Monday, January 27, 2014

Renewing our Traveling Spirit at Martinhal's Beach

A year ago, when we were planning this move to England, I had visions that our travels would be endless sightseeing excursions. Castles. Cathedrals. Cobblestone streets. If it was on a must-see list, we were going to check it off. We've done a lot of that already and we have many more plans for the future. No way am I spending three years in Europe without seeing these historical landmarks I've always dreamed about.

Following this logic, a year ago I also figured that visiting the beaches of Europe might be a waste of our time. We could always do beach trips when we move back to America. Sand is sand, waves are waves, whether they've got a Florida zip code or a Portugal post code.

So on our last afternoon in southwest Portugal, my husband and I had the decision of spending an hour or two on the beach at our resort, or touring Sagres, a coastal town rich in history as the epicenter of the Age of Discovery.

We chose this.

For me, there's something about being on a beach that makes time stand still. And when your kids are 2 and 4, and the milestones whiz by you so you rapidly you can hardly blink without missing something, I crave more moments to pause and appreciate the stages they're each in when we travel. (I needed to be reminded of that just this week, as we patiently await the exit of the two-pence coin Little Arrow swallowed a few days ago.)

Because at the age of 2, the feel of sand on his bare feet stopped him in his tracks.

But by the age of 4, there was no longer that same hesitation. Luckily, it was replaced with innocent bursts of energetic joy instead.

Certainly you can appreciate similar moments while sightseeing, and we have. I watched Little Arrow tackle stairs in Oslo and Big Arrow learn the size of his head at Buckingham Palace. But it's sometimes far more enjoyable to appreciate these memories while admiring the sun glittering on the calm water than while keeping toddlers out of traffic. So Sagres, you'll just have to take a rain check from us this time around.

What I learned from our 36 hours at the Martinhal Resort in Portugal is that I'd like to find a "Martinhal moment" on all of our trips, even when we're closely watching our wallet. Something that pleases all of us... not just parents patiently waiting for the littles to get their fill at the playground, or the kids trudging their way through a historical site that the adults wanted to see. We'll continue to do plenty of compromising on our travels, don't worry. But I'm far more determined to plan a 'crowd pleasing' experience or two from here on out.

Enjoying picturesque outdoor places tends to fit this criteria for our family. My husband and I find these experiences peaceful, and there's usually plenty of space and freedom for the boys to do as they please. So I'm starting out by setting aside a day on our April trip to Belgium to visit the coast. Maybe for your family, it's finding the best local ice cream stand. Or skiing. Or an amusement park. Whatever it is, join me in making it a priority on some of your vacations. (And please tell me about it!)

Much like bouncing on a beachside trampoline, I know you won't regret it.

Disclosure: My family was hosted by Martinhal for purposes of my review at Ciao Bambino. I was under no obligation to write this post on Arrows Sent Forth, and all opinions are my own.