A Happy Choice

488When my husband planned a weekend getaway for my recent birthday, I was a little embarrassed to tell my friends and family exactly where we were going.  Not because there was anything embarrassing about our destination (Sanibel Island), but because whenever we get a chance to go on a vacation, our choice is usually Sanibel.  We are definitely in a bit of rut, travel-wise.

I want to explore new places and experience new cultures just as much as the next person, and I actually have a long list of places I hope to visit someday, both in the US and abroad.   We’ve been to France and  Ireland, and have had some great vacations in Charleston, Denver, Boston, Chicago, and Napa Valley.  So it’s not that we don’t enjoy vacationing anywhere but Sanibel, because we most certainly do.  It’s just that we only have a certain amount of time and money that can be devoted to travel, and Sanibel Island just happens to be our favorite destination.

Sanibel is a small barrier island of the gulf side of the Florida coast.  There’s nothing especially spectacular about it.  It doesn’t boast world-class resorts or nationally-known golf courses; it doesn’t have the sugar-white sand of the Gulf Shores area, or the exciting night life of Miami.  Most of the restaurants close by ten at night (at the latest), and although the beaches offer excellent shelling, they are also kept in their natural state.  That means the dead fish you stepped around on your first morning at the beach is still there on your last morning, only riper.

But we like the slow pace and natural beauty of the of the island.  There are no traffic lights or high-rise buildings allowed, but there are wonderful bike paths, abundant wildlife (we once saw an alligator on the beach), beautiful foliage, and friendly people.  When we cross over the causeway and catch our first sight of the island, we both feel as if we are coming home, and to a well-loved home at that.

Maybe it’s the memories of the vacations we’ve spent there with our kids that makes us love the island so much.  Or it could be the attraction of visiting somewhere so familiar that we know exactly which restaurants and stores we prefer, and which stretch of beach offers the best chance to find the shells we love to collect.  It might even be the way we feel when we sit on our balcony, watching the waves roll in and thinking, “It really doesn’t get much better than this.”

All I know is that whenever we get a few days off from our hectic schedules at home and have managed to accumulate enough Southwest Airline points for a free flight, my husband and I just naturally think, “Let’s go to Sanibel.”  That may mean we don’t ever make it to all the other places we’d like to visit, but that’s a trade-off we’re willing to make.  I think everyone needs a “happy place” in their lives, and Sanibel Island is ours.

73 thoughts on “A Happy Choice

  1. Sanibel is beautiful! I visited it a few years ago while visiting a friend in Fort Meyers. Beautiful natural beaches and fun little restaurants. It’s good to have a happy place. And the memories I’m sure contribute to your feelings. I know mine do! ❤ 🙂

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  2. That’s the real difference between taking a vacation and “touring” isn’t it? Good vacations from the busyness (and maybe the mundane) promise to transport us back to our happy place. Unlike touring, the emotional and spiritual connections we forge on vacations are difficult to frame in Facebookable moments. Both have their rewards of course, but in my experience, I rarely need to review photos to relive the best parts of a good vacation. Probably they have a special place in the pleasure centers of my brain.

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    • That’s a good distinction to make. We do like to “tour” and see new places (and I’m very grateful for the trips I have taken), but when we go to Sanibel, is it truly is a vacation. We are deeply connected to it emotionally, and I bet our time there is recorded in the pleasure centers of our brain. We come home feeling refreshed, every time!

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    • I bet you would love it! Avoid the major holidays and Feb/March, when it is too crowded (it has gotten a lot more popular in recent years, sadly). But if you go on the off season, it is truly relaxing.

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    • I was lucky enough to have lunch on Anna Marie Island once when we were visiting Sarasota, and loved it! Both my husband and I commented that it reminded us of Sanibel in that it isn’t overly built up and had lots of small town charm. Lucky you to have a place nearby! I would love that! And thanks for your kind comments.

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    • It really is! I sometimes feel guilty about going there over somewhere new and different, but then I think, “hey, it’s my vacation! I can go where I know I will enjoy it….” Thanks for the comment!

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  3. Your opinion on your choice of a vacation spot makes a lot of sense, Ann. When life gets a little too hectic, you do not want to go to far-off places. As traveling there and getting accustomed to your new environment can be very stressful. For the very same reason as yours, my wife and i prefer to go camping at our own lake just a few miles out of town. Have a great and relaxing week, Ann!

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  4. We have been vacationing on Sanibel Island for almost 30 years. A great destination spot to get out of the cold midwestern winters during Spring Break time when our kids were little. As they grew, married and now have provided us with 7 wonderful grandchildren the tradition still lives on even though we now live full time in Florida. I see it being our go to place for many years to come! BTW, it only took me a second to recognize that lighthouse!!

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    • It sounds as if you love Sanibel just as much as we do! Once you grow to love it, it just stays with you, doesn’t it? And congratulations on the 7 grandchildren! I hope to do as well someday….

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  5. Happy belated birthday, Ann. There is nothing better than going to a place that practically forces us to slow down and de-stress, IMHO. I just got back from a cabin in the woods, so I can relate. I’ve always been more than a mountain person than a beach person and we were at a beautiful place on the Cumberland plateau. Happy, happy happy!
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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    • Yes, the nice thing about Sanibel is we know exactly what we want to do when we go there. We also enjoy visiting new places, but when we want to relax, we go to somewhere that is familiar and loved!

