Like you, we’re restless, and eager to travel. Here’s where we want to go…



Spending a week cooking handmade pasta in Tuscany, or biking and sunbathing and cooking fresh-off-the-boat fish in St. Cyprien, France is where I’d want to go with my wife and 8-year-old son when the pandemic is over, but the thought of boarding a plane for eight hours – an unenjoyable experience even without restrictions – right out of the gate is not happening for us.


When I think about the one place that makes us all happy, it has to be the beach. Any beach. And the beach is such a simple place, too. It’s sand — which for beach detractors is the main deterrent to going to a beach — and, most likely, ocean. The beach is also ironic. It’s the perfect combination of chaos and calm. Perhaps we like it so much because that represents our three personalities. But it always brings us joy. Aren’t we supposed to keep only those things that bring us joy? (What does Marie Kondo have to say about tidying up our travel memories?)



The author (and his dad bod), with his family and their stuff at Ocean Grove beach in New Jersey Photo provided by Wonderlust

The first time we took our son to a beach he was three years old. We spent a week in Cape Cod. We played mini golf, ate lobster rolls every day – anywhere that sold them – ate bluefish for the first time and went whale watching seeing six different species. We spent an entire day at Cahoon Hollow Beach, on the ocean side, digging for most of the day. The last 30 minutes was of me playfully running into the ocean and away from the incoming waves straight towards my son and picking him up above my head and twirling him around.


We also spent a late afternoon at First Encounter Beach, on the bay side, experiencing low tide at its lowest and the rapid incoming of high tide. Seeing how far we were able to walk out into the water further piqued my son’s interest in a life at sea. The curiosity he exuded while holding our hands was precious.


Last summer, we visited Lake George and spent a day at Million Dollar Beach. We also spent a couple of days at Ocean Grove beach along the Jersey Shore. Just south of Bruce Springsteen’s lively hometown of Asbury Park, Ocean Grove is a dry town, making it more welcoming to families. We spent six hours a day in the ocean, riding a boogie board and jumping into and over waves. We dug more massive holes and trenches in the sand. We only went to our chairs to eat lunch. Waiting an hour before going back to swim never came to mind. Levi started asking to return to Ocean Grove the moment we left. And we did.



Levi at his happy place Jason Stahl



Most recently, we took a jaunt there on Mother’s Day. The water was ice cold, but Levi still went in. He wanted to be buried in the sand and we obliged. We were so excited to be back at a beach, our happy place. 


I don’t mind putting a trip to Europe on hold. It’ll be there when we’re ready. For now, seeing my family happy is more important, no matter how much sand gets into my shorts.