Trying not to be a tourist on Tybee Island

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On this road trip of mine I have stopped and seen some very new things, some odd things and a couple very f%$Ked up things. In the process of planning this trip, I used the internet and all her vast wonders to try to find some new things, places at least I have never heard of.

At the end of the day, though when we travel we all are all drawn to certain types of things and certain types of places without even realizing it. I think certain places bring out particular feelings in us; emotions and it is those feelings and emotions that we look for when we travel. It is not just about going and seeing something cool, new and beautiful but rather the feelings and memories associated with them are what we need and want. From my experience, it is those things that last far far longer than a trip, or vacation does.  For younger kids (college/high school age) and the spring breaker types they  usually like the rowdy crowded bar scenes with noisy clubs, parties drinking and orgies galore such as Panama City or Daytona Beach back in the 90’s. Old people often prefer something more laid back a slower pace than they’re normal slow or maybe just somewhere warm or even just going to see the screaming grand kids.

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Myself I like the quite, the laid back, the relaxed with some nature and history thrown in. Moreover, like my mom I like the water but more specifically the ocean…I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame, like a dirty hippy to Patchouli like a dirty hipster to girl pants…okay enough. Somewhere on some little secluded or empty beach on the ocean is where I am often my happiest. I like beaches but I like quite beaches that I can walk on at a pace of my own deciding not one decided on by some rowdy kids holding red solo cups while dodging some little kids plastic sand toys. I am not generally a lay on the beach for hours and get tan dude…I am Scottish and a ginger (reddish beard) and its hard for us to tan well. I do not like crowds and crowded places. This is interesting since I always knew I was uncomfortable in these situations. However since I have been seeing a therapist I have found I actually have a real issue with this but that is another blog for another time. Some of my favorite places to go to are the places where time seems to have forgotten in a way. Places the kids and crowds generally stay away from because they are boring.

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On the coast of Georgia not far away from the wonderfully historic and trendy bustle of downtown Savannah Georgia, I found once such place with one such beach. This place is called Tybee Island. I had heard of the Island before but it wasn’t until I did a little research that I remembered why. I spent half a day wandering this little island that some refer to as the Martha’s Vineyard of the southeast. I don’t know about all that since I have never been to Martha’s but I have seen pics and it doesn’t mesh in my mind. Martha’s Vineyard is full of flashy millionaires and propped collar cads and I saw none of that on Tybee.

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The town is small and quiet at least when I was there at the end of April. I was told I was in between tourist seasons. Who knows maybe that changes but when I was there I felt at peace and comfortable as I walked the beach alone, wrote in my little travel journal and meandered by way about town on foot. The town has many unique little shops and galleries and even the gift shops seemed a little more appealing than something you might find say in Miami or other tourist spots. I ate at the Breakfast Club, a famous place I did not know was famous until I left…I just thought their menu looked good and it not disappoint me.

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I have spent a lot of time on Florida’s west coast since my mom moved down there, I get irritated with the gross commercialism of some seaside communities. Seaside Oregon is one example of that. Many seem to have lost their souls decades ago in a rush to make money and build hype instead of staying who they are letting people fall in love with that. This is why I love and adore a place like Cannon Beach Oregon, a town that in many ways Tybee Island reminds me of as well as Anna Marie Island…at least part of it.  I am not going to bullshit you and act as if I am damn expert on this place; I spent part of one day in the town and beach.

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I really liked that the town and with the exception of an awkwardly placed Arbys which was the only chain place on the whole island as far as I saw. Therefore, no Burger kings, subways and McDonald’s  There were no big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Lowe’s and no Starbucks (at least that I saw). Everything was seemingly local, local galleries local foods local café’s local local local something I am very big on when I travel. The town was filled with awesome beach houses and exquisite homes many raised off the ground in case of hurricanes. Some were for rent some were not all of which though were unique and really felt like they belonged on the coast, they just had that feel to them. They did not feel like invaders from another land trying to bring their homes and culture with them. I assume Tybee Island has similar building codes and ordinances like Cannon Beach and other small seaside or lakeside communities have which keep them as quiet as possible and charming and is the kind of place I look for when I am traveling. Tybee Island is one of those places, which seems too not change much with the times and holds onto its traditional past and charming existence. People road bikes up and down the streets and the plethora of seafood restaurants made my mouth water.

