Folly Beach, SC

I mentioned that we recently all got COVID tests (negative, hooray!), and now that I know that we luckily did not become community disease vectors, I’ll disclose that we got tested because we’d traveled to a hotspot.

Originally, we’d planned to travel to Mexico over April break. We were going to spend several days in Mexico City with a side trip to Puerto Escondido. Obviously, those plans got scrapped, although happily, we did get almost all of our money or credit back. We’d also planned to spend a week in Lake Norman, NC, which would have been a family vacation with us sharing a house with my parents, five siblings, and their families, along with other extended family in nearby houses. This, too, was canceled.

We needed to have some sort of fun and we wanted to see family if possible, but of course we had to balance this with safety. Cute W hatched a plan to search for a beach house that would allow us to stay as isolated as possible. Gradually this evolved into a slightly bigger beach house that we could share with one of my sisters and her family–our families had seemed the most gung ho among the Northern relations about trying to make Lake Norman happen back before that plan was abandoned–and that would also offer us the chance to see our parents and another sister and brother-in-law while maintaining some social distance.

Cute W researched and Google Mapped and came up with a house that was perfect. It was literally the last house on the long stretch of Folly Beach, SC, a place that was entirely new to us after years of traveling to North Carolina. The house was next door to a nature preserve and a short walk from a lighthouse. It had plenty of bedrooms and almost enough bathrooms. It was not nearly as posh as the big houses that we get when the whole extended family is involved–we have been spoiled by not just ocean front, but pools and hot tubs in the mega-houses that our required to house everyone when the full extended family goes–but we were looking for not-massively-expensive and far-from-people, and it appeared to fit the bill.

As our vacation approached, I fretted. Cuomo put South Carolina on the “must quarantine” list and hearing about the rising cases was scary. We had resigned ourselves to mixing germs with my sister and her family, but I couldn’t help fearing that her family or ours were all infected but asymptomatic, and once we got together we’d infect the other group and all hell would break loose. Better people would have gotten tested before the vacation, but as it approached, I just didn’t want to know. The thought of a bad result and a cancellation felt too unthinkable. So we packed up multiple masks and Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer and headed south, trying our best to avoid consuming fluids (and thus having to stop more than absolutely necessary) along the way. We spent a night in a hotel and even though that’s considered relatively low-risk, I was a bundle of nerves. The good news about the soaring infection rates was that people were wearing masks when we did have to stop. We loaded up groceries and hoped we’d never have to leave the beach house again.

When we first drove into Folly Beach, I was super-stressed. There were tons of people walking around and not looking particularly careful. Houses and businesses were squished together in the way that happens when proximity to the ocean makes real estate precious. But gradually we drove through the crowds and past them on our way to the house, and meanwhile we had reports from our family, who were half an hour ahead of us, that the location was great.

It was perfect. The beach was lovely and so close. Honestly, it seemed unreasonably close. This is a picture from inside the living room:

In the foreground you can see Cute W’s fancy camera and the room that looks dark compared to the bright sun outside, and you can see our desk and beyond that our beach chairs by the water.

And the short walk from house to ocean was so pretty. I’m used to some dune grass, but this was a whole bonanza of wildflowers.

It was just entirely good for the soul.

These were my favorites.

It was just the getaway we needed. We are very lucky that everyone likes each other, the cousins and the grown-ups. Oh, crap, the cousins are practically all grown-ups now, but you know what I mean. We were about two and a half hours from where my parents and my sister and brother-in-law live, so each of our families took a day trip to drive to Savannah, GA and visit there for a few hours. Then my sister and brother-in-law drove out and stayed overnight in a Charleston hotel to spend a little beach time with us. So we got plenty of family time in, even if there was no hugging allowed.

We took plenty of walks, but we always walked North, away from the houses and toward the lighthouse and preserve.

On this evening there was a spectacular thunderstorm, and before it hit, the clouds that rolled in were gorgeous, but you can also see how empty the beach was.

It was a wonderful getaway, and we’d definitely love to go again. Folly Beach has a cute little downtown which would have been super-fun for the cousins to go hang out and shop and flirt if we hadn’t all stayed housebound the whole time. And of course it’s right by Charleston, which we hear is lovely. But of course we didn’t spend any time there at all. Honestly, that was fine with me. When it comes to beach vacations, I am happy to do absolutely nothing except read and nap and walk and swim and repeat. So it was perfect.

We really needed the getaway, and it was lovely to unplug from the horrible news and mostly forget the pandemic. We’d hoped that we’d enjoy a little vacation afterglow, but the Monday after we returned is when we found out about M’s college switching to online only, which became a stress spiral for pretty much everyone in the house. It’s taken some time, but we’ve mostly recovered from that shock, and now I’m glad that we didn’t hear the news any earlier because it would have thrown our vacation into a tailspin. And of course now that we’ve braved the “hot zones\” and emerged uninfected, we can be purely happy that we took a chance for some fun this summer. We needed it!


  1. Claire

    I’m glad you had a good vacation. The photos are stunning. Thank you for being responsible in how you handled traveling to a hotspot and returning to our region. I’m really sorry about the situation with your daughter’s college, but honestly, I have a feeling most schools and colleges will end up closing eventually, at least temporarily.

  2. Kristen

    This beach looks beautiful, I’m definitely remembering it for future vacations! We moved our son in to his dorm last week and I just saw today that a college 10 mins away is going all remote after opening campus for a week. I’m so nervous we’ll have to move him back home soon. I think a gap year might end up being the smartest choice for 2020.

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