Lately Kristen has demonstrated a problematic case of wanderlust. She makes sure I take note of any pictures posted by friends of exotic travel, particularly if it is with the whole family. “Did you see all of the Paynes are in Sweden? Looks amazing.” She gets automated notifications of good flight deals to various locales. But I tend to freeze up when she texts things like Spring Break in Ireland? Only $450 per!

I’m not entirely uninterested in expanding our vacation portfolio, particularly if it is to the motherland of all Sullivans, but we aren’t ready for international travel. This is a foursome that failed Chattanooga. Mercifully, our Outer Banks trip each year is predictable. There are cousins, a beach, a pool, and no need to plan much else. It’s not the type of thing most would feel guilty about, but Kristen does. Maybe guilty is the wrong word. Unfulfilled? Or bored? Whatever it is, she is itching to expand our horizons beyond beach trips and I can’t fault her.

We took a semi-adventurous trip to Maine in July. My brother Mike and sister Cathleen joined us in a beautifully renovated condo in historic downtown Belfast. The drag was the chasm between what we adults thought would constitute a great trip to Maine versus whatever videos YouTube had to offer that day. I mean, why travel so far when you could simply pick up your phone and watch a satisfying video of someone playing with glitter slime? We think scenic drives and they think carsickness. We think lobster rolls and they think…gross.

Vacationland. That’s what it says right on the license plates in Maine and sure enough, everything looked like a postcard. Cute-as-a-button little towns nestle around gorgeous harbors and stunning mountains. Dry humor dots the roadsides: a car lot called Mainely Used Cars, a restaurant called Chow Maine and a 15-foot- high mailbox marked for Bills. I ,for one, was immediately sold on it.

So when the plan called for Acadia National Park or a kayak tour of Camden Harbor, we didn’t want to hear groans from the back seat. But over and over, we did. The general mood of the week was, “This is going to be fun, dammit!” Which begs the question – is it worth the aggravation? I’m trying to think that there is a millimeter of growth with each struggle. And forced fun is still fun, right? At times though, Vacationland felt like a pressure cooker with enough steam to boil a lobster. Not that the kids would try it.

One night, we took a boat taxi aptly named The Back and Forth across the river to a restaurant. The actor who played Stanford on “Sex and the City” was at the next table. Nearby, a couple knew he was SOMEBODY but couldn’t figure it out, so they asked us. Strangers always gravitate towards Cathleen and Mike and since this was Maine, the couple was quickly our new best friends. Kristen and I vented a little to them about the struggle with our kids over ice cream cones at the Chocolate Drop. They lived a couple miles away and encouraged us to check out their area because it may be better suited for kids.

So we spent a couple hours of our last day in the Bayside neighborhood. Smallish, Victorian cottages were clustered around the harbor, which was teeming with kids jumping off the docks, taking kayaks out and looking for crabs. These people probably took all the same day trips we did. They just had the anchor of a setting kids loved coming back to. I cringed a little as I saw Elliott and Margo having the kind of fun we had wished for all week. But it gave me hope that we may be able to compromise our way to a happier trip next time. And by next time I might mean 10 years from now.

Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.