How To Get 20,000 Steps a Day On Vacation

Vacation is over. We just returned from two weeks on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We’ve been going there every summer since 2001. We LOVE it!

This year’s vacation happened during my 20k One Year Step Challenge. That started on September 1, 2018. The goal is at least 20,000 steps every day for a year with no breaks…including vacation. But, even if I wasn’t doing this challenge I still would have put a boat load of steps on my Fitbit Inspire HR. I recently wrote about why. If you missed that you can check it out HERE.

Previous generations used to invite their friends over to share vacation pictures. Or, at least that’s the stereotype. Now…we just post the pics online in real time.

Consider this a middle ground. I’m posting a bunch of vacation pictures online, but not in real time and you’re free to get up and leave at any point.

Part of the old stereotype was the picture showers had a captive audience who couldn’t leave. “…and here’s another angle of the lighthouse. Notice the unique design of the brickwork. I’ve got close-ups of each brick so you can really appreciate the craftsmanship involved…”


Let’s get started:

DAY 1 – 20,301 steps

It’s always an occasion when we hit the Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge that takes us across the Sound and onto the Outer Banks. This time Ava decided to take a MOST UNUSUAL picture of us at that glorious moment.

IMG_2964.jpgWhat’s so unusual about this picture is…

…this is the first time in YEARS that Ava and I drove to the beach together. For most of the 19 years we’ve been coming to the Outer Banks there was always a reason we had to take two cars and drive separately.

We either needed the extra space for luggage…we went down on different days because of my work schedule…Ava went down a week earlier for a Girls Week…or we took a bunch of our kid’s friends and needed more than one car.

But, this year, Emma could drive herself and her three friends so Ava and I got to be in the same car. It WAS most unusual and most delightful!

This was a hard day to reach my goal of 20,000 steps. It was a very busy week getting ready for vacation AND Emma’s graduation the night before we left. I was tired and in the car for six hours driving. If I didn’t have a goal I probably would have ended the day with barely 5,000 on my Fitbit. But my goal forced me to get up and move a lot once we got here.

Day 2 – 32,345 steps

I woke up in the Outer Banks for our first full day of vacation. I was awake before everyone else (no surprise) and walked along the beach before making some coffee and sitting out on the deck.


OK…it’s not ocean-front, but we are ocean close. The beach is right on the other side of the last house in this picture. The cost difference between ocean front and ocean close is pretty great. I certainly don’t mind the walk. In fact, with a 20,000 a day step goal it’s preferable!

There’s something magical about that first morning on vacation. It feels like it will last forever! I sat quietly, sipped my coffee, and watched as the sun moved away from the horizon offering the promise of a great day at the beach.

While yesterday I had to gut out my 20,000 steps today was no problem. I love walking on the beach and it was a perfect day. Sunshine, warm temps, and a nice breeze.

Day 3 – 21,214 steps

When I’m on the Outer Banks even the grocery store makes me happy. The first thing you see when you walk in the Corolla Harris Teeter screams summer! Our rental is only a ten-minute walk away.

Again, that walk is part of how I reach my step goal on vacation and most days there’s something that we need at the store. I truly enjoy walking to The Teet while we’re on the Outer Banks.


Day 4 – 24,364 steps

Mornings are magical. Even on vacation.

IMG_3036I rarely sleep past 5a. That’s a gift when you’re on vacation at the beach. Today was the first clear sunrise since we arrived. I saw the whole thing.

I love early daylight. I love the unique way it makes everything look, but it doesn’t last long. I also love the way mornings feel at the beach. There’s a brief battle between the lingering pre-dawn cool and the heat of the sun as it slips over the horizon. Mornings at the beach even sound different. Of course, the ocean waves play a large part in that, but the birds also sound different. Maybe it’s because they aren’t yet competing with traffic and people. They have the concert hall all to themselves and it sounds enchanting with the waves as their rhythm section.

Day 5 – 20,090 steps

IMG_3039.jpgThis is our 17 year-old daughter, Emma. She’s having a good time, but getting the day started is not her sweet spot. She’s also tired from four days of pounding the beach.

