Disclosure: I participated in a press trip to Amelia Island. The words in this post are my own.
I put my kids to bed and gave them a goodbye hug, for I was leaving in the morning on a press trip to Amelia Island. It’s always difficult when I leave my wife and kids to go on a press trip or to a conference. For the past 13 years, I have been a stay-at-home dad, until recently when I transitioned to a work-at-home dad. My number one responsibility is still to get my kids from point A to B, make sure every need is met, put them to bed and basically be by their side just in case something arises. So, every time I leave, my heart is heavy for my family while I’m gone.
I hailed a cab early in the morning and was off to the airport. I struggle with relaxing on planes, but I was weary after a bout with a nasty sinus headache and a nose that failed to stop dripping due to allergies. This trip, I conked out after take-off.
After we landed, I found Paul Eisenberg from Traveling Dad, who was waiting with our driver. Paul and I got to catch up on what we’ve been up to for the past year as we made our drive from Jacksonville to Amelia Island.
When I walked into my room at the Omnia Amelia Island Resort and Plantation, I missed my family. I love staying in hotels with my family. My kids get so excited about staying in a luxurious room and I get excited about housekeeping. My room overlooked the resort’s large pools and the ocean and I dreamed about sipping a drink on the patio with my wife, something we love to do when we travel.
I met the other guys for the man trip in the lobby… Oh, did I forget to mention I was mantripping? Or mancation or man-fam if you will. Mantripping is when a group of guys get together for a vacation. Last year I was with a group that went to Destin, Florida. Some of the same guys from that trip were also on this one. Anyway, I met up with Paul, Jeff Bogle, Mike Jordan, Michael Solender, who are all travel writers and our handler for the trip, Kaitlin. Kaitlin was our host for the mantrip and had the herculean task of making sure we showed up on time, paid our checks, and listen to a group of middle-aged men talk about nonsense.
After meeting in the lobby and conducting greetings, we left for the Ritz-Carlton for dinner. If you haven’t eaten at The Ritz-Carlton, I suggest you save up and make a reservation. After a presentation about salt making at the resort, a tasty Old Fashioned, and a 5-course meal, I was stuffed and content. I take the content part back because one of my favorite things to do is dine at 5 diamond restaurants with my wife. It would have been fun to discuss every tasty morsel and compare it to our many other delicious meals.
After our amazing dinner, we called it a night and went back to the Omni. With a full day ahead, I jotted a few notes about dinner and salt tasting and went to sleep.
Early the next morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at Amelia Island Coffee, which is a cute coffee shop and bakery that put our day on the right track. After breakfast, we boarded a boat with Amelia Anglers for a fishing excursion.
After about an hour of sailing, we reached a spot and dropped anchor. It wasn’t long before we reeled in fish. I caught 3 large red snappers and 2 black sea bass. And it was another moment where I wished my family had been present. But, I didn’t miss them because I wanted to have them part of the fishing fun; I wished they could see me in all my fishing glory. Sometimes I wish my family didn’t see me as the guy who tells them what they need to do or be upset when they don’t do it. I want them to see me having fun and enjoying life to the fullest. That’s what I was doing at that moment as I pulled one fish out of the water after another. It was thrilling to fight with the fish until it was in my grasp.
After our haul, we headed back to shore where we would eat our catch at The Salty Pelican. The chefs at the Pelican prepared our fish for us and a good meal and conversation was had by all. If a Man-Fam, Mantripping, mancation can be summed up in one moment, it was THAT moment where we gloried in our sea treasure, ate our efforts, and laughed about some of the unpleasant situations on-board.
The next stop on our trip was to see a great piece of Ocean Front Property called Fort Clinch State Park. Fort Clinch is a Civil War era fort facing the ocean. Tired from our fishing trip and full from our fish dinner, we briefly toured the fort before walking the beach while looking for shark teeth. I think we all fell asleep on the van ride back to the Omni.
We showered and toured the resort before eating a relaxed, yet luxurious meal at Oceanside, a restaurant at the Resort. And to say goodnight to the bromance that was happening, we enjoyed beers and smores by a bonfire on the beach.
The next morning, Paul and I went kayaking while the other guys went golfing. While we were kayaking, I wished my family was present to flow down Walker’s Creek with me. My family is a kayaking family and loves to paddle around rivers and lakes. I would have loved to paddle along with them in tow while watching the local birds fly overhead. The quiet creek helped me to reflect on my role as a father and husband while I pushed the water behind me.
After kayaking and golfing, we ate at Timoti’s Seafood Shak, which is a local eatery that provides great food for a small price. A great thing about Timoti’s is they buy their seafood from local fisherman, which helps support the local fishing community.
While we were in the middle of town, we took part in a group favorite activity; Pétanque. Pétanque for those that have never heard of it or played it, which is almost everyone in the United States, is a game that appears to be the love child of horseshoes, bowling, and bocce ball. Pétanque started in France and might be included in the Paris Olympics. Jeff Bogle and I made up one nasty Pétanque team and has us considering representing the United States Pétanque team. (Look for the blog post: Pétanque Olympic Hopefuls battle it out on Amelia Island soon)
After our win, we saddled up to the bar at Marlin & Barrel for Rum and Vodka tastings. Marlin & Barrel distills, handcrafts, and bottles their spirits. I am usually not a rum fan, but I savored every drop tasted at M&B.
To round out our evening, we boarded Amelia Island River Cruises for an Amelia Island history lesson while touring the island waters. And with a day full of activity, our appetites were satiated with dinner at The 801 Kitchen and Bar.
And this is where our age showed up. Our schedule had us going bar hopping around Fernandina’s historic downtown, but after arriving at the Green Turtle Tavern, we realized our beds were calling and called it a night, thus ending our Man-Fam.
I love experiencing new places and experiences with my family, which is the main reason I missed them so much while on this trip. But trips like this are necessary for men. Not only was I around a great group of guys who I could talk to and get rid of some things that I’m holding onto, but also a way to remember how much I enjoy being with my family.
In a nutshell:
For guys thinking about making a trip to Amelia Island, fish with Amelia Anglers and eat your catch at the Salty Pelican, golf and kayak at the Omni resort, stuff yourself at the Ritz-Carlton and bring salt home, and enjoy a bonfire on the beach.
If you are taking the whole family, visit the nature center and enrol your kids in classes to explore the beach for shark teeth and learn about turtles, play miniature golf, splash around in the large pool, and go for bike rides around the resort.