I was tired. I’d worked for almost a month straight and I needed a break. I needed a getaway.
Summer was calling. I felt it in my bones, a bodily longing for sunshine, for the crash of waves, sand squishing between my toes, the tropical fruit stink of sunscreen.
What I needed was the beach.
I packed up the dogs, some clean clothes and some road snacks and we all headed to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where the Wright Brothers flew the first successful flight in 1903 and where a colony of Englishmen and women mysteriously disappeared between 1587 and 1590.
I’ve had a long-standing love affair with the Outer Banks, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been and even longer since the dogs went with me on any sort of adventure, especially one that included an ocean.
The Outer Banks are different. There are wild horses and dunes, crabs that terrorize my dogs as the sun rises and a low-key sort of feeling that validates any desire to do absolutely nothing.
It’s not like Ocean City, Virginia Beach or Myrtle Beach. There’s no boardwalk, no bustle. There’s mini golf, and some outlets and a bunch of good food, but mostly it’s just beautiful beach, 70 miles of which is preserved as part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The wolves and I spent three days at the beach, catching the sunrise each day, chasing crabs across the sand as the sun came up, drinking wine from cans, reading books and visiting the three national parks in the area, of course. I took a multi-hour nap, spread out in bed and watched trash TV while the dogs snuggled on their own queen-sized bed. I took myself and my book to dinner, made friends with retirees both new to the area and exceptionally local. I had chicken wings for dinner and key lime pie for dessert then walked the beach with the dogs as the moon came up.
The dogs reacted differently to the ocean, as they always have. Sadie, the white wolf of wonder, pounced into it, barked and tugged when I wouldn’t let her throw herself into the water to bite and snap at the waves. We went in a few times, mostly just to wet our paws, but she doesn’t know how to contain herself at the ocean and will inevitably consume too much salt water and make herself sick if left unchecked biting at the waves.
Luke, the master of anxiety, cried and pulled himself away from the ocean. It scared him, just like most things scare him. But then he noticed the crabs side-walking their way out of their lairs and was at once terrified and fascinated. I let him off-leash and he went after them, pouncing into their holes, digging when they crawled back inside and returning to me when they disappeared. He caught a few too, and engaged in a serious battle with one good-sized creature who would not retreat, no matter how many times Luke snapped and barked and bit the thing.
On the way home, I thought about how much my life has changed. A few years ago, even a single year ago, I wouldn’t have considered a spontaneous solo trip to the beach, with or without my wolves. Going to New Mexico by myself last year felt like a radical act, like a personal revolution of realization that such things were actually, really and truly possible. Seven months and a handful of solo adventures later and it was a given.
Somewhere between New Mexico and now, my thinking changed. The dramatics are gone. I don’t call it “going alone” anymore, now it’s just called “going.”