Home Articles Pandemic road trip: A short beach escape proved worth the risk

Pandemic road trip: A short beach escape proved worth the risk

After months of sheltering in place, my soul was calling for an escape from reality — for new sights, tastes, sounds and experiences. And the ocean, which is always soothing, sounded especially appealing.

There was just one problem: I was afraid to leave the controlled environment of home and take my two teenagers into the now-unfamiliar world, with the threat of unmasked people and virus droplets lurking at every turn.

After setting my fears aside and booking an Airbnb for mid-July, I had a moment of panic and nearly canceled. Then I got some well-timed encouragement in the form of an Instagram meme: “If it excites you and scares you … do it.”

So we did. My 16-year-old son chauffeured us to the coast, safely shuttling us to our destination in Mission Beach, California — an adorable upper-level duplex unit called Rockaway Place, fewer than 100 steps from the beach (I counted). I chose a short-term Airbnb rental over a hotel to reduce contact with other people and to have our own private space with a kitchen to prepare meals. Check-in and check-out procedures were contactless, with a key left for us in a lockbox and questions handled through responsive emails from the owner.

The one-bedroom condo (with pullout couch) had everything we needed. It was sparkling clean, had Instagram-worthy design, and the owner surprised us by providing a variety of snacks and seltzers. The location was perfect. We parked our car in the garage and forgot about it except for one late-night emergency run to Ralph’s for sunburn first-aid supplies.
Mission Beach was ideal for enjoying nature and keeping our distance. With miles of white sandy beaches, I never felt that people encroached on my space — even with all the summer visitors. I’d say about half the people walking down the boardwalk and the main drag of Mission Boulevard wore masks, but all were respectful of our six-foot bubble.

Food options in Mission are endless. We walked to Juice Wave for acai bowls – piled high with bananas, strawberries and nectarine chunks, and topped with house-made granola, raw honey and hemp hearts. For lunch, Yelp led me past the tourist traps and up to the real-deal La Playa Taco Shop, where the food was fresh, flavorful and perfectly spiced with a kicky green salsa. Breakfast burritos from the La Perlita takeout window were an easy and hearty way to start the day.

Masks were the rule, and I felt safe standing in socially distanced ordering lines and getting food to go. We stuck with outdoor activities, primarily on the beach. Football, paddle ball and boogie boarding provided plenty of action, and we never felt a need to take on any additional touristy activities. My kids had serious day-one sunburns, leading us to swap beach time on day two for a drive up to Laguna Beach. I was pleasantly surprised to see Forest Street in downtown Laguna closed to traffic to create a promenade where restaurants offered greatly expanded outdoor dining. It felt like a little European street scene, with plenty of space for social distancing while dining al fresco.

I thought travel would be stressful, but this trip actually helped alleviate the pressure that had been building up by staying home. Getting out and navigating the world reminded me of what life used to be like. Yes, masks, hand sanitizer, and not going in shops and restaurants any more than necessary are our new reality. But a change of scenery, cooler weather and the calming sounds of the ocean were exactly the reset buttons I needed to recharge my positivity.

And the chance to reconnect with teenagers who spend the majority of this strange-new-world time on screens was truly worth celebrating!

Elaina Verhoff
Elaina Verhoff
Elaina Verhoff is a Phoenix freelance writer and the mother of two teenagers.

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