By Amanda Kohr
When I was growing up in Virginia, my family often vacationed in the Outer Banks, a breezy beach destination in North Carolina full of sand dunes, wildflowers, and seashell-laden shores. The Outer Banks consisted of one long peninsula, with various towns spread out along the coast. Each town had a handful of beach houses, with surrounding shopping centers made up of surf shops, restaurants, and candy stores with every flavor of fudge you could imagine.
I always trembled with excitement as we neared an Outer Banks vacation. We often traveled with other families, and each time we took a trip I knew I was in for seven days of nothing but boogie boarding, eating sour candy, and reading Ramona Quimby books on the beach. But as I got older, I started to get a new obsession. My cell phone.
When I was fourteen, cell phones were just starting to have internet capabilities, and I was becoming addicted. I remember my parents telling me that we would be going to the Outer Banks that year. “Great!”, I thought. Even though I was getting older, I still loved these vacations and all the adventures they brought along with them. Only this year, there was one catch. We weren’t just going to one of the regular beach towns; we were going to the very tip of Corolla, the most Northern beach town of them all. In fact, we were going so far north that we had to enter a four-wheel drive section of the beach because there were no roads.
Instead, we would drive our Ford Expedition across the sand for thirty minutes and park outside the house. We would be about an hour away from the cute shops, the candy stores, and the restaurants. Even getting to the grocery store would take forty minutes! Oh, and the real kicker? No cell phone service.
No texting for a week? I was fourteen years old! What did my parents expect me to do, meditate? But any Outer Banks vacation was better than no Outer Banks vacation, and so I put on my best face and prepared to enter a weeklong isolation. I hoped my friends would remember me.
When we drove to the house, our car got stuck in the sand. “Oh boy,” I remember thinking. “This is off to a great start.”
After we spent two hours pulling the car out of a dune, we finally arrived at the house. I was surprised by how beautiful it was. There were us three families, all with two daughters and two sons. The house was three-stories high, with the kitchen and family room sitting on the tippy top of the third floor. There was a long porch that overlooked the water. In the backyard, there was a pool, and a long walkway that led directly to the beach. When we stood in the center of the pathway, we could see how alone we were. There was only one other beach house in the entire horizon.
Sammi K and Marissa were the other two girls, and while we weren’t best friends, we all still got along well. The little boys (our baby brothers) were crazy, and we could all agree we wanted nothing to do with them. The three of us girls dumped all of our things into one big, bunkbed room and settled in. I checked my phone. No service. I didn’t even know if I had any text messages. I was talking to a cute boy at the time, so this was very frustrating.
Well, no matter. The beach was right there, so might as well give it a shot! We pulled on our bathing suits ran onto the beach with our boogie boards and a bag of Trolli sour gummy worms. At the end of the day, we were exhausted and covered in salt water and sand. After a few quick showers, we went up to meet the adults, who were all unwinding and cooking up big bowls of pasta, meat sauce, fresh salad, and warm garlic bread. We offered to help, and soon we were all sitting down for our first dinner at the beach.
The first few days I checked my phone, wandering out to the center of the pathway towards the only place I could get service. There was hardly ever anything, so I’d always give up. Instead, I’d run out to the beach, or play board games with my friends, or read with mother on the big back porch. And then, one morning, I put my phone in my bag and left it there for the rest of the trip.
Despite the fact that we were constantly in the same place, every day was a new adventure. There were always shells to be discovered, or maybe the waves would be especially big. One afternoon we spent hours building an intricate sand castle, only to watch it melt away when high tide came. At night Marissa, Sammi K, and I would watch movies or tell stories, laughing over our newly-made inside jokes as we crammed raw cookie dough into our mouths.
We stayed almost entirely at the beach house, save for one little trip we took to the grocery store. (After all, a gallon of raw cookie dough only goes so far.) On one of the last nights, my mom and I sat on the porch, drinking lemonade and looking at the sunsets when we saw three wild horses roaming through the dunes.
“Everyone, look,” my mom whispered, and our fellow family and friends made their way out onto the porch to gaze at the beautiful creatures. They walked freely across the dunes, finding bits of grass to nibble on amidst the shore’s fauna. Wild and completely part of nature. I looked at them for what might have been an hour; Never before had I seen an animal so peaceful and powerful roaming through the earth completely untamed.
I thought about them as we packed up and loaded the car for the forty minute stretch back to civilization. I was sad to be leaving, and even the influx of text messages couldn’t replace the peace I had felt on the Corolla shore.
And now, ten years later, when I feel tempted to zone out and play on my phone, I think of those horses, and remember I can be wild too.