The lives we live today are often busy, carrying us from here to there and filled with distraction. The distractions in our lives don’t just extend to life outside the home. We fill our homes up with distractions too, the large televisions, the computers, the wired world, the six different ways to make coffee (okay, that may only be us), but you get my point. So when my family has gone on vacation over the past 30 years, we’ve loaded up the car and traveled down Interstate 95 to a simple summer cottage on Hatteras Island for anything from an extended weekend to a month-long break.
I call it a cottage because that is simply what it is. The house has been changed and adapted with our sweat and craftsmanship but remains the little house on 16 foot stilts looking across the Route 12, the highway that bisects the whole of the Outer Banks. The cottage occasionally shows its age with a warping board or a missing patch of cedar shingles. The slight wear is a testament of its strength as it has weathered 30-plus years of hurricanes and Nor’easters that have pummeled the island, sometimes breaking the narrow strip of sand sitting at the edge of the Atlantic clean in half. The three small bedrooms and one and a half bath home faces west, looking out onto a view of the sound. It’s a view that for more than 20 years was unobstructed. The recent housing boom took our view, but we can still see some of the sound and the amazing sunset, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.
A cottage like ours was common years ago, in the years before the mega mansions of the housing boom with their elevators, gourmet kitchens and swimming pools. The expectations of the public for what they “need” became too high and we could no longer find any renters and decided to just keep the house for ourselves and close friends to use. The modern family just didn’t want a little cottage on the beach.
The house is located in the town of Salvo halfway down highway 12 between Oregon Inlet and Hatteras Island Light House. The small cluster of towns Salvo, Rodanthe (yes that Rodanthe from the Nick Sparks book) and Waves are a place to truly get away from the crowds, shopping malls and board walks of larger places like Ocean City, Maryland or Nags Head, North Carolina. The closest grocery store is 20 minutes south in Avon, but you can make do at places like the Blue Whale – a small convince store within walking distance. As a kid it was my job to ride my bike to buy my father’s morning paper, a job I was all too eager to take as a way of asserting my independence.
You learn many things about an island when you visit it as often we do. You learn that Lisa’s Pizza is the place to be in a blackout, because the ovens are fired with gas. The Fishin’ Hole always has the best fishing report, thanks to their local knowledge reports from fishermen up and down the coast via CB radio. You also learn that island time isn’t a foreign concept when you need something built or repaired.
The main thing you learn is that you don’t need a game room to entertain your kids; you have Parker Brothers and the dining room table. You don’t need a big screen television when you have good book, (or Kindle). You have the same mess to clean up when a pot of boiling crabs boils over in a kitchen built in 1990 or 2012. You learn that you can sit on the beach and watch the waves and the birds and if it’s too windy you pick up your chair and find a low spot in the dunes and sit behind a sandy hill and let the sun bake you without being sand blasted. You know that the evening sunset over the sound shouldn’t be missed as the yellow sun turns red and slips beyond the horizon. You learn that email isn’t necessary to communicate because the person you truly want and need to communicate with is sitting next to you watching that sunset.
I’m guessing the point is most of us go on vacation to get away from the stresses of life, but in this modern age we tend to bring them along. Sometimes the best way to escape is to find a simple cottage on a peaceful island and let each moment come and go and not feel pushed to do any more.