A beach vacation can be a real workout. Every day you have to haul a load of stuff to the beach, including your chair, umbrella, towel, bag of essentials (book, sunscreen, water, snacks, etc…) and then walk across loose sand to set it all up. That walk across the beach is a workout all by itself.

At some point you need to apply sunscreen which requires body flexibility beyond anything needed for life away from the beach. I mean, have you ever tried to apply lotion to your middle and upper back by yourself?

Once everything is set up on the beach you’re then faced with the hard work of keeping yourself amused for multiple hours. Some people can sit still the entire time. I can’t.

I can usually last about 15 minutes before I have to get up and walk. Others play corn hole, bocci, frisbee, or some other game (that they had to haul to the beach with all the other stuff).

Swimming in the ocean is much more involved than swimming in a pool. In a pool you can lazily drift on a raft. In the ocean it takes energy merely to stay alive.

And, of course sitting in the sun for hours sucks the remaining energy from every pore of your being. Then, when all you want to do is fall asleep, you have to pack up all your stuff and take it back to the beach house.

Repeat the above six times and you need a vacation at the end of your vacation. Either that or a long nap.

Day 6 – 26,537 steps

The Outer Banks is a massive spit of land along the North Carolina coast. We go to Corolla, which is the community farthest north. There’s no boardwalk and very little night life to keep you entertained. It’s quiet. And, we love that. A long walk on the beach is how I start most mornings. This morning I had 10,000 steps on my Fitbit Inspire HR before 9a. I had the ocean on one side and massive sand dunes on the other.

IMG_3087.jpegI’m guessing these dunes are at least 20 feet high and provide pretty good protection from a hurricane storm surge. They also look like they would be a lot of fun to climb and slide down which is why there are lots of signs warning us to Keep Off The Dunes!

Day 7 – 22,530 steps

We’ve been coming to the Outer Banks 19 years. We’ve always invited people to join us. For many years we had a house filled with 30+ people. It was crazy and fun! It also created lifelong memories for our children.

IMG_3101We only have one child at home now, so the beach trips are a little less crazy. This year Emma invited three of her friends to join us. They had a great week of sunshine and fun together.

They left to go home today. Ava and I had a night alone before four of our friends join us tomorrow. We do two weeks at the beach every year and we call the first week “Family Week” and the second week “Adult Week”. Well…Adult Week is about to begin.

Day 8 – 23,039 steps

The beach is filled with wildlife. That can be intimidating when you consider how much more is in the ocean that you can’t see lurking around. But, not everything presents a threat. Consider the Ghost Crab. If you’re on the beach for more than a few minutes you’ll see one…or a dozen.

IMG_3125.jpgThey scurry across the sand searching for the perfect spot to dig their next burrow. I have no idea how deep these burrows go, but some of the sand hills these crabs create are big. I have sat in my beach chair watching a Ghost Crab relentlessly dig its hole a few grains of sand at a time. The crab will pop out of the hole and fling a little bit of sand on the growing pile and then disappear to get some more.

IMG_3050.jpgIt feels so pointless because twice a day the tide comes in and washes the burrow away. So…every day each Ghost Crab must dig at least two new holes. Every. Single. Day. And, for what purpose?

Turns out, the tide is a big reason for digging the burrow. As the tide washes over the hole, the crab is quietly waiting for tiny little plankton that comes in with each wave. That plankton is food for the crab. fThese burrows also protect the crabs for the heat of the sun.

Day 9 – 25,618 steps

I’m not a fan of walking across the beach wearing flip-flops. I hate how they throw sand up the back of my legs. I find that very annoying. Clearly, I’m not alone. When I reach the bottom of the walkway across the dunes I take my flip-flops off and walk across the sand with my bare feet.

IMG_3153.jpgThis is the only practice I’ve known since we started coming to the Outer Banks 19 years ago. I thought it’s what everybody did everywhere…deposit their flip flops before walking across the sand.

I learned that’s not the case a few years ago in Florida. I was spending a few days at Atlantic Beach near Jacksonville. One afternoon I went for a nice long walk on the beach, leaving my flip-flops in the sand near the beach entrance. When I returned about 30 minutes later they were gone. I’m guessing stuff left unattended at Atlantic Beach is considered free for the taking. Oh well…

Day 10 – 20,970 steps

I started checking the weather forecast for our vacation a month before we left. I loved what I saw.

