02/27/2014 12:28 EST | Updated 04/29/2014 05:59 EDT

The 7 Elements of a Perfect Mother-Daughter Spring Break

Spring Break! The very phrase conjures up a picture of bikini-clad beach parties and none too fun for mom to imagine scenes of debauchery. Not exactly a break for anyone. My plan was to go a different route and I didn't get any pushback from my 18-year-old or her co-psych major roomie. They both agreed to join me on a mother daughter journey of pleasure, peace and restoration. Did I just see both the teenagers and the other parents of teens roll their eyes?

I will admit that it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops but we did discover together the seven elements that adult women need to co-exist: Sand, Water, Wind, Rest, Soul, Sustenance and Space. The more elements hit with each experience, the better. Here's how we did it:

The Drive

We drove only as far as we needed to be able to take off our coats and feel a little heat on our pallid and wan skin. That meant North Carolina -- those going to Florida fared no better weather. February and March are low season in the Outer Banks, NC, explained my colleague at the tourism board. A couple of nights at the Sanderling Resort were affordable, restful and still warm enough for a sweatshirt stroll along the beach. It is right on the beach and tastefully appointed with the striped towels and hammock deck chairs that you would expect of a nautical spot. Sanderling held us captive with its ocean waves, spa and fabulous seafood restaurant, The Lifesaving Station. The trick in the Outer Banks in the off season is to arrive, slow way down and let yourself rest. (I was surprised to see how much homework my young women had to cover while I read and tweeted.)

Elements: Sand, water, rest, sustenance, space

The Activities that Flew

The most fascinating surprise was the unexpected things that the exhausted teens loved the most. Outdoor experiences that lightened their hearts like Jockey's Ridge State Park were most memorable. In this free access park, there are miles of sand dunes to climb and then run down. An experience which feels just like flying, no wonder the Wright Brothersmade their first flight just up the road. You can learn how to hang glide here or just explore the tiny but fascinating museum which houses taxidermy versions of all of the fascinating birds and animals in the region. If you ask nicely, they will show you the box of fulgurites that are collected after lightening hits the sand and melts the quartz into fragile tubes-too cool!

Elements: wind, sand and space

How Girls Rest

No mother daughter trip is complete without a spa day so we had facials, massages and manicures at Bella Trio, a mother/daughter day spa in Durham, NC. Southern hospitality mixed with European treatments. This Southern mama, Terry Richardson's brain child grew in leaps and bounds so she brought her daughter, Emily Richardson in to run the business. Talk about mother daughter lines of communication, try running a business together! Luckily, they have similar pay-it-forward sensibilities and do things like provide massages to the moms of children going through long term care treatments.

Elements: rest, space, soul

Historic Soul

Inland, The Carolina Inn on the cusp of Chapel Hill University, the oldest public university in America, is bursting with grace and refinement. Every corner and cornice is appointed and sightline beautiful. The dining room serves up history on every plate being the premier restaurant on the hill adjacent to the university. Dressed up classics like grilled catfish etouffe and biscuits and gravy for breakfast are pure comfort.

Elements: Soul, Sustenance

Sustenance In Many Packages

The local food movement is well entrenched here as cheese maker Dave Artigues from goat cheese producing Elodie Farms will tell you. He showed us around where kids were being born in rapid succession, a spring event that his summer kid's camp and seasonal farm porch dinner guests rarely get to see. But what an amazing afternoon spent carrying a days-old goat around and having front porch lunch with juniper infused chevre on farm made crackers. A simple day on the farm but an epic memory. Elements: Wind, Rest, Soul, Sustenance and Space

But the highlight sustenance element of the trip had to be dinner at One Restaurant in Chapel Hill. Co- Chefs Daniel Ryan and Kim Floresca hail from training in world renowned French Laundry in CA and Alinea in Chicago. Each course was pure art in aesthetics and taste. Both of my teens were fascinated by the intricacies of focus, training and talent required to create such pieces. The handiwork of sous chef Jon Fischer blowing sugar like glass into crystalline balls to fill with lime whip and the discovery of finger limes from Australia having caviar-like pulp to balance atop a tip of dessert were the exact opposite of the freedom of running in the wind. Taking the mind and heart into micro focus of a treasure made solely to be consumed seems pointless and poignant all at once.

Elements: Soul and sustenance

Driving the 14 hours home in one shot was arduous but valuable as we listened to one of the assigned readings on audio book and the young women dozed on and off. By carefully balancing time together, free and expensive pleasures with the harmonies of our seven elements, we returned restored and re-engaged. Lessons well learned. Spring Break re-defined.


Awkward Family Vacation Photos