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  6. The best vacations feel like home from home … with lots of love and nourishment for heart and soul. We were a stones throw from retiring to Sanibel ( lots of good peeps live there year round!)
    Enjoy this special place Ann 💛

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  7. The destination isn’t what matters, going to a place you love and being able to share it with someone special is what it’s all about. Sounds like you found your spot, so enjoy it. 🙂

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  8. How nice to have a place to escape the routines of chaos. I’m not sure we have a single such place, but we don’t really have the hectic pace anymore. In any case, here’s to places that bring relaxation and comfort.

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  9. My good friend feels the same way about Anna Maria Island, next door. I, however, have a hard time returning to the same place when there are so many others I haven’t gone to yet. I loved having a consistent vacation spot as a child, but as an adult it feels constrictive.

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    • A lot of people feel that way, which is why I sometimes feel embarrassed to say we are going to Sanibel “again.” But I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to want to vacation in a familiar spot just as it’s okay to want to explore new territory. Personally, I like to do both. I know that our frequent trips to Sanibel cut down on the time/money we have to explore other areas, but so far, I’m okay with that. Thanks for the comment!

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  10. I totally relate to your feelings about Sanibel. That’s how I feel about the beach, specifically the Florida Space Coast. I know it has a lot to do with the fact that my parents took us there on multiple vacations when we were kids and I have many happy memories. When you’re so familiar with another place it really does feel like you’re “coming home” when you visit!

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    • It does! And I think that is part of the attraction. We didn’t go on many vacations when I was a kid, but we did visit Florida several times to see my mom’s grandparents. So I grew up thinking of Florida as a fun vacation place, and I think that contributed to my feelings for Sanibel. My husband was born and raised in a small town, so I think he likes the small community of Sanibel as well.

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  11. I’ve never been to Sanibel, but my husband used to vacation there every year when he was growing up and says it’s really nice. It seems the more I travel, the more I appreciate my favorite places. There’s a special feel to them that keeps drawing you back. Nothing wrong with that!

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    • I’ve finally come to realize that! I know lots of people want to use all their vacation time to explore somewhere new, and I get that. But there is something that draws us back to Sanibel, and that feels so right when we are there. So I’m okay with our frequent trips there meaning we don’t visit other places as often as we would like. I think life is often about trade-offs, and this one works for us. Thanks, Kim!

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  12. Happy Birthday, Ann!!!🎂😊
    Good for you for finding your happy place and not being influenced by others. We have been to Maine so many times people always ask us why we’re going back. My feeling is, if I have to explain it to them, they wouldn’t understand the beauty of the rocky coastlines, the small towns and villages, the tiny lobster shacks that have better food than any five star restaurant, the friendly people, the unique shops, the slow pace and most of all, the memories.
    There are more glamorous trips that we’ve taken but if we ever want to chill, we head north.😊
    If we ever go south to Florida, we head to Anna Maria Island which is like stepping back to Florida sixty years ago. Where no building is more than three stories and life is like you experience on Sanibel. You can’t explain it to people. They’d never understand.

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    • You’re right, if we have to explain it, that just means they won’t understand anyway! I’ve never stayed on Anna Maria Island, but we did have lunch there once when we were in Sarasota, and we both thought, “This reminds us a lot of Sanibel.” I love the “old Florida” feel of the small, undeveloped islands and towns.
      It sounds as if your happy place is Maine, and from what you describe, I can certainly see why. Sometimes vacations aren’t about expanding our horizons, sometimes they are just about getting to relax and chill, and knowing from the start that we are going to enjoy ourselves when we get there. When it feels like our second home….
      And PS: I’ve just added Maine to my list of places I want to visit!

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      • “Sometimes vacations aren’t about expanding our horizons, sometimes they are just about getting us to relax and chill.”
        Absolutely. I love learning about new cultures and visiting other countries. I love Europe, especially the history and small villages. There’s nothing like it.
        But there is something to be said about enjoying life in a very simple way, in very simple places..:)
        P.S. If you ever decide to go to Maine and need any suggestions, just let me know. I’d be happy to help..:)

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        • Thanks, George! We absolutely will. I have very limited experience with the east coast, and Main sounds like a lovely place to visit. It will be on our schedule in the next year or so, I have no doubt. And we’ll take any insider information we can get.
          Like you, we also love Europe, especially away from the large cities. We hope to go there in the next couple of years as well, maybe on another river cruise.

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    • It really is! We have found that it’s nice to do both: explore new areas, but also revisit favorites that feel like home. The problem is that we aren’t in a position to travel nearly as much as we would like to, but even so, we know we are lucky to travel as much as we do. And hopefully, once retirement hits, we can travel even more!

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  13. Firstly Ann, happy belated birthday to you. Sounds like a wonderful happy place and the sort of peaceful quiet spot that precious memories are made of. We have a happy place too. For about ten years we went to the same country town for an overnight wedding anniversary getaway. It’s still our favorite place. I think we all have one of those which is pretty special. And lucky you that yours is so close. Enjoy the rest of your week Ann. x

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  14. My in-laws live in Florida and it’s one of my sisters-in-law favorite places. My husband and I keep saying we will go there on our Florida trips but haven’t yet. Your post has “upped” Sanibel on my list of future designations. 🙂

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    • I really think you will like it, as long as you go on the “off season.” May and November are great choices! Sadly, Sanibel has been discovered by far too many, so now there are crowds around the holidays and Jan through mid-April, and the crowds detract from the peacefulness of the island. Although if you do go during the on season, just plan on eating in and you’ll avoid the crowds.

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