Without thinking for more than two seconds, I assume that there are three kinds of nature people: 1) beach people, 2) mountain people, and 3) forest people. On further thought, perhaps there are also desert people? Leave a comment if you are one of them, because I would like to know why.
Growing up in the Midwest, the beach was idealized. We were so far from any kind of ocean that those lucky few who vacationed by the Atlantic or the Gulf returned as mystical creatures, tanned and boasting about seashells and tides. I never fully understood this obsession, because I am 100% a 3) forest person. Who wants sand in their swimsuit when they could breathe in deeply, inhaling the scent of dirt and photosynthesis, looking up through sun-dappled leaves to a blue sky?
I am a forest person, but I’ve never quite been able to shake the thought that, perhaps, there is something to beaches that I’ve been missing. So I keep visiting them, hoping someday this missing piece will click within me, and I’ll fully appreciate the wonders of hot sand and salty water. These are some of the beaches I have visited so far, each with a very different experience and enjoyment level.
The first beach I ever went to was on Tybee Island, just fifteen minutes from my aunt and uncle’s house in Savannah, GA. It is, I think, a stereotypical beach. Although I enjoyed reading in the sun and splashing around in the water with my cousin, it’s…monotonous. Endless stretches of sand, endless stretches of water. Also, the water was more brown than the blue I had expected. I suppose that’s exactly what some people enjoy? For me, it was not a great introduction to the wilds of the ocean.
Now this is a beach I can love. The Northwest is cold, so you can wear jeans and a jacket to the beach, avoiding the (if you’re self-conscious like me) awkward acceptance of wearing underwear in public. The beaches are less sandy and more rocky, providing opportunities for mini-adventures as you hop from one to another toward the water. And the views! Cliffs to your back, mountains of rock surfacing from the ocean to your front, a salty breeze against your face. Perfect.
Of course, the Pacific Northwest ocean can also look like this:
So that’s a risk.
While I lived in Senegal, I visited the beach a couple times. The experience was much like the Atlantic in Georgia – brown, repetitive, hot. But there was one key difference. I was on the Other side of the Atlantic! I stared across the flat waters, infatuated with the idea that if my eyesight were superhuman, I might be able to see the beach where I played with my family.
I may not be a beach person, but I do love the ocean. I understand the obsession with its power, beauty, and endlessness. It connects people across thousands of miles and remains the great unexplored region of our world. If beaches give us a tiny glimpse of its awesomeness, well…I suppose I do like beaches.
Okay, I have to admit that one huge reason beaches will never be my favorite is that….I can’t swim. Clearly, a fear of drowning will hinder a person’s enjoyment of just about anything. Luckily, when I frolicked on edges of the Aegean Sea, I used my more athletic friends as buoys in order to experience “swimming” in the ocean. We also had a sandcastle contest and tried to avoid staring at the topless women and speedo-ed men. It was fun, which goes to show that with the right people, just about anything can be an adventure!
If there is one place beach people foam at the mouth over, it’s the Caribbean. And I get it. Beaches are far more beautiful when the sand is white and the water is clear blue. When my friend and I stayed at a resort right on the beach in St. Maarten, we spent day after day wading in, sitting on the sand, and lounging poolside. It was…a lot of the same. Thankfully, we decided to keep the beaches while adding some adventure by booking a snorkeling tour. It was the first time I got to look below the surface of the ocean, and I was astounded by its beauty. Perhaps I’ve been short-sided this whole time. I spent my beach time above the water, when all along, I should have been looking below.
Readers, what are you? Beach people, forest people, mountain people? What has been your best or worst beach experience? Leave a comment and let me know!