When 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.