Health

Heading south and a new kind of happy

It’s good to be home. That’s what I thought last week as my plane touched down in Negril, Jamaica, a trip that was kick-starting a week-long celebration of my husband’s milestone birthday.

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It’s good to be home.

That’s what I thought last week as my plane touched down in Negril, Jamaica, a trip that was kick-starting a week-long celebration of my husband’s milestone birthday. By home, I meant somewhere warm in January.

PK (pre-kids) the hubby and I took many trips south to Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic in January for week-long sun and fun trips. The days were made up of noses buried in books poolside with a rum punch to take the stress off, and evenings of late suppers following by dancing in the resort’s often cheesy disco. Maybe once in awhile we’d wander off the resort for some shopping and eating in a nearby town or an hour or two of driving some golf balls. It was our post-holiday treat that eased the stress of the season and we’d come home with wide smiles all around.

Then, a year after our oldest daughter was born, we thought we’d try a trip south as a family. But a day in, it felt like our beloved resort trips just didn’t fit anymore. Dinner was at 5 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. We were in our rooms by 7 p.m. for the night, wide awake watching our snoozing daughter and wondering what to do now? And forget stumbling into breakfast at 10 a.m. and then laying by the pool for the day—instead we were up at 6 a.m. for breakfast and then schlepping our Maclaren stroller backwards on the beach (I swear it’s the only way to get a stroller across sand), dropping towels, sand toys, sippy cups along the way. While the trip was fine, the weather was nice, the time we got to spend with our daughter—priceless of course. But it felt like our carefree resort life was long gone and after we arrived back home, we glumly decided not to book anymore such trips in the near future.

But this year to create this milestone celebration, I decided it was time to try again. Only this time I wised up: I searched for a family-friendly resort, but not one that was all-kids, all the time. The trip was to celebrate my husband, and if the kids had a great time, awesome. Still I was slightly wary going into the trip—would we enjoy it like trips past? Our vacations had been such a ritual for us. Could the ritual evolve?  

Turns out yes—while the Negril resort was lovely, what defined fun and happiness for us had certainly changed. This time we swirled around the resort’s lazy river repeatedly, laughing and chasing each other. My daughter and I scanned the beach for shells we then tucked away for future craft projects. My son screamed in delight as I pushed him around in his inflatable donkey pool toy.

But it wasn’t all kid-fun. Oceanside massages, an evening beach party, and thanks to grandparents who accompanied us on the trip, two nights out to enjoy an adults-only dinner followed by those yummy rum punches at the bar let us taste again what life used to be like. And a sampling was all we needed—we got our fill of adult fun and then woke up the next morning, this time happily schlepping our way to the beach or pool with the kiddies in tow. It felt like something we were finally ready for. We’d said goodbye to how we defined pleasure on such a vacation in the past and now look forward to welcoming trips like this in our future. To me, it felt like a new kind of happy.