Guest Column: The ‘Stay-cation’

By Kimberly O’Brien-Young.

The hustle and bustle of summer in Laguna Beach begins once again. In the fray of the activity and beautiful weather there are naysayers who will gripe about the tourists that come and invade our little town. They will complain about all the additional traffic throughout the village, and how difficult it is to get reservations at any of our local eateries. They are put out by the inconveniences they face as June, July and August unfolds, waiting patiently until Labor Day where they can reclaim their town for their own. How do I know this? I used to feel the exact same way!

That was until life and the economy forced me to have a new and enlightened perspective.

In these last several years as the economy nosedived and the real estate market crashed, many of us have experienced budgetary restraints. The days of luxurious decadence and posh vacations has ended for many. Taking care of our families, our businesses and our health is what our extra money is used for now. In days gone by our family would get away at least twice, sometimes more during summer. It was a welcome break from the tourists and the chaos. Then one year our budget didn’t allow for any vacations.  For the first time in my children’s life we weren’t going anywhere. We were staying home here in Laguna Beach all summer! The news was not received well at first. It was a bit of a shock to everyone’s system. Was I failing my kids by not providing a Caribbean, Hawaiian or East Coast adventure?

I decided to tackle the lack of vacation by adjusting my attitude. My goal was that in doing so perhaps I could shift my kids’ perspective? I set out to discover Laguna Beach like a tourist. My husband, an expert at making fun out of nothing, had an easier time of this. He guided the whole family. Here is what we found: Laguna Beach is the bomb! No wonder the tourists come. Here under my very nose was this jewel and I was so busy living here I never stopped to experience here!

During the course of the summer we hit the beach more times than I have 25 years. So many late afternoons my family and I traipsed off the beach with our sandy feet to Adolfos or Gina’s for dinner as we watched the sunset. We took in every concert in Bluebird Canyon Park. The concerts were like a gigantic local’s party where all your best friends are and there is fantastic music. I became an expert at getting our stuff to the park early to secure a spot and set up. We attended the Sawdust Festival three times to check out the artists and listen to local musicians. We traversed around town via the trolley. We were awed by the fireworks at Heisler Park. I knew at an organic level how special our town is when we attended the Pageant of the Masters. Nothing short of magnificent! I felt proud as a local. I looked around the audience and wondered who was visiting us, and from where? I felt boastful. I had to fight the urge to say to the person next to me, “I live here!”

June, July, and August went faster than any summer of my life. Before I knew it, Labor Day was upon us. Everyone in the house had been on a happy high for three months and yet we had gone nowhere. We just stayed home.

About four days before school was starting my son said to me, “Mom this was the best summer of my life!” (I am 36 years older than he is and it was the best summer of my life, too!)

We had conquered the stay-cation and had emerged closer as a family because of it. I no longer was bothered by traffic, or tourists. I didn’t mind avoiding certain eateries because of difficulty with reservations. I understood now why tourists arrive and how very lucky we are to be here every day. I didn’t mind sharing our beautiful town.

Now a new summer is unfolding and our budget this year may actually allow for a getaway. I said to my husband, “Yeah, but do we really want to go?”

I think another stay-cation would suit me fine!

Kimberly O’Brien-Young is the mother of three sons and married to Ben Young, with whom she owns ADX Apparel Inc.

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