “Rock On” sign instead of a “STOP” sign, colorful awnings and chairs at every cafe and grill, twinkle lights hanging from outside bars with live music playing over the white picket fences.
Besides being on the ocean, I was very much looking forward to a type of living vacation, as in instead of staying in a hotel and eating out every night, we rented a condo and shopped at the local market for groceries. I woke up every morning to the sun peeping through the white blinds. I nearly danced from the bedroom to the kitchen, throwing up the blinds and opening the windows to hear that beautiful rushing sound of waves. I’d turn on the coffee pot, throw a slab of butter and a pile of hashbrowns in the skillet, grab my diary and watch people slowly make their way on the beach. Paul would come out of the bedroom as the hashbrowns finished browning and the toast finished toasting, groggy-eyed and happy to have nothing to do and nowhere to go. (At home, I’m never awake before Paul. Even on the weekends. But here, I couldn’t wait to wake up.)
After breakfast we’d ask each other, “What do you want to do today?”
The only thing I wanted to truly see (besides the water) was a real Southern plantation. I wanted to envelope myself in the history, good and bad, and walk where people walked all those years ago. On my Nana’s recommendation, we visited the Magnolia Plantation in Charleston. It was beautiful; full of lush gardens, peacocks, fountains, winding paths, alligators, and photos of people walking through the same gardens over a 100 years ago.
We originally paid for the basic ticket which includes just the gardens, and then added the house tour. We decided we would purchase the slavery tour afterwards – we weren’t sure what everything really included. I regret it now. The mere mention of slavery was almost like taboo in the house tour and was only slightly brushed on in about two sentences. By the time we finished with the garden and house tour, blisters began to form on my feet and I could barely walk. Disappointing, but someday again I’ll visit another plantation and make sure I get the whole tour.
Besides the plantation, we only did one other tourist thing and that was a horse-drawn carriage ride through Downtown Charleston. I brought my camera but decided to enjoy the tour instead of document it in photos. (I wrote about it later in my diary.) I found out that anything over 75 years old in Charleston is protected by law. Even the big blocks of stone that people would use to step out of horse carriages are protected. Any house over 75 years old is protected – you can’t tear it down, although you can let it fall to pieces. I find that fascinating. That’s apparently why the town looks so old. After the Civil War, Charleston couldn’t afford to build brand new, so they slowly repaired the old and broken. And then later it all became protected by law (it’s also the second largest historic district in the world). We also learned that only since about 2005 has Charleston become a tourist destination. Our tour guide (about my age) said that he’s lived here his whole life and found it amazing when all of a sudden the houses he knew so well that were just ordinary houses were starting to sell for millions.
But most of our time was spent at the water. We’d sit at the dining room table watching the waves, or out on the deck at the high top tables, or in the adirondack chairs. We weren’t picky. We would walk along the shore and dig through the piles of seashells, and then walk away with tinkling pockets full. And then we’d be itching to go in the water so we’d brave the cold and dive right in.
I watched the moon slowly rise over the ocean, like a little piece of magic. I stayed up until 1am, watching comedy sketches on Netflix with Paul, and when I peeked out the blinds and saw a blood red haze I knew it was happening. I ran out on the balcony, pulling Paul behind me, and we just stood there watching. It didn’t last long, but it was wonderful and something I’ve always wanted to see. How lucky that some people always have this luxury right outside their house.
I felt oddly at home. It felt perfectly natural to bring my paints out on the balcony or to take my book and diary out on the beach as the sun went down. These were things I dreamed of, I wasn’t going to let these opportunities go to waste.
Paul was perfectly content lying around and doing nothing. He works so hard during the week and even weekends, this was his type of vacation. No real plans, no specific time to be awake, the freedom to nap whenever…most days we would be watching TV for a bit, he’d fall asleep, and I’d go outside with my diary and book and just be.
We had slow-cooked breakfasts at “home” (was not weird in the slightest calling it home), then either went out to eat for lunch or dinner, having the other meal back at home. We were so happy to have almost everything we needed already supplied by the rental and wanted to take advantage of it. Some days we visited the pier for fruity cocktails and fish tacos, other days we walked down the main street and ate outside under the twinkle lights while a guitarist sang “Wagon Wheel”, and other nights we stayed in and had pasta as the sun went down.
The mornings were my favorite (those of you that know me have never heard me utter those words before). Like I said, I would jump out of bed and dance to the blinds. The blue was the softest blue, like a baby’s blankie. There weren’t very many people on the beach, the lifeguards were still putting out the yellow and orange umbrellas and chairs, the water twinkled like stars, and it was completely serene.
The condo we rented was adorable. Coastal, nautical, beachy, everything you’d expect with a view overlooking the ocean.
Cute, right? We loved our stay and if we ever get the chance to go back to Folly Beach, we’ll be staying there. It was a corner unit which meant ocean views on two sides – huzzah!
On our last morning, I woke up extra early to watch the sunrise. Although the clouds covered the big show, I got a pretty decent sideshow of a falcon perched right in front of me on our balcony, a spot I had just been standing in two seconds before he decided to rest. I began googling if falcons attack humans and he must have known because he flew off into the wind.
And like every wonderful handful of memories, I stored them in my diary and camera and we jetted back to Minnesota, where the weather was still winterish and we had tickets to see Avengers: Endgame (thanks, Kraig!!). Paul turned 32 a day later, we said good-bye to a beloved great-aunt, and just like that life keeps moving on.
I hope you’re enjoying spring, and hopefully it has officially sprung wherever you’re from! Ours is finally getting here – I spent some time in the garden today and it was bliss. Dirty fingernails, aching back, lots of leaves raked, plants leaving pots and going in the ground; it’s like therapy. :) Sending good thoughts your way, dear friend! Talk soon! xoxo