by Michael Boyink / firstname.lastname@example.org
Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Niagara Falls. Gettysburg. Washington, D.C.
All places that people purpose to visit on vacations.
All places that, once people learned that we were traveling full-time, said were “must-see” while we were on the road.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina (OBX) were also on that list. Friends had special memories of family summer vacations there.
Researching, we learned the area had 100 miles of ocean-front beaches on thin needle-shaped islands barely visible on the map. Wild horses. Wright Brothers history. Pirate history. Lighthouses. Ferries.
It all sounded awesome.
Our first challenge was finding a place to park the RV. It was November and all of the state parks and national forests were already closed for the winter season.
Which left private RV parks. Which were expensive. Like $80 a night expensive. Too rich for our “not on vacation” mode of travel.
MsBoyink rolled up her sleeves, pulled out her “full-time RV’er and cheapskate” bag of tricks and found us $30/night options instead.
With lodging settled and a good weather forecast, we pointed the truck south into North Carolina from Virginia Beach.
Expectations were high.
And maybe that was the problem.
At the north end at the Kill Devil Hill / Kittyhawk area, we had encountered the first of our two main OBX experiences.
Not in the Pigeon Forge, TN style of busy theme parks and high rise hotels, but still. T-shirt shops. Hammock stores. Restaurants. Kite stores.
The retail districts back up to ocean-front residential areas, which are a virtually solid fenceline of tall houses that block out the ocean view.
We drove on, anxious to get out of the commercial areas.
And went straight into OBX experience number two.
Long, boring stretches of road.
Looking at the map of the Outer Banks, we expected to have constant views of water.
For much of the drive, sand dunes obscure views of the ocean on one side and scrubby trees obscure the sound on the other.
Our Outer Banks visit wasn’t entirely a disappointment.
We got our first glimpse of dolphins in the wild. We had our first sampling of fresh seafood. We walked beaches. We rode on ferries. We watched people fishing in the surf.
And we learned an important lesson.
Maybe it’s because we didn’t rent a beach house. Maybe it’s because we were there in the off-season. Maybe it’s because we came from West Michigan – which has some of the nicest beaches in the country.
But we learned.
We enjoyed traveling more when we had no expectations of the area we were in. No up-front research. No stories from other people’s favorite family vacations.
Better to appreciate an area for what it is, than resent it for not being what it was supposed to be.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina are a series of barrier islands separating the mainland from the Atlantic Ocean. Learn more at outerbanks.com.