By Grace Williams*
I have a standing vacation date with my best friend from high school. Ever since the two of us graduated college and she moved up to NYC, I’ve taken the train to visit her for an extended girls’ weekend.
But this year, both of us confessed that we felt more burnt out than usual. We’d talked about vacation plans near the end of February when the world was cold and dreary. Maybe we should go somewhere new? Work had me so exhausted that all I wanted to do was sit on a beach somewhere and not move for hours. While walking ten miles through Manhattan each day is fun, that wasn’t the vacation I needed this year.
So rather than buying my usual train ticket, I started searching Airbnb for places all up and down the East Coast.
Now, Daddy didn’t raise no fool when it comes to the internet. Ever the skeptic, I kept thinking how weird it would be to rent out someone’s house. I mean, you text them your arrival time and they hand over the keys? Seems too easy. But was it really that strange these days? My roommate booked her European trip this summer mostly through Airbnb, and I’d read about all of Cazey’s adventures through Airbnb as well. In some ways it feels less intimidating than rolling up into a swanky hotel lobby.
Knowing that prices would rise the longer we procrastinated, we finally settled on a guest house in Virginia Beach. By this point, I’d spent so many hours browsing through houses (and enjoying it a little too much, as if I was shopping for my own house instead of a vacation rental) that all of the details were a blur to me when I booked the trip.
Which was how I didn’t realize that we’d booked a guest home without a proper kitchen.
I may be part of the Adult Workforce now, but that doesn’t mean I make enough money to eat out at restaurants for every meal. Plus, that comes with its own stress: finding ways for me to eat gluten-free in a different city.
I’ll admit that I panicked for a minute. I cook almost all of my own food. Could I still eat gluten-free for five days without having my own kitchen? My friend was equally worried since she’s not the type of person to spend lots of money on food. But we had no stove for eggs in the morning, no means of cooking up an easy stir fry.
Well, I may not be the best at planning vacations, but I sure can plan my meals. So I sat down with my grocery list and figured out the best way to vacation for five days without a proper kitchen. Here’s a few key lessons I learned from the trip:
Tally Up The Resources
The first task when we arrived was to make an inventory of cooking resources. My supplies were:
- 1 microwave
- 1 mini fridge (the kind with a freezer and fridge, so it was fairly large)
- 1 sink
- 1 electric kettle
I’d been reduced to dorm room standards, but I’ve learned a lot about feeding myself since college. Electric kettle? Perfect for hot oatmeal. Microwave? Let’s get some of that pre-cooked breakfast sausage. And after stocking the fridge with beer and cider (priorities), then we could cram the rest of the space with fruit and veggies. Other snacks like granola bars and pistachios became essentials in our beach bags because we didn’t have to store them in the cold.
Then Check All the Drawers…Twice
I’d brought with me the ingredients for a black bean and corn dip but forgot to pack a can opener. My friend had to break out her Swiss Army knife (she works in technical theater, so she’s always got tools handy) and we hacked up the cans until I was staring down at the double threat potential of sliced fingers and tetanus.
The sad part of this story is that we found a can opener in one of the drawers about ten minutes later. So maybe the real lesson is to check all of the drawers again before you cook something? And don’t forget your Swiss Army knife. Just in case.
Make Snack Meals
Does guacamole count as a meal when you eat the whole bowl of it? Because that was a thing that happened.
The beach is the perfect place for snack meals. I’ve perfected the hummus and veggie platter at this point in my adulthood - it’s so easy to grab an assortment of dippable veggies and chop them up. Some of my snack platter meals that week looked so beautiful that I deserved extra points for presentation alone.
Chips and guac are another no-brainer. And everyone loves little piles of crackers and cubed cheese. Don’t lie.
When in Doubt, Go Out
What’s vacation without a couple of nights out at restaurants? I may be particular about my food, but I like to have a good time, too. We went to a local seafood restaurant one night and then were lucky enough to have a surprise visit by some friends who took us out to dinner again.
Plus, a trip to Virginia Beach is not complete without at least one day of Taste sandwiches. With a book in my lap and my feet in the hot sand, all that’s missing for me is a Bayville Farms sandwich or a container of their pimento cheese dip. Otherwise it doesn’t feel like a proper beach vacation.
Truly I could have survived the entire trip eating food from Taste, and I consider it an accomplishment that I didn’t. The alternative title of this article should be “How I Stayed in Virginia Beach Without a Stove and Didn’t Order Taste Every Day”.
But we may have stopped there again for lunch on our last day as we left the beach. I maybe also possibly bought 2 sandwiches so that I could bring one back to Richmond with me. No one has to know.
*Grace is a project manager at a fast-paced tech company and spends her days pretending she knows a lot more technical stuff than she actually does. She lives in Richmond, VA with a roommate and two cats. When not working, she’s probably picking apart her novel draft or cooking something ambitious.