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The beach had a great wooden pier, which stretched far out into the water. The day I was there the beach and the pier were getting hammered by some pretty good-sized waves. This led to some great pictures. I sat at the end of the pier for a bit, watching the surfers ride waves and old men fishing with their lines out over the edge.  The beach with the exception of a group of kids on field trip learning about the oceans and beaches was quiet and there were not very many people there. I walked the quarter of a mile or so stretch from the peir to the north end of the island in complete solitude and lost in thought with the breeze from the Atlantic Ocean blowing in my face. It was a great beach and perfect for walking this was the 2nd of many barrier islands I visited while in Georgia and South Carolina.

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As far as I saw, there was only one hotel on the entire beach. This was something that I loved since the beach was not lined with high-rise hotels and overpriced condominiums. It is one of the more annoying things about the Sarasota Florida area and I found out also with Cocoa Beach Florida while on this trip. There was one or two taller buildings on the south end of the island but nothing very tall at all and just a few stories high. The rest of the beach was lined very nice and well-kept but not obnoxious beach homes and a parking lot. Walking the beach from north to south you could see things go from slow to fast. The north end was quieter and more peaceful then the middle (pier) to the south end which was the more “touristy area”. On the North end old men sat in little cafés looking out at the ocean while drinking coffee and playing chess and families ate lunches without the panic rush and hustle that which they might encounter during the “busy” season”. I would like to think it is like this always but I know that is just a pipe dream nothing is always this perfect all the time…ever.

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The fact I was able to walk unbounded and un-annoyed for a few hours, just sit, and stare out at the sea and attempt to sort out my life was amazing and something I really needed. It was hard not to think of my dog Harley, hard not to think of how much she loved beaches and sniffing around, she would have loved this beach and I found myself missing her more than words can say.  I could walk any beach in the world with her and be completely content. That loss is something that will always stick with me since there will be no more with her…she may never even see a beach again for all I know.

The only people I talked to on the beach were two older women walking who asked me if I would take their picture, which I gladly did since they did it for me (taking pics of yourself can be a pain). I am glad it was not busy since for one while I walked I carried a picture of Harley and me together in my hand, which was taken at another beach in Michigan a few years back. I did it so a part of her was with me, she always was the best part of me and some days I think maybe the only good part. This was the first beach I started a little photography project dedicated to her and about her and it is something you will see a few weeks. The second reason was that part of this trip was about finding me again, finding happiness again and releasing some burdens and sadness that I have been carrying  for a while or at least trying to. Siting on that windy beach on Tybee Island I felt some of those slip away with blowing sand and pounding surf.

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New house being made to look old

The only downfall of this island was that all the public parking was metered parking. The plus side was you could pay by credit/debit card and as long as you had your slip it printed out it could be used at any of the metered parking on the island until it expired. I do not like this idea but it is what it is and only cost me like 8 bucks for several hours. For all the glamour and history of Savannah I would choose a stay at Tybee Island over  a day in the city.

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One thing I realized on this trip so far is that people who live on the sea, any ocean it seems, the ones who breath the salty air, whose constant soundtrack is an oceans waves are very very different than ones even a just an hour inland. I saw it in Georgia and I saw it in Oregon. The people on Tybee Island are very different from those living in Savannah just as the people living in Cannon Beach or Tillamook Oregon are vastly different than those in the big city of Portland. For some reason these are the kind of people, the kind of towns I am drawn toward and look for.

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Keep an eye out for my next blog about the Civil War fort called Fort Pulaski, which is also on Tybee Island.

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