Five Lessons I’ve learned From Vacation

grommom and boys in Huntington beach

Dave and Levi San Clemente

Huntington Beach Pier Levi/Luke surf

Huntington Beach surf


We’ve packed a lot in over the past two weeks.  I played around in my mind with about five different blog posts about our time, until I remembered that this vacation is not affording me the luxury of writing five different blog posts…

I thought this might be the easiest way to summarize some of the stand-out impressions we have from our trip so far.  If you’ve done some traveling, I’m pretty sure you’ll relate to a thing or two here.  And I hope you’ll share a lesson you’ve learned from traveling in comments, below.

(**If you’re a skimmer, the last point is probably the most important one…even if the longest.)

1.  A VACATION isn’t necessarily a “Vacation.”
This has turned out to be the busiest two weeks ever. Looking back, we’ve done some amazing things–and I have no complaints–but that whole vision I had of kicking back and reading a book…or “catching up on some writing,”…hahahahaha…That was funny.

I’m totally getting that whole “I need a vacation from my vacation!” thing.

2.  Hawaii vibe vs. Cali vibe
I spent five years living in Southern California during my Pepperdine College years, so this shouldn’t be so shocking to me, but somehow I’ve got a bit of culture shock.  I guess spending the last thirteen years on our slow-paced island has changed me.  The vibe here is so different.  If one word sums it up, it is materialism…And call me weak–but if i lived here I know I’d be sucked right in.  From wearing the right clothes to driving the right car–this place could simply:  Take.  Me.  Down.

Dave is especially shocked with the driving scene:  We’re not finding much Aloha on the roads, haha.  In Hawaii (especially the North Shore,) it is literally the norm to slow down to let people in on the road.  People wave you in, you throw them a shaka and a smile, and that is normal.  And if you’ve driven the freeways of southern California, you know that is simply NOT the case.

There are of course so many other contrasts between Hawaii and California–some positive, some negative.  I am personally LOVING the awesome options for healthy food, restaurants, juice bars, and better prices at grocery stores.  Luke is suddenly a luxury-car admirer.  (We pretty much NEVER see fancy cars on the North Shore of Oahu.)  It’s just another world.

3.  Being a house guest vs. a hotel guest.

Normally when we travel, we stay in a hotel room.  We never want to inconvenience anyone,  and we like a private space to “get comfortable in” (that’s the nice way of saying “to make a mess in.”)  We spent our first week in a simple, but very comfortable hotel in San Clemente.  Then, last week we were house guests at the Jennings (Bryan, from Walking on Water and his wife and adorable daughter.)   It was such a fun week!  When we look back on this trip, I am positive we will agree that was the highlight of our month away.  Getting to know the Jennings, sharing awesome meals, hanging out in ways we wouldn’t if we were staying in a hotel, was just super special. (similar thoughts on having house guests in this post from last winter.)

And maybe most fun:  Levi with a little sister!

Levi and Ella

levi ella california

Now we’ve moved on to the final phase of our trip–two weeks in a hotel near Huntington Beach.

4.  Not all hotels are created equal.

For this final stage of our trip, I found the cheapest hotel I could while staying in a safe neighborhood somewhat near the beach.  Sadly, this one isn’t my fave.   It’s clean enough, and even has a pool (fenced into the middle of the parking lot, haha–reminds me of childhood road trips!) but I think next year I’ll find something else.  I looked into other options to switch to, but most decent places are sold out, so this will have to do.  (and the kids could care less. :))

Luke Swanson hotel pool

Levi pool time

This summer is basically a big learning experience, and I’ve got some great ideas for next summer.  (Like bringing my entire family, and doing a house swap! :))

5. Sometimes the highlight of a vacation is not even what you came for.
I don’t remember if I’ve even given updates recently regarding Luke’s surfing…Sorry, blogging has been hard to get to!  So here’s the quick surf-report update:  As for the Trestles USA Championships, we were really excited because Luke’s name DID get called as an alternate–about one minute before the first heat of the day!  Just getting into the contest was what we were hoping for.  He was placed in a heat with some of the toughest kids in his division.  He had a decent 20 minute heat, but took fourth place, so did NOT advance to the next round.  We weren’t too disappointed, mostly because in that contest he is very young (he is 10, and up against some kids up to 13 years old.)  He will have three more years in this division, and we really looked at this contest as practice for the years to come.

Luke at Surf championship

This next week is the bigger focus.  He has his NSSA National contest at Huntington beach, and he will be in an age division with younger kids this time.  We are hoping that he competes well.