IMG_2566.jpgBut, as we drew closer the forecast started to change…and not for the better. Lots of clouds and a decent chunk of rain. For me, that is NOT the forecast I want for the beach. We’ve had worse, though. One year we had rain EVERY DAY FOR TWO WEEKS. The only sunny day was the last day. We made the most of it!

So now we’re facing a full week of clouds with thunderstorms. Yesterday would have been the second day of clouds…except it wasn’t. The reality was far different from the forecast. We had some sunshine most of the time we were sitting on the beach. Would that be the one exception for the week or could we expect more days where the reality did not meet the forecast of clouds? Jimmy gave us the answer.

IMG_3188.jpgWe had dinner last night at Upside…a restaurant with a second floor deck. Our server Jimmy, gave us the scoop on the Outer Banks forecasts. Jimmy lives on the Outer Banks. He said when he saw the forecast for this week he knew it wouldn’t play out that way (cloudy with rain every day) because of the Sound.

If you’ve ever looked at a map of Corolla, at the northern part of the Outer Banks, you’ll see that it’s a sliver of land sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Currituck Sound on the west. Jimmy said that sound breaks up a lot of “bad” weather before it reaches Corolla.

Anyhow, Jimmy helped us forget about the forecast and relax knowing there would likely be far more sun than the meteorologists are predicting.

Day 11 – 26,233 steps

So much for Jimmy’s wisdom. Today started with heavy rain and a forecast of more to come followed by a pretty good chunk of clouds. Thankfully, I’m OK walking in the rain. Corolla also has a nice paved trail that stretches for miles so I threw on some waterproof gear and went for a long walk.

IMG_3226.jpgIt was much more fun than sitting in the rental watching The Weather Channel.

IMG_3251.jpgAnd then just like that…the clouds cleared. It was a perfect afternoon for heading south and enjoying some shopping, dinner and music in Duck…about 20 minutes from where we were staying in Corolla. It was the best evening of the vacation!

Day 12 – 21,163 steps

So this happened.

IMG_3205.jpgA few years ago I watched someone almost drown. They were caught in a rip current and they were struggling to get back to shore. They were losing that battle and getting carried further out. The lifeguard saw what was happening and sprang into action. She made it to the man and then she started struggling. A second lifeguard got involved. After several harrowing minutes all three finally made it back to the safely to the beach.

I watched the whole thing and haven’t been the same about swimming in the ocean OR watching people I know and love play in the water. Kind of ironic, isn’t it. As much as I LOVE our annual beach vacation, I have a palpable fear of the water just feet from where I sit in my beach chair.

And, it happened again this year. A few days ago another swimmer had to be rescued right in front of us after he got caught in a riptide. This time the lifeguard had no problems reaching him and bringing him to safety.

I appreciate these warning flags, but it heightens my concern at the beach. I decided today would be a good day to spend at the pool instead.

Day 13 – 22,473 steps

Till now, I have not mentioned an undercurrent of concern through this entire vacation. Ava’s mom is not doing well. She has significant health issues and has been in Assisted Living for two months. During the past three weeks her health has consistently been declining.

We left for vacation knowing we might need to come home early. Well, that call came at shortly before 8p last night. Ava’s mom had taken a dramatic turn for the worse. We packed all our stuff in less than 30 minutes and got in the car.

IMG_9491In 19 years of driving to and from the Outer Banks, we’ve never made it in less time than we did this morning. We had rain most of the way, but no traffic. It was actually a little creepy.

We arrived home at 1:45a on what would have been Day 13 of our vacation. That means there also won’t be a Day 14 or 15.

But, Ava needs to be with her mom.


I finished our vacation at home…getting some things done and fighting a cold. Ava has been with her mom at an in-hospice facility about a half hour away.

This was certainly not the vacation we were hoping for or expecting, but we decided to give it another try later this summer.

As we were driving across the bridge, leaving the Outer Banks, Ava said wanted to come back this year because this vacation didn’t have “closure”.

I agree.

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