Though we are looking ahead to that next contest, we have realized that this trip is about so much more…

We have visited two of Dave’s older relatives (from either side of his family.) One was a special Uncle who is in a care home for Parkinson’s disease.  It was so good to spend time with him and his wife and a cousin we haven’t seen in many years.  Dave was so glad for that opportunity.

We also visited Dave’s other Uncle who, after his wife of many years died, remarried a famous movie star from the golden era in hollywood.  If you are an old movie buff, you may know of Rhonda Flemming.  We were invited to their amazing home in Century City this weekend for lunch, and it was all kinds of fabulous. I only wish I had time to tell the stories (and share the iPhone photos–because yes, I was paparazzi and snuck around taking photos of the most amazing home I’ve ever ever ever ever seen!) but trust me when I tell you, it was “an experience.”  Levi behaved better than we had expected, with the only real exception being when he took one bite of lunch and exclaimed “I don’t like it!”  It was an unforgettable day, and we were truly honored.  Oh, and Rhonda is 91 now, and still beautiful, sharp, and a great conversationalist who loves the Lord.  Wow.

But probably our favorite moments of the trip have been two days last week that Luke spent time in San Diego at the Walking On Water surf camp with Bryan Jennings.  Luke got to surf with the kids who are just learning, and get to know the amazing leaders.  Bryan asked Luke to be a special “Guest speaker” at camp.  Dave and I watched as Luke stood in front of over fifty people, and was interviewed by Bryan.  I guess we had no idea how our little ten-year-old would do, and we were blown away by how it went.  Luke was comfortable, and funny, and shared about winning and losing, and most importantly about how surfing is his passion, but that win or lose he knows that his self worth does not come from surfing, but from his understanding of God’s love.  The kids listened intently, and I think Luke had a few new little fans in that crowd! :)
That alone made our entire trip worth while!  Whatever happens in the surf contest will just be icing on the cake.

I could carry on and on about people we have connected with, churches we have visited, places we have seen, and alllll of the awesome meals we have eaten (we even got Dave to In And Out Burger yesterday…followed by heart burn, haha!)  But I know it is summer, and you have a life to live, so I’ll let you get back to your own life, which is likely more exciting than the Ramada Inn from which I write.

But first, these:


bryan jennings, and luke

Luke @ walkingonwater surf camp

In and Out Burger

I’ll be taking Levi and Dave to the airport this afternoon…so wish us luck! :)  Thankfully, Levi is taking it all really well…so far. :)

I’ll see you back here when I can get to it.  Meanwhile, happy summer and have a great week!


Aloha, Monica

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  1. Sandy says

    Oh and I so agree, Vacation is not always vacation. I am taking a week off of week so I and another adult can cram ourselves and 7 middle-school students into one suburban and drive out to Idaho for some camping and waterpark adventures. Right now I am really wishing those bottled starbucks frappiciuno’s came in plastic not glass. Pray for no concussions this year.

  2. Teddi says

    Good summary–I know how busy you’ve been. Love seeing Levi with a cute little girl, especially in a pink Barbi-mobile!! Speaking of pink–tell Luke he needs to get to know that cutie in the pink shirt standing next to him! Weather looks good, busy, fun times–makes for a great family vacation. Only wish the big boys were with you too. Next year lets all meet up again!

  3. Melissa K says

    LOL.. Levi in those 2 pictures with that little girl. hahahahahaha! His face says it all. Watch out! :-)

    Looking forward to talking to you soon.

  4. says

    So glad it has been a great trip! Loved the post, and the part about Luke speaking made me tear up. We can accomplish so many things in life, but for our kids to know their worth in God – priceless.

  5. says

    Ok, just read your post, before I saw your list I knew the first one, I was raised in SoCal, now live in NorCal, never thought I would ever leave the south, so glad I did,materialism is so bad in the south, we have it north but not as bad, you really have to not get sucked in, I’m just glad I don’t have to raise my children in that frame of mind, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it was bad,

  6. says

    ha ha, I know all about those crappy hotels too… nicely summed up. Good on Luke for being the guest speaker.

    (btw, your link to “similar thoughts on having house guests” isn’t working… would love to read the post, tho).

    • says

      thank you Corinna! Ah yes–I have been going through and “privatizing” 90% of old posts…that one must have been in there. If I can pull it up I’ll let ya know! Thanks so much for having a look around. Much aloha!